Waterfall Structure is a financial structure showing how the return on real estate investment will be distributed among the investors.
Waterfall structure is a method used to distribute profits among different partners or investors in a real estate deal. Under this structure, profits are divided into different "tiers" or levels, with each tier having a different priority level for receiving a share of the profits. Typically, the investor with the highest priority level receives a larger share of the profits than investors with lower priority levels.
For example, in a typical waterfall structure, the first tier of investors may receive a preferred return on their investment before any profits are distributed to investors in subsequent tiers. The second tier of investors may receive a certain percentage of profits after the first tier has received their preferred return. The third tier of investors may receive a share of profits after the second tier, and so on.
In real estate syndication, the waterfall structure of distribution is very popular. In this, the distribution of profits is prioritized and divided into multiple tiers or "buckets." Each tier represents a different level of return for investors based on the performance of the investment.
The first tier, also known as the "preferred return," is typically the lowest tier and is reserved for investors who are entitled to a fixed rate of return. This tier must be fully satisfied before any other tiers can be paid.
The second tier is known as the "catch-up" tier, which allows the general partner (GP) to receive a share of profits once the preferred return has been met. The catch-up tier allows the GP to receive a greater percentage of the profits until the GP's share of the profits is equal to the agreed-upon percentage.
The final tier is the "GP promotion," which is a percentage of profits that the GP receives once all other tiers have been satisfied. This tier is used to incentivize the GP to achieve higher returns for investors and is typically a higher percentage of the profits than the GP's ownership stake.
The most common types of waterfall structures used in real estate investment are:
Basic waterfall structure: In this type of structure, the preferred return is paid to the investors first, and once that is achieved, the profits are split between the investors and the sponsor according to a predetermined percentage split.
European waterfall structure: In this structure, the preferred return is accumulated until the end of the investment period, and then the profits are split between the investors and the sponsor according to a predetermined percentage split.
American waterfall structure: In this structure, the preferred return is paid to the investors first, and then the profits are split between the investors and the sponsor according to a predetermined percentage split. However, the sponsor has the option to "catch up" to a predetermined percentage of the total profits, even if the investors have already received their preferred return.
Double-tiered waterfall structure: This structure includes two separate tiers of preferred returns. The first tier is paid to the investors until a certain rate of return is achieved, after which the second tier of preferred return is paid to the investors until a higher rate of return is achieved. Once both tiers of preferred return are met, the profits are split between the investors and the sponsor according to a predetermined percentage split.
Lookback waterfall structure: This structure takes into account the cumulative performance of the investment over time. The preferred return is calculated based on the net profits earned by the partnership, which are then distributed to the investors according to their percentage ownership in the partnership. The investor with the lowest cumulative return receives the first priority for any profits above the preferred return, followed by the investor with the next lowest cumulative return, and so on until all investors have received the preferred return.
Investors need to be extremely thorough with their research before they decide to opt for a waterfall structure of distribution. For this, they can follow the given ways:
Waterfall structures are an essential component of real estate investment deals. They establish a clear and transparent framework for how profits will be distributed among investors, sponsors, and other stakeholders. The structure ensures that investors receive an appropriate return on their investment while sponsors and other stakeholders are incentivized to achieve project goals and maximize returns.
While the traditional waterfall structure has its benefits, there are other variations that investors can explore, depending on their unique investment goals and risk preferences. Overall, a well-designed waterfall structure can help ensure a successful real estate investment and provide clarity and predictability for all parties involved.