Rehab Projects Are Often Great Investment Opportunities – Why Can They Become Huge Disasters?

A rehab project is easily seen as a great investment opportunity. You are able to purchase the project at a fraction of the replacement cost. After all the cash is invested, the total cost per square foot is far below the competition. You can see an easy path to much greater cash flow after the vacancy is filled and after the rents are increased. Unfortunately, there are a ton of issues that can throw the plan off of the expected course.

A rehab project did not get in the current condition because the owners wanted a run down dilapidated apartment complex. While the situation can be and often is the result of extended neglect, the buyer must consider that neighborhoods change, crime problems develop, basic infrastructure issues become insurmountable.

Where to begin?

First, is the property in a rentable location? Spend time understanding the schools that service the property. Look at access to employment and shopping. Find out what the crime issues are on the apartment complex. Determine what crime in the surrounding area is. Check out the demographics of the area and check with local merchants, consumer, and other sources about the reputation of the area. If too many red flags begin to develop, then you may have identified a project that could resist your best efforts to rehabilitate.

Next, if the property demonstrates solid performance, look at the physical issues with the project. Are the kitchens unable to meet expectations for today’s consumers? Is the foot print to small? What changes are required to meet utility cost expectations? Does the project require central AC? Is parking inadequate? Do the units require washers and dryers in the market and for the demographic the project will serve. What about dishwashers? Are the amenities inadequate? Are the floor plans positioned wrong for demand in the market?

In the case of infrastructure issues like those suggested for review above, the right rehab plan may well be able to resolve the issues. The key considerations are putting together a detailed rehabilitation plan that resolves the issues thoroughly for rentability. If the costs begin to rise to high for the project to be viable, you will know to abandon this prospective project. However, if you can meet the project well below your affordability considerations you have identified a potentially strong performing asset.

While the considerations above can protect against a bad decision because a rehabilitation requires repositioning the project the risk is much greater because rentup may not occur as expected. Renting costs can be too great. Rehab costs may over run. Rent rates may be weaker than expected. Management issues may be greater than anticipated. In all cases, the project can become continually more challenging and lead into failure.