16 Unit Apartment in Pa...prime area...what now? - Posted by Ron

Posted by JPiper on June 08, 1999 at 16:21:32:

The usefulness of continuing the thread stems from what appeared to be the wide discrepancy between “actual” numbers for expenses, and an estimated number. It appears that you have cleared this up by lowering the cap rate that you initially used?..meaning that your expenses are higher as a percentage of gross. Further, when you start adding in deferred maintenance that sends the monthly expense number still higher.

Just to point out?I had the exterior of a 3 unit building painted last summer. Cost was about $2100?.and was the middle bid. Perhaps in Arizona a roof can be put on for $1K?.but that certainly wouldn’t be true here. I’m currently getting bids for a roof on the same 3 unit building. So far low bid is $3800. High bids are in the range of $5500. Bottom line is that when deferred maintenance number are added to an expense figure of 28% you obviously are going to get numbers in excess of 30%.

I don’t have a problem with using actual numbers. However when you’re analyzing a larger number of properties, using an estimate is one way to accomplish this. It gets you in the ball park?.albeit a conservative one.

I’m also not concerned with your deal. You evidently are confident in it?and are comfortable with your numbers?.and you’re the only one who needs to be satisfied. Certainly I don’t. We’re all just expressing viewpoints here.

In my case I’m going to use an estimate of 40% for expenses (plus deferred maintenance) on the average property. I use higher estimates when I’m dealing with older properties, because deferred maintenance is going to be considerably higher?.and including things like upgrading plumbing and wiring. Once the deal fits within my parameters, then I may take a look at constructing actual expense numbers. I don’t take a broker’s word for this though, nor do I take the word of the seller or his tax return. I can get utility expenses as an example by calling utility companies. I can get management expenses by calling property managers. Again, what I find repeatedly is that when I reflect deferred maintenance the expense number is going to approach 40%. A number I might add that is not 15-20 points higher than your own actual numbers plus a number for deferred maintenance.

One other point. I used to broker apartment buildings at one time?.and put partnerships together that acquired them. EVERY large apartment project that I can recall had expense numbers of at least 35%?.perhaps higher, depending on age, management costs, condition of the building, etc. It should be clear that a small income property tends to operate at HIGHER expense rates than a larger project does?.just from the economies of scale. I’ve seen brokers play with expense numbers, but even there they normally ran 32%?.and we in the industry recognized those as lowballed expenses. I might add that several months ago I spoke with a commercial lender out of Californai regarding a large apartment project in the midwest. This lender was estimating 45% expenses in their evaluation of whether they wanted to make a loan.

Good luck with your deal.


16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by Ron

Posted by Ron on June 07, 1999 at 07:40:24:

I am a novice investor and have just come across what I think is a good deal. It is a 16 unit apartment complex(4) 4 unit buildings in nice shape-less than 25 yrs old. All new water heaters and roofs within the last 3 yrs. Rents are about $100.00 under market value and has an excellent rental history. Separate utilities for each tenant. Priced at $560,000, but I know owner will take $480-$500. Currently not under a formal agreement with a Real Estate company, but owner has a friend he sort of lets handle it. I believe for the price of saving a commission on the sale, roughly $30,000, he will part company with his friend to sell the property. It has been up for over 2 yrs. Apartments in the area are selling for approx. $40,000 per unit. These units are in a nice area and in an excellent school district with a good rental background.

Owner is 85 and manages himself. Taxes are $20,000 per year. Rents average $475.00 per month. All units are 2/1 and there is paved off street parking for two cars per unit.
Owner is looking to sell outright. There is no mortgage on the property…it was inherited. He is too old to manage anymore and just wants to sell. He is open to ideas, but will pass them by a Real Estate person first since he has no background in creative investing. He does not want to hold a large mortgage. He will finance some of it. I would hazard to guess about $25,000.

I do not have the finances to swing this on my own, nor do I have the ability to put a $500K mortgage on it. I would love to find a partner for something like this. I would even give up the property for a finder’s fee if I could be in on watching how the deal is structured and negotiated from start to finish. There are lots of properties like this in this area (SE PA). Any ideas??? PS I do have the Income and Expense Summary if interested and can answer most of the financial details about the property.


Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by Jim Beavens

Posted by Jim Beavens on June 07, 1999 at 12:52:32:

Going by a purchase price of $480K, 10% vacancy, and 40% expenses, I calculate about a 10 cap for these properties. Not bad, but not great either. If you could get a lower price, say $400K, you’d be at a 12 cap; much better (although we would still need to know what the market cap rate is like; if this is indeed a prime area, then a 10-12 cap might be pretty good).

In Atlanta (just got back :wink: Terry said that in any real estate transaction, you want to be paid NOW, either in the form of cash NOW, equity NOW, or cashflow NOW. So if these buildings don’t cashflow NOW, then pass. Upside potential is also a factor, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason for buying a property. It might allow you to accept a lesser cap rate (again, assuming it cash flows right off the bat), but should not dictate your buying decision.

Now here’s the million dollar question. Are these 4 buildings on seperate tax lots? Because if you’re basically dealing with 4 four-plexes, then the financing picture just got a whole lot rosier. 1-4 units are treated as residential property by banks, and you can deal with a good mortgage broker who should be able to obtain a 90% CLTV loan, meaning you would have to come up with only 10% down (that may sound like a lot, but if this were one 16-unit property, then you would probably need to have 20-30% down if you didn’t have any other properties you could cross-collateralize).

Also, keep in mind that you should have a good cash reserve if you’re going to go in and start raising rents. Rents don’t automatically rise, you usually have to start replacing tenants who are unhappy with the higher rents and move. This means vacancies, cleanup, etc.

It sounds like you’re really new, so I don’t recommend jumping in on these (assuming you even have the cash), but hopefully this provides a basic education on small commercial property.

Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on June 07, 1999 at 12:35:22:

A few general comments.

You say these buildings have been on the market for 2 years. You then say that units are selling in the area for about $40K per unit. Based on that, these units would be worth $640K?.and yet the property is offered for $560K. What’s wrong with this picture? In a somewhat simplified way, I would think that being on the market for 2 years is sufficient proof that these units ARE NOT worth $640K?.or even $560K. Unless you have a reason why you believe the MARKET has incorrectly perceived these units, I would definitely keep this general comment at the forefront of your mind.

Next, I wouldn’t want to pay for what I THINK I can raise the rents to. Why? Several reasons. Most property owners are just not that stupid. If the rent was really $100 under market they would have raised the rent. But it is a common marketing ploy to suggest that rents are under market. My attitude with the seller or his representative might be that if the rent is $100 under market, then have the owner raise the rent. Otherwise, I don’t pay for what might be?.I pay for what is. Understand that it is possible that rents are under market?.but when you raise the rents you’re going to lose tenants, thus creating vacancy. In other words, raising rents isn’t necessarily problem free. You need to be compensated for the time, effort, and risk that will be entailed when you raise the rents.

A good crude working assumption might be that the expenses run 40% of gross rent?.and that vacancy runs 5%. Obviously you need to verify to the extent that you can the true expenses?.but if they deviate much from these crude estimates, they’re probably not accurate or are being misrepresented. When I use these numbers on your deal, assuming a $500K sales price, what I get is about a 10 cap rate (NOI divided by price). A 10 cap in most markets is a market deal?..which probably tells you why this property has been on the market for 2 years. But you’re absolutely right about one thing?..you should be able to find all kinds of this type of deal all over Pennsylvania?or any other state.

Here’s the good news. IF it’s true that the rents are $100 under market, and IF you are able to verify this from rental properties in the surrounding area, then the numbers do start to look better. Further, I like the idea of 4 fourplexes rather than one 16 unit building. Sometimes you can buy as a package, and then resell as individual fourplexes to people who don’t evaluate income properties the same way as purchasers of larger properties. Maybe you COULD sell fourplexes at $40K per unit?..but only the comps will tell you this. If this is the case, you might be able to make a nice profit on this?but again, you need to see evidence for this in the comps?.not just be plucking numbers out of thin air.

Unfortunately this owner doesn’t sound particularly motivated. The willingness to carry $25K doesn’t help you much, and doesn’t illustrate motivation. A question I would be interested in knowing is WHY an 85 year old NEEDS all cash. All cash triggers immediate taxation?..although we don’t know what his cost basis is. At the same time, it’s true that IF this owner were to carry a large portion of this deal, he then pays taxes as he receives his principle over time?..and the note can be willed to his heirs. What’s wrong with an income stream without having to work for it? He’s been living with an income stream up to now?.and it sounds like at 85 years old he isn’t going to buy another building.

I wouldn’t be interested in this deal UNLESS the owner were willing to carry 20-30% of this deal in a second?..and unless I verified that the market rent is really $575 via a rent survey. And again, if these deals are all over Pennsylvania, then presumably one of them might be sufficiently motivated to make you a REAL deal.


Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by SCook85

Posted by SCook85 on June 07, 1999 at 08:01:49:

I noticed the price per unit and immediately thought it was high. I then figured that maybe the units were renting for about $800 per month or more, then you said the average rent is $475 per unit. These numbers are really tight and would probably give you a negative cash flow. Expenses for operating such a complex are high. You should figure 40% of all rents for expenses not including debt service. This will leave you with a little over $4800 per month left for debt service which is not a lot to cover the amount of mortgage and taxes you are probably going to be looking at.

I know that you said market rents are about $100 higher but that is a bonus for you. You should not structure your offer around being able to get more. If you are mistaking this it could be detrimental to your future, you should always buy based on what the complex is worth today, you never know what the future holds.


Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on June 07, 1999 at 11:13:45:

I have to disagree. I am in the process of closing on a deal very much like this one. I am paying 580K and it is a GREAT deal. (Cap is about 15, I believe, when you include the carpet allowance and laundry income). If he can indeed raise the rents to 575 then he should find a way to get it done (depending upon condition and verification of all figures).


Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by Denise

Posted by Denise on June 07, 1999 at 14:15:16:

Mark Would you share the details of your deal with us Thanks Denise.

Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? - Posted by JohnBoy

Posted by JohnBoy on June 07, 1999 at 12:38:55:

I wouldn’t buy a property based on what I might be able to get for rent. I would base the purchase price on what the current rent is. I would consider buying at a market cap rap based on current rents with the potential of raising the cap rate by raising the rents, but not buy under market cap rate to potentially get a market cap rate.

16 units at $475 100% occupied puts the current gross at $91,200. If he paid $500k he would be buying at a 10% cap rate. To get at least 11% cap rate the purchase price should be at $455k.

If he can get the rents up to $575k then his cap rate will be at 13.3% using 45% for expenses.

If he can get it at $450k - $460k he’s looking at a decent deal at market value with some upside potential. Anything over that he will be paying full market value and betting on the come. Not a good way to buy property. Make your profit going into the deal.

Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? And My deal7 - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on June 07, 1999 at 19:29:24:

Let me ask you this. Would you buy a fixer based on what you could flip it for? Would you buy a rehab based on its after fix up value??
That is exactly what he is doing- buying the property based on market rents, not current rents. Market rents are market rents. And if these properties have below market rents, then it is not “betting on the come” that he can raise them to market and thus raise the cap. He simply can do it.
In fact, he IS making his profit going into the deal, because he is buying below market due to the below market rents.

Here are the rough details of my deal:
4 4-plexes in the Phoenix area. All units are 2-1. The buildings are right next to each other. Rents are 575 per unit. $100 per month in laundry income. I don’t have the expenses in front of me but the positive cash flow is about 900-1000 per building (10% down, 8.75% fixed financing for 30 years). I am re-financing my other 2 4-plexes for the 58K down plus 16K closing costs. (A classic Robert Allen nothing deal.) Original asking price was 599,600. At that price, the cap was 14.1, not including laundry income. At 580, the cap is 14.5, not including laundry income. I also negotiated a 6100 carpet allowance so I should get a check for 5-10K back at close.



Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? And My deal7 - Posted by JohnBoy

Posted by JohnBoy on June 07, 1999 at 20:02:28:

Sounds like your expenses are on the low side. $575 per unit x 16 units = $9200 per month. $110,400 per year in gross income. (forget the laundry income, that’s gravy to the deal) $110,400 x 45% expenses = $49,680. $110,400 gross - $49,680 expenses = $60,720 NOI. Based on a purchase price of $599,600 that leaves a cap rate of 10.1%.

At $580k purchase price the cap rate is 10.4%.

Is the $6100 carpet allowance going to be used for carpeting or is the carpeting good enough to get by with for several more years? If the $6100 is not going towards any repairs and straight into your pocket then a cap rate based on $573,900 purchase price would be 10.6%. That’s based on your numbers using 45% for expenses. Based on that it sounds like full market value.

What happens when you go to raise the rents by $100 per month and you lose half your tenants if not all of your tenants?? $100 per month rent increase is a BIG rent increase coming off a $475 per month rent. That’s a 21% increase! What happens to your cap rate then while your waiting to get new tenants in there? What happens if some of those tenants decide to not move and quit paying rent because of the major increase forcing you to evict while they live there rent free until you get them out?? What happens to your cap rate if some of the tenants trash the place before leaving sticking you with some major repair costs?? What happens to your cap rate just to cover the costs of normal clean up and repairs when a lot of them move out because of the huge rent increase?? Your betting on the come! Your assuming everything will go smoothly with all the tenants excepting a 21% rent increase! It doesn’t matter what market rents will bring. It matters what the tenants are paying now and what they’ve been paying over a period of time. It matters what will happen if they don’t just roll over and except a major rent increase just because you claim the market rents are at what your raising it too! It could be why they lived there as long as they have because of below market rents. If raising the rents by $100 per month will cause you to lose half the tenants then what’s that going to cost you while your trying to get someone else in there? Are you willing to pay market value based on what the market rent is everywhere else and face shelling out a sack full of money to cover your note and pay for repairs after they moved out to get the apartment ready for a new tenant? I’m not.

Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa…prime area…what now? And My deal7 - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on June 08, 1999 at 10:01:47:

Why are you basing your cap rate and NOI on a “rule of thumb” ie 45%. I am basing mine on 1) the actual results of this property and 2) my results with 2 similar properties in the same area. Why not pick 85%?? Then you will never buy anything because every deal is terrible.
If the rents are $100 below market then believe me the tenants KNOW they are below market. When you raise them to market, you MAY lose some tenants. So what? If you cannot fill vacancies at market rents, then you should not be in the landlord business. And frankly, I don’t believe you will lose 1/2 the tenants because of 1) inertia 2) people expect new owners to raise the rents and 3) some tenants will realize (at the very least when they start apartment hunting) that there is no reason to move because the rents down the street are just as much as mine.
As for the laundry income being gravy… It is $1200 a year. Additionally, even using your made up numbers below, it raises the cap rate .2 on a 580K purchase. Nice gravy. I think I will keep it.
The fact is that anyone can find a million and one reasons not to buy a property. I can make up numbers all day that make any property look terrible.

Re: 16 Unit Apartment in Pa - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on June 08, 1999 at 11:15:34:


I took your numbers on cap rate and gross rental income to determine what you say your expenses are. You said your cap rate was about 14.5 on a purchase of $580K not counting laundry income. You said your gross rent per unit was $575 per month for each of 16 units. So gross rental income is $110,400.

So here’s what I get. Using your cap rate and the purchase price, I get NOI of $84,100. Now I take your gross income and assume a vacancy rate. You don’t mention one here, so I will assume 5%. This leaves gross income after vacancy of $104,880. Therefore your expenses evidently are about $20,780. Taking this as a percentage of the gross income gives an expense rate of 18.8%.

Just so that you know, I’m one of those who routinely uses an expense rate of 40% to estimate the value of properties, plus a vacancy rate. So what’s the difference between your 18.8% and my 40%? You say in your post that you’re basing your expenses on the “actual results of the property”?..and I don’t doubt that. It’s possible that these numbers were put together from a Schedule E as an example?.and might well amount to 18.8%. However, as you know, the Schedule E ONLY shows IRS allowed expenses, and not necessarily EVERY cost to property ownership. IF you replaced a roof as an example, this cost would NOT be an expense (at least not properly) according to the IRS?.but rather would be a capital improvement which would adjust the cost basis and be depreciated over time.

Things like roof replacement, furnace replacement, air conditioning replacement, etc are all examples of capital improvements which obviously are costs of property ownership, and yet are not termed “expenses”. However most knowledgeable people include an estimate for the replacement of these types of items in their analysis?and generally call it “deferred maintenance”. Deferred maintenance is a set-aside from gross income?..a rainy day account for when the roof goes out. If it’s not established where does the money come from for roof replacement?

Obviously deferred maintenance is only an estimate?because we don’t really know exactly when a roof wears out. But we do know it will happen. We do know that the roof wears out a little every month?and so properly a monthly accounting should be made for that. If you knew that your roof was 10 years old when you purchased the building as an example, you might also have an estimate of the cost of replacing the roof, and realize that this replacement might occur in let’s say another 10 years. You could create a monthly set aside for this.

What’s the point of all this? If you don’t reflect deferred maintenance in some manner in your figures, the numbers you’re using to determine your cash flow are nothing more than a fairy tale. They don’t reflect the reality of property ownership. I can assure you that an 18.8% number does not contain an estimate of deferred maintenance?.along with all the other expenses like taxes, insurance, routine repair, lawn care, management etc. I can assure you that 40% is going to be a whole lot closer than 18%.

If you were given numbers that didn’t include deferred maintenance, you were misled. That’s why when you’re given numbers you should figure the percentage out. If it isn’t close to 40%, you’re looking at BS. Could it be 35%? Sure. Could it be 30%?.maybe if the building is new enough.

Suffice it to say though that 18% is so far out of touch that it becomes a fairy tale. If you can actually achieve this type of number you’re setting records for property management. And keep in mind I’m not talking about one year?.but over a period of time where your expenditures tend to even out.

One other thing. Raising rents to market is obviously something you or anyone should do. However, when rents are raised it will produce vacancy. It also produces the need for repair?.things like recarpeting or painting?.in other words your expenses go up. So at least temporarily your new rent increases AREN’T going to go to the bottom line. Additional vacancy, and additional costs of unit repair/improvement will eat up the additional rent. This isn’t a reason not to raise rents, but it IS a reason not to pay someone else for rent that doesn’t exist yet.


4-plexes vs. apartments - it depends - Posted by Alex Gurevich, TX

Posted by Alex Gurevich, TX on June 10, 1999 at 11:07:46:

I’ve owned and managed a few 4-plex buildings for about 8 years. I found that with the right kind of 4-plexes the expenses are, indeed, lower than comprable expenses on a larger apartment building. The main reason, I believe, are utility bills and management. In my area on a 2 bedroom unit the water/sewer bill could easily be $40/mo, gas could be about $25, electric could be 50-80/mo on a hot summer month. Most of the apartment complexes in my area have common meters for water/sewer and gas for at least heating (sometimes water heating and cooking too). Some of the really old buildings may have a common electric bill too. As you can imagine additional 100/mo utility expense on a 600/mo rent is about extra 15%.

Separately metered for utilities 4plexes are therefore saving the owner this 10-15% in expense. That’s quite a chunk.

Another savings (although not a true savings) come from owner managing the property. When one has under 20 units total it does not make economical sense to have a full time property manager, so owners usually do it themselves. Yet the management expense in my area is about 7-10%.
If you take a couple of this expenses in consideration you may as well see only about 15% in expenses even counting expenses related to deferred maintenance and replacements.

A comment on vacancies. My experience shows the vacancy factor is grossly underestimated especially by brokers. Mark states that his area has zero vacancies. It may look like that, it may feel like that but I bet it is not. Commonly taken 5% rate for a healthy economy is only 18 days per unit a year. In my experience it’s awfully low for a small time operator who can’t afford to keep “for rent” ad every day or at least every weekend, and who can’t afford to have a contractor on staff. It takes about a week to have a make-ready done, provided the contractor/cleaners/pest control people/appliance and A/C techs are availalbe readily which is not alway the case. Besides, people move on schedules convenient to them, not the landlord. It’s pretty common when I have to wait for somebody for 2-4 weeks after they’ve applied and gave me a deposit. I found it’s cheaper to do that and wait, than hope for someone to show up and move in tomorrow.

One other underestimated area related to vacancies is rent loss due to eviction and non-payments. Over the years I must have had about 150 tenants in the 4-plex units renting at 525-750/mo and I confess tenants in that income category are often not on the top of their game. A lot of them are in transition moving up or down financially which affects the owners income figures quite a bit.

One other thing about rents being low. I think it was Joe Keiser who put it best: we all think we know more than the owner about rents, but we usually don’t. I thought I had a crystal ball a couple of times with my purchases. My worst purchases were made on the assumption that rents were low.

And finally, Mark, there’s not going to be no 900-1000/mo cash flow (at least upfront) on these buildings. There will be about $500-600 true net cash flow if that. And that may be OK if you buy it a little below market and spend a little cash to get in. Cash flow is good but it’s not everything. I am selling a 4-plex building I owned for 7 years at about 100K profit. I have some gray hair (also called experience) to show for it but it feels good.

My Bad… Sort of… (the actual numbers) - Posted by Mark (SDCA)

Posted by Mark (SDCA) on June 08, 1999 at 13:12:22:

Here are the exact numbers for one 4-plex. There was an error on the listing sheet which dropped the cap a little less than a point. (I believe the realtor played a little fast and loose with the individual listing sheets because 1) there are only 2 laundry rooms not 4 and 2) the trash only shows up on 2 of the water bills not 4.)
Purchase price: 145,000
GSI Per Unit = 574
Annual GSI = 27,552
Other income (laundry) = 1200
Less 5% Vacancy (More than ample for the current market)
= AGI = 26174
less espenses of 6973
= NOI = 19201
Cap = 13.24
Add in the laundry income and the cap is 14.06.
Expenses are 25.3% of gross which may be a little low (I get 28 or so on my other 4-plexes) but certainly isn’t 15 or 20 percentage points low. I stand by my contention that ACTUAL numbers are more accurate than a global rule of thumb.
Payment is 1026 per month so I will collect 600 a month in positive cash flow (plus the laundry income). And when you factor in that the current vacancy rate for this area is essentially zero, I will still take this deal. As I said, $2600 a month in positive cash flow works for me.
A quite note about deferred maintenance. Let’s take the big ticket items: paint, carpet, roof, A/C, hot water heaters. In this area, for these units, paint would be 500x4, carpet 1000x4, roof 1000, A/C 1500, hot water heater 350x4 (rough figures). Total is 9900. How many months do I need a full property to pay for this?? 3.85. In about a year, I would have paid for a total rehab of all 16 units. And about half the units need zero rehab.
Anyway. I don’t see the usefulness of contiuing this thread. I like the deal. I will do the deal, and I am confident that I will make money on the deal.

Re: 4-plexes vs. apartments - it depends - Posted by JPiper

Posted by JPiper on June 10, 1999 at 11:56:00:


You make some good points. That 40% expense rate I was talking about assumes that the owner is paying water/sewer?.but the tenant pays gas/electric. Any change in that mix is clearly going to influence expenses. Older buildings around here many times are not separately meter for gas, and I’ve never seen one metered separately for water. In this case you would need to be using higher expense numbers, or you would need to reflect the cost of separately metering. I also agree with the management issue. This is normally a large expense and is reflected in my 40% estimate. The larger the property the lower this expense as a percentage typically?.but as you correctly point out, many smaller properties are owner-managed. Time is not normally reflected in the figures.

I completely agree with your comments about vacancy?..5% is not much?.and by the time you repair the unit, wait for the contractors/handymen, run your ad, etc?.it’s a bare minimum in my opinion. And as you correctly point out, non payment of rent, legal expenses, and TIME are all factors associated with vacancy as well.

If I back off 45% of the gross income for expenses/vacancies my opinion is that it will result in a conservative estimate of my net operating income. It could be as an example that my vacancies end up running 10%, but the expenses are lower. Again, this number ASSUMES management, although personally I don’t use it on small properties.

$100K profit on a fourplex in 7 years sounds pretty good. You’ll turn into a buy/holder yet!