Guidelines for Choosing a Safe EB-5 Real Estate Development Project—With Crown Capital

Investing in the EB-5 visa requires a significant financial commitment of $800,000.

Whether you get a return on your funds—or lose your funds—depends on the financial strength of the real estate project you invest in.

However, investing in real estate in the U.S. can be complex, with many different market factors to consider.

How can you find a safe real estate project for your EB-5 investment?

EB5AN’s recent webinar “EB-5 Diligence and Real Estate Investment Fundamentals,” explains how to find a safe real estate development in today’s volatile market. The simple framework outlined in the webinar will help you narrow down your list of potential EB-5 projects and find low-risk options.

The webinar features David and Mike Yancey of Crown Capital, a leading commercial real estate financing firm that has made or arranged over $1 billion in real estate loans. Both have ample experience in the real estate sector.

The following article provides a useful summary of the investment principles discussed in the webinar.

We hope this information helps you to choose a safe EB-5 project and get a timely return on your invested funds—along with an EB-5 Green Card.

Download PowerPoint Presentation

Risks of Investing in an EB-5 Real Estate Project

Understanding the risks associated with different types of real estate projects is crucial.

There are two primary categories of real estate: residential and commercial. Residential properties include single-family homes and condos.

On the other hand, commercial properties encompass retail spaces (shopping centers), office buildings, hotels, industrial spaces, and other similar structures. Each category has its unique risk and reward dynamics.

For EB-5 visa applicants, it’s essential to note that their investment should lead to the creation of new jobs. Consequently, most EB-5 investment opportunities are in the “opportunistic” real estate category, which typically involves ground-up new developments.

Opportunistic projects are considered high-risk because they do not have an established track record of consistent income. These projects rely heavily on projections and budgets that haven’t been realized.

However, if an opportunistic project has recognized some revenues, the risk is somewhat mitigated.

When evaluating investment opportunities, it’s crucial to consider the risk profile of each category. Higher-risk projects demand more thorough due diligence.

The risk can be relative to the expertise of the development team handling the project.

Experienced developers who conduct in-depth research and understand the market can significantly reduce the risk level of even the most challenging projects.

For instance, with new EB-5 projects, the developer needs to navigate land entitlement, zoning, financing, and competition. If a similar project is being developed nearby, it could either pose a risk or offer insights into potential success.

However, the success of a real estate project ultimately depends on supply and demand.

Understanding Supply and Demand in Real Estate Investments

Real estate development often involves a significant lead time, from identifying a potential site to the actual construction and stabilization of the property.

This duration can span several years, during which the supply and demand landscape can undergo considerable changes.

Therefore, investors need to project future supply and demand conditions, which can be challenging because of the changing nature of the market.

A high demand coupled with a low supply often results in higher prices, presenting the most lucrative opportunity for investors.

This concept can be likened to selling umbrellas: on a sunny day, the demand and price for umbrellas are low, but during a downpour, if you’re the only seller, the price can skyrocket.

To make informed decisions, investors should closely monitor indicators like job growth in a particular area. If an area is experiencing significant job growth but lacks new construction, it might be a prime location for a new project.

Another essential consideration is the current construction activity in an EB-5 project’s area. For instance, if a city has many under-development projects, it might indicate a booming market.

However, this can also be a warning sign.

An influx of real estate developments can lead to an oversupply, which might depress prices in the near future. It’s crucial to gauge where the market stands in its cycle and whether it’s nearing a saturation point.

The type of real estate project can also determine the supply and demand risk.

For example, single-family homes offer more flexibility in terms of phasing construction costs. Investors can choose to build in batches, mitigating risks associated with changing supply and demand.

In contrast, constructing a high-rise requires a substantial upfront investment, as the entire structure needs to be built simultaneously. This can tie up significant capital and presents a higher risk, especially if market conditions change unfavorably during construction.

Understanding Cap Rates and Interest Rates in Real Estate Investments

Understanding the concepts of cap rates and interest rates can help you make a safe EB-5 investment. These two elements play a significant role in determining the value and profitability of a real estate investment.

A capitalization rate, commonly referred to as a cap rate, is a measure used to calculate the return on an investment as a percentage of the initial investment.

For instance, if an individual invests $100 and expects an annual return of 5%, they would receive $5 annually. This would be referred to as a 5% cap rate.

The cap rate provides a quick way to compare the potential return of a real estate investment to other investment opportunities.

On the other hand, interest rates represent the cost of borrowing money.

While some developers might have the capital to fund a project entirely with cash, the vast majority will need to borrow. The interest rate is the cost associated with this borrowing. Just like any other expense in a project, like labor or materials, the interest rate impacts the overall profitability. Generally, a lower interest rate is preferable as it means reduced costs, similar to acquiring materials at a cheaper rate.

The relationship between cap rates and interest rates is essential. Typically, as interest rates rise, property values tend to decrease.

Different real estate assets also have varying levels of perceived risk, which affects both cap rates and interest rates. For instance, properties on long-term leases to Fortune 500 companies are seen as low-risk assets. Such assets will generally attract lower interest rates and higher cap rates.

On the other hand, assets like office retail and hospitality might be perceived as higher risk.

Projects that Began Before COVID-19 May Be High-Risk

For EB-5 investors, it’s also essential to be aware of the stage of development of a real estate project.

Projects that began several years ago, before COVID-19, and are nearing completion now face unique challenges.

Factors like the unforeseen impacts of events like COVID-19, rising interest rates, and increased construction costs can pose risks. These projects might have been underwritten under different economic conditions, and the current environment might affect their profitability.

In the real estate market today, many projects that began before the pandemic are now nearing completion. However, with the effects of COVID-19 and higher borrowing costs, these projects may be making significantly lower profits than projected.

EB-5 investors in a project like this are unlikely to get a return on their funds.

Choosing a Safe Real Estate Project

When considering a real estate project for EB-5 investment, it’s essential to understand the project’s financial structure and the likelihood of its success, especially in potential failure scenarios.

This is crucial because, if a project fails, it may not have enough money to repay its EB-5 investors.

One of the primary factors to consider is the reputation and track record of the developer.

Historically, financial institutions have emphasized the importance of the individuals behind a project. The integrity and track record of a developer can often be as significant as the real estate itself. A developer with a consistent history of repaying loans and executing business plans effectively is a more attractive prospect for lenders. This is because the developer’s reputation and past performance provide a level of assurance to the lender about the project’s potential success.

However, if a developer lacks a strong track record, it can impact the financing cost and the number of lenders willing to provide funds. The absence of a robust sponsorship can lead to higher borrowing costs.

While funds are always available, the cost can vary significantly based on the strength of the project’s developer. A weak sponsor can result in higher capital costs, which in turn puts additional pressure on the project’s success margins.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the security of the loan. Typically, loans are secured against the asset where the funds are being used. However, it’s not uncommon for loans to be guaranteed by a larger, separate entity controlled by the project owner.

Such arrangements are favorable from a lender’s perspective as they provide two sources of repayment: one from the project’s real estate and another from the sponsor. This dual security reduces the risk for the lender, often resulting in better loan terms and lower interest rates.

But the likelihood of such a guarantee depends on whether the developer is already successful and well-capitalized.

Recent changes in the real estate market, influenced by factors like the COVID-19 pandemic, have also impacted projects. These unforeseen events, combined with other factors like rising living costs, interest rates, and political situations, can affect the success of a project.

It’s essential to consider these factors and their potential impact on a project, especially if they occurred during the project’s development phase.

For EB-5 investors, it’s beneficial to have the luxury of hindsight. By understanding the events and challenges of the past few years, investors can make more informed decisions. It’s crucial to identify projects that have been least affected by market changes and have the best prospects for future success.

In terms of geographic areas and types of real estate, the single-family housing market appears to be strong due to low inventory and changing living preferences post-COVID.

Conversely, central business district high-rise office buildings and regional malls might be less attractive.

Guidelines for a Low-Risk EB-5 Investment

When considering real estate investments, especially for EB-5 visa purposes, it’s crucial to be discerning and strategic. Here are some key considerations and guidelines to ensure a safe and profitable investment:

  1. Regional Focus: While states like Florida and Texas have seen significant growth and migration, it’s essential to be wary of oversupply. Every real estate piece is unique, and while certain areas might be booming, it’s crucial to evaluate each property individually.
  2. Developer Track Record: The sponsor’s (that is, the developer’s) reputation and track record are critical. Markets may fluctuate, but a reliable sponsor offers a higher level of security. Established banks often prioritize the sponsor’s credibility over the property itself. A developer with a proven track record is unlikely to jeopardize their reputation with a bad deal.Ideally, they should have at least a decade of experience in the field. The more projects they’ve successfully completed that resemble the current one, the better. It’s also beneficial if the developer has weathered economic downturns successfully, as this showcases their resilience and expertise.To gauge a developer’s reputation, investors can look at their borrowing and repayment history. A developer who has consistently borrowed and repaid significant amounts is a safer bet. On the other hand, if they’ve defaulted or struggled with repayments, it’s a red flag.
  3. Market Trends: While it’s tempting to follow popular market trends, it’s essential to be cautious. Just because everyone is talking about a particular market doesn’t mean it’s the best investment.
  4. Cost of Capital and Performance: The developer’s performance and track record directly influence the cost of capital. It’s essential to balance risk and reward. For instance, a developer with an impeccable reputation might offer lower returns, while one with a slightly lesser reputation might offer higher returns.
  5. Market: Real estate, like any other market, has its ups and downs. It’s essential to recognize that no market consistently rises or falls. Sometimes, the best investment opportunities arise after a downturn. However, it’s crucial to balance potential rewards with associated risks.

Safeguard Your Funds and Immigration Outcome

While making an EB-5 investment involves financial risk, you can reduce the risk as much as possible by following this investment framework.

We encourage you to watch our recent investor interviews to find out what other factors to look for in an EB-5 project.

For further information on immigrating to the U.S. through the EB-5 visa—and safeguarding your capital—schedule a free consultation with EB5AN.