DALLAS—Like nearly every industry, the multifamily real estate market has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may have one advantage that some industries don’t. People always need a place to live, especially during stay at home orders.
For investors or potential investors in multifamily real estate, that means waiting for opportune moments to arise once the worst of the crisis has passed.
“I think anyone who invests in multifamily knows there is always the possibility of downsides,” says Shravan Parsi, CEO and founder of American Ventures. “It’s how you prepare for and deal with those situations that make a difference.”
Parsi offers some tips for real estate investing not only during the COVID-19 crisis, but in preparation for any future downturns:
Have a backup plan: One way to handle downturns is to have a backup plan that transforms the downside into something with upside.
“Stress testing a model enables you to develop backup plans that have a good chance of succeeding,” Parsi says. “At my firm, we stress test for increases in interest rates, tax increases, decreases in rent, lower occupancy rates–all our key performance indicators. We stress test the underwriting model’s metrics aggressively against the worst-case scenario.”
Be flexible: Another way to deal with a present downside or one that crops up after a deal is closed is to be flexible.
“When you are flexible with a deal’s timing and other variables, you can overcome the possibilities,” Parsi says. “Are property prices low right now? Hold on to the property and sell later. Are interest rates rising? Wait for them to fall. Do property prices seem to be peaking? Sell sooner rather than wait. At American Ventures, there’s flexibility when we sell and there’s flexibility with how long we hold on to a property.”
Recapitalize: Recapitalizing a deal is another way to generate flexibility. With most of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fixed- or floating-rate loans, there is the option to refinance and obtain a supplemental loan after a year of holding the property, provided your property has increased in value.
“Sometimes downsides are so bad that you have to resolve them through a complete course correction, but even those situations are opportunities to learn,” Parsi says. “If you just view the downside as a mistake and move on, you miss out on the value of the experience. To turn failures or downsides into something positive, you must pause and reflect, critically analyze your failures, apply what you learn and build your expertise.”
For Texas multifamily, this sector is facing its first headwinds since the Great Recession. During the last decade, the tenant base has expanded and experienced strong income growth, which translated to higher occupancies, rental rates and cash flow to property owners.
“But now, some stress is being placed on the system. Currently, collection levels in Texas aren’t too far behind where they were at the beginning of the year, no doubt thanks to the stimulus checks that a majority of tenants received, so things are holding steady,” Parsi tells GlobeSt.com. “I think everything depends on the length and severity of the coronavirus and how long restrictions need to remain in place. If we are able to somewhat resume normal life in the next couple of months, then I think things will rebound fairly quickly. There will certainly be some re-growing pains that will be felt, but I believe the demand is still there. That will translate to property owners, and cash flow will be constrained in the near term. But since a person’s first priority is generally their home and the rent payment, it won’t result in too many defaults, and multifamily will continue to be a strong real estate investment.”
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