3 Steps For Securing Equity Capital For Your Real Estate Project

I previously shared the steps for creating a professional plan for a real estate project; the importance of obtaining third-party validation; advice in how to find the right financing sources; and suggestions on presenting the project professionally, then closing the deal. This approach will enable you to obtain financing term sheets, letters of intent and/or financing commitment letters from lenders if your project is financially feasible and falls within the lending parameters of the financing institutions that you approach. Nevertheless, financing always requires a cash contribution, as 100% financing is not realistic in today’s market.

Lender requirements for cash equity contributions, deposits or down payments, typically fall between 15% and 40% of the total project cost (85% to 60% Loan-To-Value ratio). A portion or all of the equity value in the property can sometimes help reduce the cash deposit requirement, but it is very unlikely for a conventional lender to completely eliminate the cash contribution requirement because lenders want to ensure that the principal(s) are vested in the project, or have “skin in the game”. The cash deposit is necessary to close the loan and obtain financing.

So, where does the cash deposit come from? There are several potential sources:

  1. Your pocket
  2. Your partner’s pocket (if you have one)
  3. Equity from another property you may own (if any)
  4. Private investors

There are many advantages to infusing the cash equity requirement yourself, including the fact that you retain all profit and full control of the project at all times. This can often be the most advantageous funding structure because it maximizes your profit and control. However, there are also advantages to securing equity participation from investors, including:

· Less cash out of pocket enables you to be more liquid, retain more cash reserves and/or diversify your investments to earn profits from other projects or endeavors simultaneously

· Reduces your risk and exposure in the project

· Enhances your financing capabilities

There are 3 basic steps for securing equity capital for your real estate project:

  1. Prepare an investment proposition
  2. Source like-minded investors and private investment organizations
  3. Investment negotiations and agreement

1) Investment Proposition

There are many ways to formulate an investment proposition. I’ve seen an investment proposal written on the back of a napkin… and the deal was funded! (This was a developer seeking an investment from his grandmother). I’ve seen verbal agreements get funded by family members. I’ve also seen very intricate, elaborate and lengthy investment proposals not get funded. How you document your investment proposal is extremely important. The first two examples were appropriately prepared for their intended audiences; the third was not. If your project is financially feasible and can demonstrate reasonable gain for investors, securing investment capital becomes a function of proper documentation, sourcing, presentation and negotiation.

Regardless of whether an investment proposal is intended for a family member or a sophisticated investment organization, proper documentation always enhances your ability to secure funding. Your proposal should be professional, clear and concise. Following are some basic suggestions for documenting your investment proposal:

1. Provide a brief executive summary describing the project and the investment proposition. Within the executive summary, outline the investment amount required, return on investment, time-frame of the investment, and discuss the security, collateral and/or equity value that can help protect the investor.

2. Provide a financial summary of the uses of funds, sources of funds, operating projections and cash flow of the project.

3. Discuss the funding structure and capitalization plan.

4. Attach term sheets, letters of intent, financing proposals, and/or commitment letters from prospective lenders.

5. Attach the project plan.

Source Like-Minded Investors and Investment Organizations

Where do you find investors that would be interested in participating in your project? If your project is financially feasible and you’ve prepared a professional plan and a concise investment proposition, then you’re only steps away from finding your equity investor(s). It takes time and determination, but it can be a worthwhile effort that can last beyond a single project. Here are some suggestions for obtaining sources:

  • Contact local and regional mortgage brokers, real estate brokers, title companies, real estate attorneys, and other real estate professionals. Offer a finder’s fee.
  • Place ads online and in local and regional newspapers.
  • Prepare a project web page where prospective investors can find the project and review/download pertinent documents, including your investment proposition.
  • Hire a consultant or financing broker that specializes in securing equity participation.
  • Review your own contacts and business cards – You’d be surprised at how fruitful this effort may be.
  • Attend networking events and or conferences for private investors in your area and/or region, then collect business cards and make follow up calls and meetings.

Dedicate time to making calls, setting up appointments and engaging in meetings to present your project to prospective investors. Become an expert at presenting your project. Prepare a multimedia presentation to help them focus on the points you want to stress. Don’t stop until you get it done. If your project is feasible and profitable, it can get funded with proper determination and effort.

Investment Negotiations and Agreement

How much should you offer an investor? Depending on the nature of a project, perceived risk, profitability, location, your experience, competition, demand, supply and numerous other factors, I’ve seen investors require from 5% to 95% of the project and/or profit. Most investors want to see that you have “skin in the game”, generally 10% to 50% of the amount you ask them to invest in the project. Demonstrating that you have invested in the project or that you will invest into the project is adds value to the deal. You should document this clearly and provide evidence of the time and money you have invested in your project.

Other items that are open to negotiation include the percentage of control in the project, roles of the parties, reporting procedures for the investors, etc. You should provide benefit and value to the investors, but at the same time you don’t want to lose all control or receive minimal gain for your efforts. Finding the right balance is extremely importance. This is accomplished through open dialogue and effective communication between the parties.

There is no global formula for this, so it’s impossible for me to provide accurate advice on what to propose investors for your specific project. I would strongly recommend getting advice from a savvy attorney who can assist in preparing the investment agreement and structuring the investment terms. Meet with your attorney first so that you have an original structure for the deal; then use your attorney when negotiating any modifications with prospective investors.

If you have a history or recently completed real estate projects, document this clearly and share with potential investors during your presentations and meetings. If you don’t have a track record of successfully completed real estate projects, raising your first equity investment can be more challenging, but if you follow the above suggestions and you are determined, the sky is the limit!