Showing posts with label real estate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label real estate. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The End of 2020: Now What?

2020 has been a life-changing year for everyone, literally everyone. From the global pandemic, to the fluctuating economy, not to mention the seismic shift in the perception of "going to work," it is safe to say that the world is different place than it was 12 months ago. Now what?

Every year Bloomberg Business Week puts out its "Bloomberg 50"--a list of 50 individuals that have made their mark during the prior year. Although this year's list contains a number of impressive men and women who were able to quickly mobilize and make moving, positive contributions during this tumultuous year, it is notable that not one member of this list was mentioned for contributions to the real estate market. In fact, there are many executives on the list that are touted for reducing the size and/or the footprint of their companies, which in many instances includes real estate divestment. Furthermore, Blackrock, a private equity that is well know for its real estate investments, has made the list, not for real estate, but for its renegotiation of national debts in South America.

The lack of presence of real estate in this list is yet another illustration of what was obvious to all real estate professionals--2020 was not the year of the major real estate transaction. As people hunkered down during to quarantine, the economy fluctuated and work-from-home became the norm, the real estate market dramatically changed. Mortgage delinquencies rose, office spaces became more available, the cost of materials trended upward and permits for new projects trended downward. Migrations from urban areas also took place en masse in March and April as those with the means and desire to seek less crowded surroundings during the spread of the pandemic did so. Although the amount and duration of this recent migration may be disputed, the effects of this exodus have noticeably shifted the dynamic in many local real estate markets, for better or for worse.

As asked earlier, "Now what?" Anyone that has paid even a little bit of attention to this blog over the years knows that I do not "do" doom and gloom. There is always opportunity in change and if there is one thing that 2020 has done well, it is that it has exposed a number of opportunities. From the rise of Special Purpose Acquisition Companies to the consideration of rezoning in urban areas, opportunities to add value, create wealth and thrive in the real estate market are going to present themselves throughout 2021. Rather than make a brief list of some of these opportunities in this post, I will attempt to explore them more in depth in posts throughout the upcoming year. 


Instead of looking back on notable movements in the real estate market during an unprecedented time, I have decided to look forward to the apparent opportunities of the upcoming year. So, please join me as The Real Estate Think Tank.com celebrates its 10th year in existence in 2021. It has been a wild ride thus far, let's conquer next year together. 

See you in 2021.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Let’s Not Forget the Expenses

When either forecasting, underwriting or simply checking the figures on a deal, it is important to account for expenses. The mere mention of the word expenses immediately brings certain images to the mind of most real estate professionals, such as taxes, labor and materials. Proper accounting for such expenses, however, can make or break a financial model and skew underwriting assumptions. That said, it is important to employ the following practices to ensure that your expense estimates are accurate and reflective of the market.

Watch the Market

The market always is always newsworthy, but for real estate professionals certain metrics will indicate expense tendencies. One such metric or indicator is Housing Starts. Housing Starts are an indicator that closely predicts the residential real estate market. It tracks the number of construction projects that have started construction after filing for a building permit. This data is tracked by the Census bureau, which conducts random surveys of building permit filers. Other such indicators are the prices of timber, copper, steel and raw materials. Movement in the Futures for these materials is even more indicative of how the market believes these materials will fare, as these are the prices that people are willing to pay in order to make sure that they are not hurt by pricing changes.

Speak with Professionals

No one is more up to date on the trends of expense pricing than the very people whose livelihoods depend on them. Below is a short list of some real estate professionals that could be helpful:

Accountants: These number crunchers are great general resources for expense pricing, as they are usually deal with many different types of business and are privy to the costs amounts of many different markets. 

Contractors: Few professionals are as heavily affected by material and labor prices as contractors. As such, they are usually keenly aware of pricing trends. 

Local Governmental Employees: Assessors and other county, state and local staff are usually awesome resources for filing and governmental fees. They are also usually aware of any upcoming changes in these fees. 

Local Vendors/Suppliers: No one knows prices and pricing trends like the professionals selling materials.

Remain Flexible

Flexibility is crucial to proper prediction. Whenever forecasting or modeling, it is important to build in fluctuations into your expense assumptions. I typically account for an ambitious 5% year over year increase, with the understanding that if prices increase by a lesser amount or drop, my projected performance will only improve. Once notified of a significant change in a particular expense, it is important to update your models or calculations accordingly to ensure accuracy.

Accounting for expenses is an ongoing process that takes attention to detail. Accurate expense assumptions, however, can make or break your deal, so the effort is well worth it. That is my take on expense accounting. Please leave your thoughts below. 

Friday, June 12, 2020

Social Justice Real Estate


I try my best on this blog to focus on the issues effecting the real estate market and offer a perspective uninfluenced by political factors. To the extent that social factors effect the real estate market, I am happy to address them, but I work diligently to ensure that this blog does not serve the dual purpose of promoting any particular political ideology. With that said, we are all contextual creatures and I, as an African-American male, cannot ignore the current outcry regarding police brutality against my fellow brothers and sisters.

Although the issue of police brutality against black and brown people is nothing new, it is refreshing to see all of the momentum that we are generating toward a solution. I am prayerful and hopeful that the demonstrations being made, the dialogues taking place and the changes that have begun are indicative of a new direction that our country is taking, toward working on resolving the clearly apparent and lingering racial biases found in our country. Police brutality is certainly an important issue that must be resolved, but is a symptom of an American history of racially stratified policies, both formal and informal, that have lasted for centuries and preserve advantages for those not of color. Given that the “complexity” of race relations in our country has developed over centuries, it is reasonable to expect that the solution to this issue, will not be a quick fix, but it absolutely necessary that every American commit to working toward a resolution of this issues. Until we heal our racial wound and deal with our checkered past, we cannot truly move forward as a nation.

What does this have to do with real estate?

Well, I’m glad that you asked that question. Real estate, in fact, has frequent been used to either preserve a status quo or to begin drastic change. From the mortgage redlining of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s to racially restrictive land covenants, to blockbusting, to redistricting, to urban planning, to affordable housing programs, it is abundantly clear, real estate can influence the path of a society. The issues of the oft mentioned “inner city” are the result of urban planning, which has used zoning laws, covenants, variance hearings and other land use methods to ensure that some areas thrive and others flounder. These planning decisions had lasting effects, as communities were shaped by these decision, many of which have lasted for generations. 


Few issues are more political than land use and few are more hotly contested. Proposed major changes in zoning draw large numbers of reactions on both sides. Elections are won and lost over the location of new developments or the violation of the ubiquitous NIMBY. In fact, in most cities, big and small, there is no group more powerful and wealthy than the real estate lobby, which works to ensure that either status quo is maintained or that their notification of any changes is advanced as possible.


So if real estate can garner so much focus and convey so much influence, then the importance of acquiring as much of it as possible is clear. As Master P recently said, you have own blocks to create influence. In actuality, few things speak louder than the concerns of a collective of the largest landowners. If you are skeptical, look at how many of the largest campaign contributors of most local, mayoral and gubernatorial elections are directly tied to the real estate market. Also look at the amount of tax benefits, such as PILOTs and tax credits are given to large developers or businesses that intend to open headquarters in an area. Governments have in some instances taken land from smaller private landowners through eminent domain to ensure that such developments or headquaters are able to be built.

When it comes to real estate not much has changed from the days of feudalism—land equals influence, so if people of color want to be heard in a lasting way and establish generational change, one way to do so is to own land and/or to influence land policy. Real estate has always been a powerful tool for social change. If we do not mobilize and acquire, then we will continue to be at the mercy of the planning decisions of a group that does not share our interest. Diversity has many benefits, but it is important that we do everything that we can to secure our seat at the table, so our inclusion is a necessity and not a mere act of benevolence. 

Well that’s my take on social justice real estate. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

Hello Readers/Subscribers of the Real Estate Think Tank,

I once read that it's not how many times that you fall off the horse, but how many times you get back on. With that said, I want to announce that I am back on "the horse" and will once again begin to deliver to you once again real estate content from an industry-insider's perspective. 
I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to try my hand at a few occupations and have had success in a couple of careers, but one thing remains consistent--no matter how far I try to stray, real estate is my calling. That said, I am going to begin to deliver content on a regular basis. In doing so, I will try my best to both be more technical, as well as more topical and will look to strike a balance between the two. 

It's great to be back at the Real Estate Think Tank and like a pair of well-worn jeans, it just feels right!

Yours Truly,

Stephon Martin