Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Real Estate Sales Game (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this post, three aspects of real estate sales were addressed--lead generation, asset valuation, asset management. These real estate sales characteristics require a specific approach when applied to real estate sales. In this post, the remaining two aspects of real estate sales will be discussed--marketing and customer relations. These aspects of sales are more uniform across all sales profession, both in and out of the real estate industry.

As a reminder, the term real estate salesperson includes all real estate professionals that spend a significant portion of their time selling real estate assets, including property salespeople, real estate capital markets sales professionals and commercial and residential loan officers. 

Marketing

Sales professionals across industries must concern themselves with marketing. If lead generation is the bloodline of sales, then marketing is the sales lifeline. Few owners of real estate assets are well known enough to sustain consistent sales without advertising their assets or needs on the market. Even further, marketing is not merely advertising, but also the market research necessary for the sales force to conduct a successful sale. This includes market, customer and competitor research. 

Admittedly, marketing takes on a different appearance in the different types of professions that engage in real estate sales. Direct customer advertising and research are very common among property sellers, whereas marketing in the real estate secondary and capital markets may consist of networking, listing on exchanges and purchasing market data from data providers. Despite the idiosyncrasies of the industry-established method, effective marketing is absolutely necessary to the success of any sales professional and any business, as no one will seek to purchase an unknown asset. Real estate salespeople are not exempt from this essential business function.

Customer Relations

Much like marketing, proper management of customer relations is key to success in business. Sales professionals should seek to ensure that the needs of their customers are met, as satisfied customers are great for business. Research has shown that the overwhelming majority of business referrals come from customers who have had a positive experience with a company. The bottom line is that satisfied customers are one of foundations on which a successful business is built and real estate companies are not exempt to this business tenet. The profile of a customer may vary among the different types of real estate professions, but be they consumer, corporate, governmental or institutional customers or clients, their satisfaction is integral to the success of the real estate sales professional.

Bringing It All Together

Although the various sales roles present in the real estate market each have their own characteristics, they all share a concern with the five aforementioned sales concepts. The most successful real estate salespeople have implemented systems to manage these five aspects of sales in an effective manner. Real estate sales professionals that lack in any of these areas would do well to assess where they lack and address any such shortcomings. That is my take on real estate sales, please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Real Estate Sales Game (Part 1)

Interestingly, I have over 10 years of experience as a real estate salesperson and attorney and have yet to write a post on the mechanisms of real estate sales. An understanding of real estate sales can be useful in informing the perspective of a real estate investor. Real estate salespeople have an intimate understanding of market activity, market trends and asset valuation that can prove valuable to all real estate investors.

Real Estate Salespeople

Before continuing, it may be necessary for me to provide a working definition for the term “real estate salesperson.” For the purposes of this post, the term real estate salesperson will include all real estate professionals who spend a significant amount of time disposing of real estate assets in the market. This definition includes property salespeople, such as Realtors, but also includes sellers and agents in the real estate capital markets, as well. Such secondary market participants include whole loan sellers, traders of mortgage-backed securities and loan officers of the various types of residential and commercial real estate loans that exist.

It may be tempting to think that such a broad definition of real estate salesperson includes a number of disparate professions that do not have much in common, however, each of the aforementioned professionals engage in real estate sales. Remarkably, real estate asset disposition has certain immutable aspects that transcend asset class distinctions. These aspects are lead generation, asset valuation, asset management, marketing and customer relations. This post will address the first three aspects, which have very specific concerns in the real estate market. A subsequent post will address the final two, which are more uniform across all sales.

Lead Generation

Leads are the bloodline of all sales, but real estate salespeople differ from other sales professionals in that they almost always seek out their customers and clients from the market. This is especially true of properties sales, where product placement is predetermined. In fact, since a real estate purchase is most frequently not seen as an emergency, real estate salespeople are not only required to find their customers and clients, but are also often tasked with having to impart a sense of urgency into their target audience in a way that is not as necessary in other sales professions. Admittedly, the methods of lead generation vary wildly among the different real estate sales professions. Direct marketing and customer engagement is frequent among property salespeople and residential mortgage professionals, whereas more indirect approaches, such as networking and informal referrals, are prevalent among capital market professionals. Despite these differences, leads are essential to all real estate salespeople and must be actively managed.

Asset Valuation

Asset valuation is an integral part of the role of all real estate sales professionals. Real estate assets are price idiosyncratic, in that their prices are determined at arms-length and not by the market. Except in the case of some government mortgage backed securities, which have fixed bid-ask prices, the price of a real estate asset is determined after some bargaining between the buyer and seller. As such, the seller’s asking price is merely an initial offer and not a firm price. It is the responsibility of the real estate salesperson to ensure that the seller’s initial asking price is attractive enough that buyers will bid, while retaining sufficient value that the seller is able to reap an acceptable profit upon the close of the sale. These competing concerns can only be mitigated through an intimate knowledge of the market and a strong sense of the value of the asset sold. The best real estate sales professionals have an uncanny ability to determine an asset’s value and its demand in the market place. They use this ability to price assets accordingly and sell them efficiently.

Asset Management

Asset Management is a key component of real estate sales, because real estate cashflow is neither automatic nor derived solely from market factors. Income property rents and mortgage payments must be collected in order for investors realize cashflow from their real estate holdings. Furthermore, properties require maintenance and mortgages require regular compliance with various lending laws. Real estate securities are also subject to regular reporting requirements, as well. As such, there is no way for a real estate salesperson to escape asset management. Proper management of real estate assets by the salesperson will lead to seamless dispositions, whereas mismanagement of these types of assets can lead to a canceled or substantially delayed sale. Unlike other types of sales, asset management is as much a consideration to sale as timing and value. The competent real estate salesperson understands this requirement and ensures that assets are properly managed.

Lead generation, asset valuation and asset management are aspects of real estate sales that have unique concerns. Real estate sales professionals must master these aspects of sales in order to successfully bring about consistent dispositions. In our next post will deal with the remaining two aspects of real estate sales--marketing and customer relations.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Change Is A Coming: How Current Economic Conditions Should Affect Real Estate Investment


Many economist and market pundits are predicting a market downturn, beginning some time in 2019 or 2020. All of the indicators of an overheated boom seem to be present--increasing margin debt, decreasing dividends, stock market price inflation and increased levels of corporate debt. Essentially, low interest rates have made credit more accessible. As a result, businesses are using credit to buy back some of their outstanding stock. In response to the relative decrease in availability of stock, stock market prices are rising, increasing household wealth across the nation. Spurred on in part by technological development, the economy seems to be booming at present, but it is important to note that mechanism that is fueling this increase in wealth is debt.

The Dangers of Debt

Although the use of debt in an economy is not an inherent cause for alarm, the financing of an economic boom through debt can lead to some undesirable outcomes. An increase in corporate debt without an accompanying increase in productivity simply means that companies are borrowing to appear more profitable, merely because money is available at low rates. Cheap money, however, has to be paid back at some point and without an increase in productivity to support the increased leverage, companies that borrow cheaply will have repay their obligations at their current rate of production with future dollars, which have less purchasing power.

Compounding this issue further is that the resulting increase in stock prices leads to an increase in the values of the portfolios of consumers throughout the nation. This increase in household wealth leads to an increase in consumer spending and borrowing. In turn, prices increase in response to the uptick in consumption. In the presence of increased productivity, such economic functionality is normally a mechanism of economic growth. Without increased production, leading to an increase in value created by this cycle of price increasing, inflation results.

Increased productivity is important to sustainable economic growth, unfortunately, it has been outpaced in the present economy by corporate and consumer consumption. The dislocation between interest rate activity and production growth is a clear indication that the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve is the true underlying cause of the economic boom. Unfortunately federal monetary policies alone cannot be the support an economic boom, as these policies will have to change once the economy show signs of overheating. Naturally, a change in the underlying support of an economic boom will cause a market crash.

What Does All of This Have to Do with Real Estate Finance?

As discussed, in a previous post, an economic downturn is the time to acquire real estate exposure, however, it is also a time during which credit is scarce. Accordingly, given the prevailing prediction of a market crash, capital acquisition should be the focus of savvy real estate investors. Therefore, now is the time to forgo acquisition in favor of increased occupancy and monetization. Given the low cost of money, now is also the perfect time to finance repairs that will facilitate higher rates and increased capitalization.

Although the argument could be made that once indicators point to a market downturn, it is already too late to begin preparation, it is better to adjust to eminent market conditions to the extent possible than not at all. The upcoming downturn, although unfortunate, can serve as an opportunity for the liquid, well-prepared real estate investor. A change is certainly on the horizon, be prepared and please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Friday, July 27, 2018

How To Approach A Defaulting Second Mortgage


Default happens, hopefully not often, but it is a fact of lending. Upon default, however, a holder of a second mortgage must find an objective, value-driven manner in which to evaluate its options. Unfortunately, in many instances second position lienholders opt for one of two extreme approaches—accepting a nominal amount in exchange for the release of the lien or demanding an unreasonably high sum for satisfaction of the lien. Both approaches are harmful for different reasons. Despite such prevalent behavior, with proper management, a defaulting second mortgage can provide a lienholder with a number of options.


So, You Agreed To Be Second

Financing a second mortgage is making a conscious decision to maintain an interest in a property that is subject to the interests of the first lienholder. The most cogent concern of a second lender is that upon default of the first mortgage, all of the second lienholder's interest can be extinguished. Such subordination is not only a concern at default, but an ongoing concern, as any changes to the property or its rights that the second position lender would like to make may possibly trigger a default in the first mortgage. 

Upon default, the relationship between the first and second lienholders undergoes a slight alteration. To understand this shift, it is probably most beneficial to think of a second position lien as converting into an option or right of first refusal upon default. When either mortgage is in default, the second lien holder has to assess whether it wishes to incur the cost of litigation, in the case of the second lien’s default, or satisfaction, in the case of a default on the first mortgage. In the same manner, the money lent for the second lien can similarly be seen as the cost of the option, which bears interest for the lender. Viewing its lien from this property rights perspective will enable the second lien holder to conduct an objective risk-weighted cost-benefit analysis of the second mortgage.

Which Approach Should Be Taken Upon Default?

When it comes to defaulting second mortgages, objectivity is essential. Accepting a nominal payoff leads to lost profits. Alternatively, overly aggressive demands for a payoff will lead to either foreclosure of the first lien position and extinguishment or a longer period of nonpayment, followed by ownership of the property subject to the first mortgage. An active approach is necessary to avoid entering either situation unwillingly. Second lien holders should assess the value of the property and determine if the remaining equity after satisfaction of the first lien and additional litigation/acquisition costs makes the exercising of the lien holder’s rights worth the cost of doing so. In addition to this course of action, it is important for the second lienholder to understand the secondary market pricing for performing second mortgages, defaulting mortgages and the typical payoff discount for defaulting second mortgage in the property’s local area. The state of title of property is also an important determining factor. Armed, with this information, a second position lienholder can make an informed decision on how it will proceed upon default.

Unfortunately, second lienholders and their authorized agents are not always optimally informed at the time of default, leading to frequent instances of idiosyncratic behavior. That said, I thought it prudent to provide my take on how to approach the default of a second position mortgage. Please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Real Estate Crowdfunding

Real estate crowdfunding has been a hot topic for the past few years and continues to gain notoriety. Praised for its flexibility and low barrier to entry, crowdfunding enables investors to directly invest in real estate properties without having to amass the funds necessary for a mortgage down-payment. For an amount as low as $500, in some instances, investors can contribute to a pool of investor capital that will enable a real estate entity to acquire a property. Open to both accredited investors and the public at large, crowdfunding offers access to the risks and rewards of direct real estate ownership in a passive manner with relatively little out-of-pocket costs.

Why Didn’t This Happen Sooner?

Crowdfunding is not a new idea, real estate investors for decades have pooled money to purchase properties, in an attempt to share risk and/or acquisition costs. These attempts at crowdfunding typically took the form of private “offerings” of shares or interest in a real estate holding entity, such as a limited partnership, LLC or corporation. Such private offerings were frequently limited to the immediate network of the party organizing the offering for one primary reason—securities laws made offering such investment opportunities to the public onerous and costly.

The various federal and state securities laws that regulate investment opportunities in the United States all share one common motivation—to ensure that investors are given enough information to make a informed investment decisions during the offering of an investment opportunity. In an attempt to protect the public from overly complex investment opportunities that it may not fully understand, federal and most securities laws have classified certain classes of investments as too complex to be offered to the public. All other investments must undertake numerous steps to retain the transparency necessary for public investment, including distributing an investment prospectus, filing IRS form 10-K's annually and adhering to certain required accounting procedures, among other requirements. Complying with the various requirements of public offerings can be time consuming and costly, thus federal securities law offers certain exemptions from these requirements for certain non-public offerings. Most states offer similar exemptions in their investment laws, as well.

In the past, offerors of real estate investment opportunities were careful to ensure that their real estate offerings were structured in such a way that they qualified for the federal and state exemptions, as non-compliance with these laws could lead to stiff penalties and even criminal prosecution. In so doing, such offerings were limited to investor that fit the federal and state definition of “sophisticated.” This all changed, however, with the passing of the JOBS Act in 2012. This act expanded the exemptions offered under federal securities laws to include crowdfunding. Coupled with the 2015 SEC regulations on crowdfunding, the JOBS Act has served to facilitate the explosion of crowdfunding in general and real estate crowdfunding in particular.

Crowdfunding for All?

Real estate crowdfunding, with its open access to funding from the public at large, may seem the answer to all real estate funding needs. In fact, many crowdfunded projects are funded with equity or no-interest debt. This form of financing, however, is by no means a panacea for all real estate capital woes. First and foremost, all crowdfunding is limited by SEC regulations, which means that a crowdfunding offering cannot raise more than the current SEC limit of $1,070,000.00 within a 12-month period. Any additional funding needs will have to be obtained through other fundraising or financing efforts. Furthermore, crowdfunding offerors must also comply with various SEC and tax reporting requirements.

Types of Crowdfunding

There are many different types of crowdfunding offerings. In exchange for their investment, investors are able obtain equity in a real estate entity that acquires a property, provide loans or debt financing to an acquiring company or even become a limited partner in a small investment collaboration. Real estate companies have used crowdfunding in a myriad of ways from individual residential property acquisition to purchases of commercial property portfolios. Despite the various uses of the capital raised by crowdfunding, regulations on these offerings have led to similarities in the appearances and investor interfaces of most real estate crowdfunding portals. As such, most crowdfunding investors need only visit a crowdfunding portal to browse real estate investment opportunities available to fund. Companies such as Fundrise, Rich Uncle, RealtyMogul and Lending Home, among others, all offer access to real estate crowdfunding opportunities. The following articles provide more information on the most well-known real estate crowdfunding sites:



Not Crowdfunding, but…

In addition to crowdfunding, full-service real estate investor websites have also begun to gain popularity. These websites provide listings of properties available for real estate investment along with access to a myriad of support services to facilitate the purchase of the listed properties, such as financing, property management, etc. Companies like Roofstock, Own America and HomeUnion offer such investor listing services. Please feel free to check out the article below on real estate investor listing websites:


The key difference between investor listing websites and crowdfunding websites is that listing websites offer properties for purchase, whereas crowdfunding websites offer opportunities to invest in a real estate entity without directly owning a property.
At this point, it may be prudent to mention that passive investment in the real estate market is still possible through more traditional methods, such as real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), government sponsored entity debt (Ginnie, Fannie and Freddie debt) and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Crowdfunding, however, is distinguished from these methods in its ability to provide direct exposure to real estate acquisitions and direct access to the acquiring entities.

Well, that is my take on real estate crowdfunding, please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Real Estate Asset Managers


In the real estate industry, there are many different professions, each with its unique role. I have focused on different real estate professions in the past on this site, so let us take a look at more obscure and lesser known profession--the Real Estate Asset Manager.

Role of a Real Estate Asset Manager

Although the title Asset Manager has multiple meanings in the world of finance, the Real Estate Asset Manager has a specific task—to manage properties resulting from mortgage default or property acquisition on behalf of a real estate investor, whole loan investor or mortgage servicer. Typically, real estate asset managers maintain a network of vendors, such as contractors, real estate brokers, real estate marketing companies and appraisers in order to maintain, market and sell properties under their management. Resultantly, much of the role of the Real Estate Asset Manager consists of vendor management.

Most real estate asset managers work with mortgage servicers through either a client or a subsidiary relationship. For example, Altisource, the nation’s largest real estate asset manager, is an independent but related company to Ocwen Loan Servicing, one of the nation's largest mortgage servicers, whereas SingleSource, another well-known real estate asset manager, is a wholly independent company that is hired by some of the largest loan servicers. Given the size of the whole loan portfolios of the larger mortgage servicers, many find hiring a real estate asset manager more cost effective than building and managing property vendor networks and tracking sales activity.

Local Impact of the Real Estate Asset Manager

Real estate asset managers also frequently serve as a clearinghouse for contract work for local real estate professionals. Many realtors, contractors, landscapers and appraisers use their affiliations with these asset management companies to gain access to a steady stream of contract work flowing from the real estate needs of mortgage servicers. These real estate professionals not only benefit from the attending to the substantial real estate management needs of the larger mortgage servicers, but also the flexibility of the relationship between the professional and the real estate manager involved. Typically a local real estate professional's obligation to the real estate asset manager can be terminated at any time after the accepted task has been completed.

Most often overlooked in most discussions concerning the real estate industry, the Real Estate Asset Manager serves a vital function in both the residential and commercial real estate markets. These managers of real estate facilitate market functionality and link real estate institutions with local markets.

That is my take on real estate asset managers, please feel free to provide your prospective on the matter below. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Property Maintenance Laws and Lending


The fight against property blight is a battle that has been waged for many decades. Some areas of the nation, have struggled with abandoned properties and even abandoned neighborhoods since the shrinking of the nation’s industrial sector beginning in the 1970’s. Other areas became intimately acquainted with blight as a result of the wave of foreclosures that took place at the end of the first decade of the century. However it may have arrived, the real estate finance market is certainly now affected by the palpable concern of property blight and has had to adjust to attempts to mitigate its damaging effects. 

Why Worry About Blight?

To be clear, blight is a real issue that can lead to a number of undesirable effects. Abandoned properties that are poorly maintained cause safety issues. Poorly maintained building systems and structure will eventually fail at some point, causing unsafe buildings. Overgrown landscaping leads to health concerns. These health and safety concerns become a problem for neighboring properties, as neighbors must then focus on how to curb the spread of these issues onto their properties. More generally, well-maintained properties inspire a pride of ownership that carries over to neighboring property owners. The opposite is also true—abandoned and poorly maintained properties drain the neighborhood of pride of ownership and lead to less diligent maintenance throughout the neighborhood.