Monday, November 18, 2013

HML #29 Started

My partner found another deal to loan on and my funds from HML #25 and #26 are being used to help fund this one.

This property is a nicer one than I normally lend on, although after looking at the photos below, you may think otherwise. The biggest difference is this property is in a fairly nice location and is surrounded by homes in the $1 million and higher range in the city of Orinda, California. Our borrower also is buying this house through a Realtor, rather than at an auction, where most of the properties we lend on normally are purchased. The buyer is also paying an assignment fee, meaning she found this property with the help of a bird dog.

The property is a single family home (2/1) with an attached two car garage. It was built in 1951 and is about 1400 square feet. Here are some pictures:

The interior looks like it still has the original fixtures, tile, etc. It will need extensive remodeling to bring it up to the standard of the neighboring houses. (Those were also built in the 1950's, but interior photos of comps on the MLS show completely re-done and very modern looking interiors.)  Externally, there are several issues - termite tubes have been found in the crawlspace under the house, there are some cracks seen in the foundation, and there are some drainage issues with the slope of the landscaping. The buyer had a professional property inspection performed, which I have a copy of. Besides the previously mentioned issues, an electrician will likely need to be brought in to re-wire pretty much the whole house. There are no GFCI circuits (they didn't exist when the house was built), the breaker box is a 50 amp circuit and not the standard 100 amp used today, and there were several places where the ground circuit was either non-existent or poorly wired. The roof appears to be OK, although it needs to be cleared of some debris. Rain gutters need to be removed or re-hung. There is a porch that is practically falling down that will probably also have to be removed. Based on the inspector's report, I would estimate between $50,000 and $75,000 in repairs are needed. But that's based on Arizona costs. I don't know what they would run in California.

The buyer is purchasing the house for $520,000 plus a bird dog fee. We estimate the current as-is value to be $600,000. Our loan will be for $460,000. Based on comps, we estimate the after repaired value to be at least $825,000. Given the good neighborhood (three comps describe the neighborhood as "coveted", "premier", and "desirable" - all written by different agents at different agencies) and the large amount of equity, my partner rates this as one of the top 10 safest deals he has done, out of close to 200 total. The borrower is our second largest borrower and the loan will be personally guaranteed. She has always paid promptly in the past and has been rehabbing property for at least 5 years (although we've only worked with her for 2 years). The drawbacks: this is the smallest property of the comps we looked at, so the comps may not be truly representative of the property's value. However, they are all we have to go on. The other big drawback, of course, is the condition of the property. It needs a lot of work. If we have to take this one back from the borrower, we will have some serious work to do if we want to fix and sell.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Houston Apartment Up For Sale

I received word this weekend that the Houston apartment complex is up for sale. In fact, we already have two offers for it. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to discuss any details at this time, but after any sale completes, I'll talk about them. The property was just appraised at between $13.2 million and $14.5 million. We bought it for around $12 million back in 2008.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Apartment September Numbers And HML #28 Pay Off Delay

September saw a continuation of the good performance of the Houston apartment complex. Rental income (which excludes utility chargeback amounts) reached its highest level to date - $170,000. Total income was just $1,000 lower than last month at $198,000. Net income (cash flow) for the month was $19,000, a bit lower than last month's record setting $25,000. I don't really have anything else to report on this other than rent concessions dropped by $1,500 and bad debit write-offs dropped by $5,000. Both of these are good things.

I reported last time that HML #28 was paid off. I was a bit premature on that one. It was supposed to be paid off on Oct. 18, but escrow did not close then. In fact, escrow still hasn't closed and we are now looking at this Friday to be the new closing date. No word on the reason for the delay, but given the unusual demands by the title company (like requiring a signature from me, a mortgage holder), I would not be surprised if they were the reason for the delay.

Update: Turns out, the delay was because the buyer had a scheduled vacation and was out of town. Escrow is closing today, although not without some additional drama. The title company was saying they would not release the funds to my partner and needed wiring instructions from me so they could wire the funds directly to my account. I was off getting that info when I got another call from my partner saying the title company changed their mind and was ok with simply cutting a check to me and letting my partner mail it to me. So that's what we are going to do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

HML #28 Paid Off And Looking Towards 2014

HML #28 was paid off on Friday. This loan was started just a few months ago in August and, at the time, we knew it was going to be a short loan. Out biggest borrower is not buying much these days because he feels people are paying too much at the foreclosure auctions. As a result, my partner has $1.2 million sitting around waiting to be re-invested and where I normally have four loans outstanding at any one time, I currently only have one.

This payoff was also strange in that this was the first time in the 7 or 8 years I have been doing this that I was required to go to the title agency and sign documents. As a mortgage holder that is being paid off, there isn't anything I normally have to sign and for those few things that do require a signature, my partner and I have a loan servicing agreement that gives him permission to act on my behalf. However, this particular title company was very picky and didn't want to accept that document, so I had to rush around a bit last week to locate a local branch of the title company, sign some documents and have them overnighted to the closing title company in California.

I've been thinking about the Houston apartment lately. The property is performing nicely now and I think management will look at putting the property up for sale near the end of the year or beginning of next year. Investors were guaranteed at least a 9% annualized return and the last time we received a profit distribution was October of 2009, so a sale would give us 4 years of accrued interest plus our share of whatever profit we make from the sale over our purchase price.

I'm trying to plan how to reinvest my money once this investment is over. (I know, I'm counting my chickens before they hatch.) I'm not sure I want to reinvest in an apartment complex right now. I do like the idea of apartment investing and plan to do it again in the future, but I'm not sure it's the next investment I want to make. For one, it's become clear that the performance of apartments is closely tied to the economic situation of the area. That's obvious and holds true for any real estate investment, but what this investment has shown me is that, because apartments have many tenants, a widespread economic downturn can result in the loss of many tenants. That can cause a cascade effect where property income drops and operating expenses don't get paid and investors can't get scheduled distributions.

Which brings me to my second point: apartments really are a business. They have operating expenses that have to be paid and maintenance and other activities to manage. As an investor, I didn't really have to deal with the day to day administration of such things because we have a management team that handles that. However, as was the case with this property, if things go downhill for a while, investors may be asked to contribute more money to help keep the business afloat. This is in contrast to investing money in a mortgage, where someone just sends you a check every month and a call for more money would be very rare. True, you may have to foreclose and then the mortgage investment can become like a business in that you'll have expenses like fix up and repair costs to sell the property. But on the whole, I think mortgage investing is a lot more hands-off than apartment investing. It also seems the cash flow is more stable, although that may just be due to the quality of the borrowers my partner deals with.

Overall, I think apartments tend to be more of an investment for those looking to get capital gains rather than monthly cashflow. I'm reasonably sure that, had I made this investment in a strong economy and did not have to suffer through 4 years of no cash flow, I would have a different opinion. In a strong economy, apartments probably do provide a robust cash flow. However, at this point in my investing career, I'm more interested in dependable cash flow than capital gains, so I'm leaning towards reinvesting these funds into hard money loans.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

August 2013 Apartment Numbers

The results for August for the Houston apartment complex have just come in from the management company and things continue to go well. Occupancy stayed at 94%, the same as July, but total revenue increased to $199,600. Net operating income hit almost $94,000, which was almost $4,000 higher than July. Cash flow for August also increased just a bit over $25,000, also an increase over July. This is the highest monthly cash flow number this year.

Expenses were normal with the exception of a one time $4,000 expense for tree trimming that was required by our lender. Our losses due to bad debt, which had ballooned to over $22,000 last month, dropped back down to just under $10,000, which is still higher than average, but at least it's moving in the right direction. Rent concessions almost doubled from last month. Since occupancy stayed the same, it looks like my predictions of a stronger rental market last month might have been a bit off.

Nevertheless, the property is performing nicely now and our net income figure is about $14,000 higher than budgeted for the year. Management hasn't made any mention of it yet, but I think the property is beginning to look like it might be in shape to be put on the market towards the end of the year.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Two Loans Closed

My hard money loans numbers 25 and 26 have been paid off. Both of these loans went the full 1 year term. The borrower has paid off the loans, but I'm not sure if it was from selling the properties or from refinancing them to convention mortgages.

Things seem to be slowing down. My partner manages about $6 million in hard money loans and he currently has close to $1 million sitting around waiting to be invested. Our biggest borrower is not borrowing as much as he used to. He thinks people are paying too much for foreclosures these days. Because he specializes in bad neighborhoods, he wants to make sure he doesn't overpay, so he's becoming more selective about the properties he buys. Also, the inventory of foreclosures is starting to shrink a bit.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

July 2013 Apartment Update

The numbers for July are in and things continue to improve. Occupancy is at 94%, a 2% drop over June, but total income for the month rose to the highest level of the year, just shy of $197,000. Expenses rose by about $2,000, but the increased income more than made up for it. Total Net Operating Income for the month was just under $90,000 and Net Income (i.e. cashflow) was about $24,000 - both of which were the highest for the year. The cashflow amount was up about $4,000 over last month.

Management is touting the trend of increasing profitability, of course. Our Net Operating Income is the highest it's been since 2009. But looking at the figures, I'm a bit skeptical as to if the improvement will continue or even stabilize. Compared to last month's numbers, I notice a couple of things:
  1. The Bad Debt loss doubled from $11,000 to $22,000.
  2. Rent concessions decreased from $8,000 to $6,000.
  3. Other Income increased from $27,000 to $40,000.
  4. Apartment Turnover costs rose from $3,000 to $4,000.
  5. Property taxes increased by $2,000.
Others figures stayed relatively the same. What I'm curious about is item 3 above - what exactly caused the increase in Other Income? Digging in deeper, I see the biggest change in Other Income over June is that in July we received $9,000 in lease buyout payments versus none in June. We saw increases in other categories as well (including a $3,000 increase in utility income), but lease buyouts was the biggest increase by far. Obviously, this is not likely to be a recurring income stream.

If we look at the numbers, we might be able to read between the lines and get an idea of what is going on at the property. Rent concessions decreased. That points to a stronger rental environment. Bad debt, apartment turnover costs, and income from lease buyouts rose. Those items points to non-paying tenants moving out, either on their own or due to management becoming more diligent in enforcing leases. The occupancy dipped slightly, so that also supports this outlook. I would guess management is seeing more desirable potential tenants becoming available as the rental market strengthens and they are stepping up their efforts to replace unprofitable tenants with profitable ones.

At least, that's my take on it.