Many women who do real estate start off with single family homes because they have this belief that you need to start small and easy. Some of our Goddesses have been fortunate enough to learn early that multifamily syndication can actually be a viable path to start building that generational wealth that we all dream of for ourselves and our families. That was the path that Sonya Rocvil took in her real estate journey – passively at first, then working up to active syndicating. Starting out in audit and finance, she started her own real estate investing firm, Bedrock Real Estate Investors, in 2013. Sonya focuses on the acquisition, management and operation of multifamily apartment buildings in strategic markets all over the United States. Listen to her story here on the podcast with host, Monick Halm.
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Creating Generational Wealth Through Multifamily Syndication Sonya Rocvil
On this show, we interview badass real estate investors, women that are crushing it in the real estate investing space. Our guest is no exception. Sonya Rocvil is the Principal and Founder of Bedrock Real Estate Investors, a privately-owned real estate company, specializing in acquisitions and asset management of multifamily apartments in the United States. She has syndicated multifamily properties, totaling 374 units and $18 million of assets. She has asset value and passively invested in properties totaling over 400 units and $28.7 million in assets. She began her career as an auditor and later transitioned to finance at a Fortune 500 company. She’s a certified public accountant and licensed real estate agent in the state of New York. Now, she’s a badass real estate investor. I’m excited to have her. Welcome, Sonya.
Thank you, Monick. I appreciate you having me on your show.
How did you get started in real estate investing?
I did not have a traditional path at all to real estate investing. I started my career in audit. I knew that accounting was the foundation for business. I wanted to learn. I thought that would be a good place for me to start my knowledge base, but I always had this passion for real estate. Maybe it’s growing up in New York, always being surrounded by buildings. Real estate is tangible. It’s transformational and it’s everywhere. When I was laid off from my corporate job, I knew that this was an opportunity for me to take a step back and pursue real estate investing. I started doing all things real estate. I joined my local REIA. I became part of an organization called Project REAP. That helped me with my transition. I found a multifamily investment group that was doing something that I wanted to do. They were investing outside of New York which was fascinating to me. Multifamily made sense to me because of the economies of scale. I started investing passively at first in multifamily deals. I later went on to syndicating.
It’s a path I wish I had. I wish I had known about syndication and multifamily a lot earlier because a lot of people will get started in a single-family house or they think they need to start small. How did you find out about syndication?
I didn’t know. I wish I also knew about syndication earlier too. It was going to and joining different groups and learning because I was trying to find my strategy. One of the first things that my mentor told me when I joined, “You need to know what your strategy is and you have to figure that out.” At first, I was thinking, “Maybe single-family. I’ll find a house in New York that has a larger price tag to find that single-family house.” It didn’t seem to make as much economic sense for me with such a large price tag out here in New York. I was like, “Could I do single-family outside of New York?”
It started getting complex. I started looking at other strategies. Part of our platform is having people come in and talk to the membership about different types of real estate strategy. One of the people that came in was talking about multifamily. I grew up in an apartment building. I knew what that was like to live in an apartment building to be a part of a community, to be in that environment. I started listening more. I attended events and I ended up joining a group that was doing multifamily investing. The way they did it was through syndication. I’d like to be able to purchase a property by myself one day, but not yet.
A way to do that is if you find a deal that makes sense. There’s a lot that you take on as being a steward of somebody’s money. You have to find the right deals and make sure people understand what they’re investing in. It made sense to me that that could be a path that I would be able to choose. I also did that by joint venturing. That was another piece that helped to make my transition a little bit faster. Finding someone who was also interested in having the same values in real estate investing was important too. Putting those pieces together, finding the right partnerships, getting the knowledge and learning was all part of that transition. That was part of it.
You started in passive investments. Tell us about the first time you actively invested.Paperwork due diligence is just as important as physical due diligence. Don’t neglect it. Click To Tweet
The first time was in 2014. We purchased a 48-unit building in our target market in Atlanta. It ended up being a good deal, but it was challenging at first because that was the first deal where I was raising money. Raising money is always a little bit challenging because you’re going in and you’re asking people for money for something, but I got some good advice on this. What I had to do is think about it as, if you feel good about your deal, what you’re doing is offering people an opportunity. It was also changing the mindset of you’re not just asking for money so that you can what off somewhere. You’re buying a property that you’re looking over to perform, to provide people with returns, to help better their lives, and hopefully, to help to improve the lives of the people that are living in the community as well.
We found this deal. We had good management in place. They understood that market is a niche market. We planned on holding the property for 5 to 7 years. It’s the timeframe that we estimate based on the type of debt that we get, but because of the market conditions, many things worked favorably for us. We ended up exiting in about over two years. It far exceeded the returns that we thought we would get. We did have a stumbling block along the way because as we were about to sign our contract with the seller, there was a fire at the property which affected a number of apartments.
It was devastating because we were concerned about the residents that were there. A resident had left a candle on. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but we had to put a complete halt in our sales plan. We worked with our insurance companies. We made sure that every dollar that we got went back into the property and improved it. We ended up selling it to the same person that wanted to buy it first but for more money because we were able to prove the value proposition. We were able to use some of the funds that we had set aside to do improvements, plus the insurance money to make some additional improvements to the properties and people wanted it. We were able to prove that there was additional value there. We sold it for more than we thought we would. The stars aligned with that deal.
That’s always a nice thing and I’m sure the investors are happy. What are you working on now? We’re in the middle of COVID. How are things going on with you in multifamily?
From an acquisition perspective, we’re finding that it’s competitive now especially in our target market. A lot of people are shifting their asset allocations or what they would have normally used to purchase other types of commercial real estate. They’re shifting it to multifamily. That means there are more people in the market looking for it. There are a lot more people bidding on the deals, even the off-market deals. There’s still a lot of competition for those as well. We’re looking at the new deals judiciously. Because of what’s happening in the environment, some people are having challenges. We have to keep an eye out for things that we may consider to be red flags, or items that we have to figure out how we would derisk for if we were to take on that property. That’s on the acquisition side.
On the operating side, for the two properties that we have, we’ve sold two and we have two in our portfolio. We’re working with our property management company to work with residents. When COVID broke out, we wanted to make sure everybody was safe. That was our main priority. We are working with people to understand their challenges in their payment. We’re working out payment plans. We’re closely monitoring our properties and working closely with our property management to have good communication with our residents, and managing our operating expenses. We’re being careful with that as well.
It has been competitive in the multifamily realm. You would think that what’s happening now would affect prices downward but that has not happened yet. I want to ask you a question that I ask all my guests. It’s my favorite question because I find that we get the most gold from what doesn’t work rather than what does. What was your biggest mistake? What did you learn from it?
There was this deal that we knew we were going to close on and we’re going to move forward with it. We started talking to our investors about it. A few days away from our due diligence period, all the while we had been asking about the P&L items to get some additional information to substantiate the numbers that we had underwrote. It turned out that it was for insurance, and there had been some significant crime on the property that was looked upon unfavorably by the insurance companies. It caused our insurance line item to multiply by 2 or 3 times. It completely blew away our proforma.
At that point, we were in contract, had done due diligence, paid for inspections, flew down there with the property. Money had been spent. When we found this out, we had to take a step back. While we were being told, “It’s possible you’re able to get this lowered. You don’t have a track record of things like this happening on properties that you’ve had. It’s possible that this could come down quite a bit over the years or shortly.” We did not feel that was a risk that we could take with our investor’s money. That was one of the cases where all the costs that we had, we got back our deposit because we’re not in the business of losing our deposit. It was in time to pull back and get that back.
We decided not to move forward. We had to absorb all of those costs personally. I’d say the mistake was and something that we’ve done going forward is making sure that you understand when you can have wildcard items like insurance, which depended on things that are not like water bills or water usage. Something could be happening on the property causing this. We need to know all about those upfront. I’m clear and direct with our brokers and sometimes I share that story with them.
We need to know upfront if there are any major crimes or anything that’s going to significantly impact our insurance bills. We can’t find this out 1 or 2 days before a due diligence period, which is not a good use of time for anybody. That’s one of the things. There was lesson in that that I’m able to share with others. Hopefully, they don’t make that mistake, but that was a big learning. You have to take a step back and make sure that even though you’re doing your physical due diligence, paperwork due diligence is as important.
We ended up having a property that had a lot of crime in it and that was not fun. It was challenging to operate a property. We had shootings and fires on our property, and a gun pulled on our property manager. Every week we’d call our property manager and be like, “What are they going to tell us this week? What would happen now?” You should be happy dodging the bullet at that. It was a good learning though too. Check the crime rates of the area and buildings when you’re looking. Avoid places with lots of crimes.
You can have the insurance broker or the insurance that you are working with check that for you as you’re doing your due diligence, even before they can run it. That’s something I learned from that too.
What are you most proud of?
When I think back at my career switching and moving over to the real estate, the first deal that I shared with you earlier did make me the most proud. That was the first time that I was stepping out on my own, leaving a career that I had built over the years to do something else. I’m grateful for the people that believed and invest with us for that deal. What was even better about that was we did well for them. That makes me feel good because that’s what you want to do. That’s what you strive to do when you’re syndicating. You want it to work out. Not completely for everyone because they know me. Most of them know me as Sonya the accountant, not Sonya the real estate investor. Sometimes it was a little easier to have conversations with people who I recently met along my real estate journey because everybody was a real estate investor. They didn’t know the other hats that I used to wear. That makes me proud that we did well for them.
It’s interesting that you say about people who know you as an investor versus wearing your other hats and how it’s easier to get investors that way. I have found that too. People who knew me as an attorney or wearing other hats didn’t think of me as an investor. It is easier. My next question for you is, to what do you tribute your success?
I think a lot about my family and the support that I had from them, my parents and my husband as well. When we made the decision for me to make this move over, we didn’t have children at the time. We had a bit more flexibility. I appreciate how they believed in me and they supported my journey. Also, resilience. It’s not easy. You have to look at a lot of deals before you find one that may make sense. I’ve benefited a lot from having support and being resilient.
What advice do you have for a woman who’s starting out in this field?You can't pass down your licenses and degrees to your kids. What you can pass down to them is generational wealth. Click To Tweet
Get educated and find groups. If you don’t have the people that are around you that also support you, find other people. Join real estate investment groups. Listen to great podcast like Monick’s. You can learn and reach out to people too because a lot of people are willing to help or provide advice. It’s important to get started. That’s one thing I wish I had also started earlier, but everything and the timing happens always for a reason. Learn as much as you can. Try to join groups and be surrounded by people. Get started and be active in your learning in something that you want to do.
What did you wish you’d known at the beginning that you now know?
Getting started earlier and understanding real estate or the power of real estate earlier would have been something that I wish. Also, the other thing is every deal that I looked at in 2015 was a good deal.
How can people connect with you or find out more about you and what you do?
Now it’s time for the trinity, which is a brag, gratitude and a desire. What’s one thing you’re celebrating now? What’s your brag?
Although I consider myself a planner, sometimes my end of year planning for the next year always lags a bit. I’m not doing that as officially as I could. I’ve started to think about and put together my planning for 2021. I’m excited about that because I always feel like I’m behind. I’m starting to write down more processes and procedures and keeping those, making sure that those are things that I’m more realized. I’m trying to build that up. I’m pretty excited about doing that. It takes a little time to do it, but that’s one thing I’m proud of.
What’s one thing you’re grateful for?
For me, it’s about family. I’m grateful for my parents, my husband, our two young children. It has been challenging being locked down for those several months in the earlier part of 2020, but it’s great when you can come back from the other side and say, “I liked these people. I’m grateful for them.”
What’s one thing you desire?
I think about my career and my journey. You can’t pass down what you learned from college, your degrees or your licenses to your kids. One of the things I desire is to help to create generational wealth for them and for the people that invest with us. Whether that’s staying the course in multifamily or looking for the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the market now. I want to be able to create that path. What I like about multifamily is your ability to directly impact communities and lives. In situations where you’re doing well for your investors and your community, I feel that’s a good trinity.
So shall your desires be or so much better than you can imagine under grace in a perfect place. Thank you. This was great having you on here.
Have a great time. Thank you.
You can connect with Sonya on LinkedIn or at BedrockREInvestors.com. You can connect with me at REIGoddesses.com. There you can join our investor club and find out about passive investing opportunities like we talked about. Also, join our community of goddesses from all over the world who are investing in real estate and supporting one another. Subscribe to the show, share it with friends, give it a lot of love in the reviews. Join us next time for another interview. Bye.
About Sonya Rocvil
Sonya Rocvil is the Principal and Founder of Bedrock Real Estate Investors, a privately-owned real estate company, specializing in the acquisitions and asset management of multifamily apartments in the United States. Sonya has syndicated multifamily properties totaling 374units and $18m of asset value and has passively invested in
properties totaling over 400 units $28.7m of asset value. Sonya began her career as an auditor and later transitioned to finance at a Fortune 500 Company. Sonya is a Certified Public Accountant and Licensed Real
Estate Agent in the State of New York.
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