One of the best analogies for a real estate syndication is to think of it as an airplane ride. There are pilots, passengers, flight attendants, mechanics, and more, who all work together to get the plane safely to its destination.

In this analogy, the pilots are the sponsors of the syndication, and the passengers are the passive investors. They’re all going to the same place, but they have very different roles in the process.

If unexpected weather patterns emerge, if an engine has issues, or any other number of surprises, the pilots are the ones who are responsible for the flight.

The pilots will likely update the passengers (“Just to let you know, folks, we’re experiencing some turbulence at the moment…”), but the passengers don’t have any active responsibilities in making the decisions or flying the plane.

Real estate syndications are much like this analogy. The passive investors, sponsors, brokers, property managers, and more, all share a vision to invest in and improve a particular asset. However, each person’s role in the project is different. Everyone wears a different hat. 

In this article, we’ll discuss who the players are, as well as their respective roles in a given real estate syndication.

People in a Real Estate Syndication

Here are the key roles that come together to make a real estate syndication happen:

  • Real estate broker (or lead source for the deal)
  • Lender
  • General partners
  • Key principals
  • Passive investors
  • Property manager
  • Ohana Investment Partners

Real Estate Broker

The real estate broker (or wholesaler/lead source) is the person or team who discovers the asset for sale, either as a listing or as an off-market opportunity (i.e., not publicly listed).

Having a strong real estate broker relationship is crucial, as they are the main liaison between the buyer and the seller throughout the acquisition process, unless the operators are direct to seller. If they are direct to the seller, then the buyers would directly communicate with the sellers. 

Lender

The lender is the biggest money partner in a real estate syndication because they provide the loan for the property. The lender performs their own due diligence, underwriting, and separate appraisal to make sure the property is worth the value of the loan requested. 

In the airplane analogy we started out with, neither the real estate broker nor the lender are on board the plane. They have important roles in bringing the project to fruition, but they are not part of the purchasing entity, nor do they share in any of the returns.

General Partners

The general partners work with the real estate broker and lender to secure the loan and acquire the property in addition to managing the asset throughout the life of the project, which is why they are often also called the lead syndicators. 

The general partnership team includes both the sponsors and the operators (sometimes these are the same people).

The sponsors are the ones signing on the dotted line for the loan and are often involved in the acquisition and underwriting processes.

The operators are generally responsible for managing the acquisition and for executing the business plan by overseeing the day-to-day operations after closing. Operators guide the property manager and ensure that renovations are on schedule and within budget.

Key Principals

For a commercial loan, the sponsor is required to show a certain amount of personal liquidity. This reassures the lender that the sponsor can contribute additional personal capital to keep the property afloat if things were to ever go wrong.

One or more key principals may be brought into the deal to help guarantee the loan if the sponsor’s personal balance sheet is insufficient.

Passive Investors

A real estate syndication’s passive investors have no active role in the project. They simply invest their money in exchange for a share of the returns. Like the passengers on an airplane, they get to put their money in, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

What a great position (and my personal favorite)!

Property Manager

Once the property has been acquired, the property manager becomes arguably the most important partner in the project because they are the “boots on the ground” who execute renovation projects according to the business plan. 

The property manager works closely with the operators (i.e. the asset management team) to ensure the business plan is being followed and any unexpected surprises are addressed properly.

Ohana Investment Partners

In a real estate syndication or fund, Ohana Investment Partners is part of the general partnership team or fund management team. Our main role is to lead investor relations and help raise the equity needed.

We serve as an advocate for investors by ensuring that the sponsors’ projections are conservative, deals are structured favorably toward investors, that multiple exit strategies exist, and that capital will be preserved and grow.

After the property is acquired, we act as the liaison between the sponsor/operator team and the investors by providing updates, financial reports, and other important information between parties.

Essentially, we are like the flight attendants, who prep the passengers for the journey and help ensure they are well-informed and comfortable throughout the flight.

Conclusion

A real estate syndication, or fund, by definition, is a group investment. And it’s only through pooling resources and coordinating multiple roles in the group that the syndication (or fund) can be successful.

In addition to the key roles discussed here, there are inspectors, appraisers, cost segregation specialists, CPAs, a legal team, insurance agents, and more, who work in the background to make sure that the syndication gets off the ground. 

While all respective roles are different, each one is important and they are all needed to ensure the success of the syndication.