6 Creative Ways to Break into Multifamily Syndication

Today I'm happy to share a guest post by Joe Fairless, co-founder and principal at Ashcroft Capital, a national multifamily investment firm. Joe controls over $54,000,000 worth of real estate in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Cincinnati. A native Texan, Joe grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from Texas Tech University. He currently splits his time between Dallas-Fort Worth and Cincinnati. He has been investing in real estate since 2008 and, prior to that, was the youngest vice president at an award-winning advertising agency. He is also the host of the world’s longest running daily real estate podcast, Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever, where he has interviewed guests such as Barbara Corcoran and Robert Kiyosaki.

"6 Creative Ways to Break into Multifamily Syndication" - Joe Fairless

So you want to become a multifamily syndicator? Well, you aren’t alone. “How do I break into the multifamily syndication business?” is the most common question I receive.

Multifamily or apartment syndication is simply raising money from private investors and buying apartment buildings. I have been in the syndication business for many years and have learned there is a core skill set needed prior to raising money for apartment deals (learn what those are here). Beyond those core skills, I’ve discovered 6 creative ways for those interested to get their foot in the door:

1. Find an off-market deal.
2. Conservatively underwrite deals.
3. Negotiate terms and get all legal docs in order.
4. Raise capital for deal and be ongoing point person for capital sources.
5. Secure debt financing (if applicable).
6. Do property management.

Based on this list of 6 methods, what area appeals to you most? What do you want to do? How do you want to spend your time?

And if you’re thinking “None of the above, Joe. I just want to cut a check and have my money and others work for me so I can be a passive investor” then, if you are an accredited investor, you can connect with me here and we’ll set up a call so we can get to know each other better. That way you can be one of the first people to get access to my next deal.

But, if you’re going to be a successful multifamily syndicator then you’ll need to choose your primary area of focus. From experience, I can tell you that if you try to do it all, you’re doing your investors and yourself a huge disservice.


Because we all have special talents. We are all wired differently and process information differently. The key to a successful business is having team members doing what they love to do and in which they are experts.

Yes, I have working knowledge of ALL the areas and I recommend you do too. But, you don’t and shouldn’t do it all. You can break into the business by having a specific focus or skill and being strategic about how you leverage it.

So, here you go, the 6 ways to break into the apartment syndication biz:

#1 Find an Off-Market Deal, then you can get into the biz by:

…finding a deal and bringing it to an experienced investor who can close on it. I put together a guide that lists 24 Ways to Find Off-Market Deals. If you haven’t seen it yet then opt-in to my weekly newsletter here and it will be sent to you automatically.

But wait, before you actually look for deals or bring it to an experienced investor, figure out WHO you should bring it to and qualify THEM to ensure you’re not doing unnecessary work. Your time is valuable. To qualify them make sure they:

• Have closed on similar properties that you’ll be looking for
• Are willing to structure the agreement in a way that meets your goals (more in this below)
• Are trustworthy and come with references – don’t enter into an agreement lightly. Any partnership has major implications because you’re bringing in investor money.

When you find a deal and locate qualified and credible investors, how should you be compensated? Do you want a finder’s fee? Or do you want to be an equity partner in the deal?

I believe it’s nice to get a fee for finding a deal but wouldn’t you want the long-term benefits of being in a deal? I would. While you might need to get a fee on the first couple deals because, well, you need to eat and have shelter, the more you do it, the more you should transition to being an equity partner for finding the deal. Don’t take a single-family home wholesaler’s approach. Take a buy-and-hold investor’s approach because that is what ultimately sets you up for long-term financial freedom.

Practically speaking, if someone came to me with an off-market deal then I think it’s worth about $25k – $100k depending on some of the details (i.e. size, how good of a deal it really is, etc.).

#2 Conservatively Underwrite Deals, then you can get into the biz by:

…taking your talents to a group (or person) who is getting tons of deal flow and needs help underwriting deals. My business partner and I get a ton of deal flow so we brought on a couple MBA students at UCLA to help us with the initial underwriting. After they do the initial underwriting we then take it from there and complete the analysis. We pay them $10k once we close on a deal and then there’s long-term potential for them to be in on the deals as we grow our business.

So, if you’re a numbers nerd…ahem, numbers guy/gal then this is a way to break into the industry. I interviewed a 20 year old who did this and helped close a $2.3M deal. I mean, come one, if a junior in college can do it then why not you?

#3 Negotiate Terms and Get all Legal Docs in Order, then you can get into biz by:

…getting a law degree. If you’re not an attorney or don’t want to get a law degree then skip to #4.

Seriously, this isn’t the most practical way into the business but if you already have a law degree then it might work. First off, the person responsible for the acquisition is likely the one who negotiates the terms so really all that’s left is legal docs. And paying the cost of legal on syndicated deals makes more financial sense than bringing an attorney in on the deal as a General Partner in most cases. However, perhaps you find a group that has grown to the point where it makes financial sense to have an in-house council. It’s likely even if you’re an attorney that you’ll need to combine #3 with other things you bring to the table in order to make for an appealing partner.

#4 Raise Capital for Deal and Be Ongoing Point Person for Capital Sources, then you can get into the biz by:

…partnering with someone who has a proven track record in the multifamily syndication business. You bring the money and they bring the deal. If you have a network of high net worth people AND they think of you as a savvy business person then this could be your ticket into the business.

Some points to guide you along the way:

• Identify partners who are doing deals already and who have a successful track record.
• Get an idea of how much you would make on a past deal of theirs if you raised XYZ amount of money – this gives you some benchmarks for how much you’ll make on future deals when you bring in the money.
• Make sure the partner has money in the deal – otherwise, what do they have to lose if you bring in your money and your investor money and the deal flops? Always have alignment of interests.

Remember, if you are raising money for other people’s deals you must be on the General Partnership (GP) side. If you are not on the GP side and you are raising money then that’s against the law unless you have a Securities License. So, be careful here. Make sure you’re on the GP side if you’re raising for a deal.

If “how to break into the multifamily syndication business?” is the number one question I receive, “how do I raise money from private investors?” is a close second. I’ve written multiple posts on proven methods successful investors I’ve interviewed on my podcast are using to raise capital, six of which I’ve shared below:

1. My Four-Step Apartment Syndication Money-Raising Process
2. 3 Ways to Raise Over $1 Million for Your 1st Apartment Syndication
3. A 5-Step Process for Raising BIG Capital For Multifamily Syndication
4. 4 Principles to Source Capital from High Net-Worth Individuals
5. 4 Non-Obvious Ways to Raise Private Money for Apartment Deals
6. How to Overcome Objections When Raising Money for Multifamily Investing

#5 Secure Debt Financing, then you can get into the biz by:

…being a mortgage broker. So if you aren’t a mortgage broker or don’t want to be one then skip to #6.

Even if you are a mortgage broker, similar to #3, this is usually a fee that makes sense to pay instead of letting you in on the General Partnership side. That said, I know of some groups that comprise of mortgage brokers and they get in the deals by putting in their brokerage fee as the equity in the deal.

#6 Do Property Management, then you can get into the biz by:

…being a property manager. As a property manager, you have lots of ways of breaking into the business. Here are some:

• Networking with local, aspiring investors who want to do deals but don’t have the track record. You can bring your team’s track record of turning deals around and they bring the money for the deal. You have a lot of leverage here because without you or someone like you, they couldn’t get approved for debt financing (and likely won’t be able to raise the equity).
• Work with an experienced group and tell them you’ll exchange your property management fees for being in on their next deal. This could help them sell the deal to their investors because it shows alignment of interests. You have less leverage than the above scenario but still provide a lot of value.

You could even combine a couple methods and raise money for the deal while also trading your property management fees for being in the deal. The more money you raise the more equity you get in the deal.

Or, you could raise money for the deal and get equity but not trade in your property management fees even though you’re managing the deal. Basically, you can slice it a lot of different ways – only limited by your creativity and ability to add value to the deal. Ultimately your ownership should be proportionate to the value you add to the deal.

Some other ways:
• if you’re a real estate broker then put in your commission to be part of the deal. On my first multifamily deal (a 168 unit) the brokers on the deal put in their commission of $317,500 to become owners in the deal. It was a win-win because my group had to bring less money and they got to re-invest their commission into something that had major upside.
• If you have experience in multifamily investing but don’t want to deal with the headaches of finding deals then you could do asset management for other investors. Listen to this interview I did with someone who does asset management for a living and hear how much he gets paid: http://joefairless.com/blog/podcast/jf140-how-much-do-multifamily-asset-managers-get-paid/

There are many different creative ways to enter into the multifamily syndication business. Once you are ready to become a syndicator, here are six tips for how to get started:

1. Find an off-market deal.
2. Conservatively underwrite deals.
3. Negotiate terms and get all legal docs in order.
4. Raise capital for deal and be ongoing point person for capital sources.
5. Secure debt financing (if applicable).
6. Do property management.

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