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Adding The Right Specialty Consultant To Your Project Team



Two business people discussing plans.

Joe Sugiyama is the Vice President of Pre-Construction at CA Ventures.

Before breaking ground on any new project, one of the first steps is to assemble a team of skilled players to see you through the project lifecycle. You’ll begin by onboarding your starting lineup — an architect as well as civil and structural engineers. This group represents your core team who will ensure your building has proper utility connections, determine if the project is structurally sound and marry your vision for the project with the community in which you are building.

But what about your bench talent? These are consultants who won’t have a role throughout the entire project, but who can be called up at the right time to see you through a thorny issue or provide expertise above and beyond your main team. I like to consider three key players on all developments: accessibility consultants, dry utility consultants and building envelope consultants.

I recommend hiring at least one if not all of these key resources as part of your project team to ensure you have the right players on the field at every stage of your project.

Accessibility Consultant

Concerned your architect could use some expert input to manage all relevant accessibility codes? Put an accessibility consultant in your lineup.

What they do: No matter what or where you’re building, accessibility codes and requirements can be extraordinarily difficult to decipher with numerous locations around your site needing attention. Whether you are looking at cross slopes on a sidewalk or clear floor space requirements for a shower, even an experienced developer can struggle to be sure that they have addressed all applicable accessibility standards at every location. A skilled accessibility consultant can guide you and your architect in the right direction during both design and construction.

How they make a difference: Accessibility consultants will analyze every drawing sheet to ensure that both local and federal codes are being followed and will also visit the project site during construction to take measurements and look for construction issues that can cause a building to be out of compliance. If not addressed properly, the cost of making these corrections after the fact can quickly add up. An accessibility consultant should be well-versed in both local and federal accessibility codes, be familiar with the design development process and have the ability to travel to the site to ensure that the design is being enforced.

Dry Utility Consultant

Need someone with the hustle and focus to relentlessly manage your utility needs? Time for the dry utility consultant.

What they do: A dry utility consultant can help a developer navigate the nuances of your local power company’s program. They generally know the market and the key utility players and can assist a developer with complicated relocation projects, determining fees associated with permanent power and telecom services, and can assist in right-sizing electrical equipment on your site.

How they make a difference: If not properly evaluated, any unresolved utility items can have severe repercussions. A qualified dry utility consultant will ensure the project has a proper utility strategy at all phases of development. They will schedule regular meetings with local utility companies, manage on-site visits to parse out any potential conflicts and help formulate budgets for a project’s utility scope by leveraging their local contacts and historical knowledge of the area of the development.

Building Envelope Consultant

Need a save against potential moisture intrusion? The building envelope consultant will have the expertise to protect your project.

What they do: A leaky building can cause a multitude of challenges with a developer’s tenants and can have a costly impact on a building’s systems. Often, water intrusion stems from either a flawed design or shoddy construction, but this can be avoided by hiring the right envelope consultant (Note: the “envelope” here refers to the building’s exterior system, meant to keep moisture out of the building). A building envelope consultant can serve as a second set of eyes on your design to reveal if there is any systemic issue that will cause issues in the future.

How they make a difference: A building envelope consultant’s first role is to review the architect’s design details at critical locations, such as window flashing, roof design or drainage designs, and challenge the architect on design decisions and offer strategies to make details more constructible and watertight. Your envelope consultant should also be engaged to review your project’s shop drawings and product submittals, as these documents can slightly tweak the specific details drawn by the architect with manufacturers’ installation methods. Regular site visits to review mock-ups and inspect construction quality allow the consultant to catch installation issues before they are multiplied across the project.

When assembling your project team, a small investment into three key consultants can have an immense impact on your development’s health, code compliance and schedule.

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Real Estate

Three Keys Of Commercial Communications



Businesswoman talking on phone in office

Kyle Crown is the President of Crown Commercial PM. He holds a B.S. in business from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

In commercial property management, no two portfolios are alike, so there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy you can apply to every client you serve. Each owner has their own unique investment style and set of expectations for your work on their property. Therefore, your only hope for success is that elusive thing experts say is essential to every relationship: communication. I think of our main communications with property owners as falling into three categories. Covering all three has served us well, and it can do the same for you.

Communicate about the owner’s desired level of involvement.

By definition, a property manager should be perfectly capable of taking all operational responsibility for a property off the owner’s hands, and many owners want exactly that — to receive only the most essential updates and think about their property as seldomly as possible. We typically aim to send nothing more to our clients than a monthly owner statement packet and an owner distribution payment that matches it. But that’s not what every client wants.

Some owners want to remain highly involved in the management of their property, and it’s up to you to give them that opportunity. Make it clear that you’re ready to accommodate them whether they want nothing to do with the day-to-day or they want to choose the color of every floor tile. More likely, they fall somewhere on the broad spectrum in between, so go out of your way to ask them what they want their involvement to look like.

Communicate about the owner’s goals for the property.

This might seem like a silly thing to ask your clients about, because they’ll all share the goal of making their commercial investment more profitable. But they might have ideas about the future of their property that you won’t know unless you frequently check in with them and ask. Even if nothing has changed since the last time you spoke with them, they’ll appreciate you inquiring about their level of satisfaction with the work you’ve done.

Certain owners have highly specific goals and intentions for the spaces they own, and even in some cases have emotional attachments to them. For instance, one of our clients is an architect who designed a building specifically to house a restaurant. When the original tenant went out of business, he was willing to accept a lower rental rate in order to make sure the new tenant was also a restaurant. Without knowing his full story, we would have disappointed him by leasing it as a high-end retail space at a higher rental rate.

Communicate all financial information about the property.

Don’t just find out what exactly it is your client expects from you — show them exactly what they’re getting from you. I’ve found that taking the time to walk a new client through their first month’s packet of statements can do wonders for your professional relationship with them — and for their understanding of your service going forward. Transparency is essential to trust between an owner and a manager, so make sure that your clients have access to user-friendly statements that show and explain every transaction made in relation to their property. Some clients want a one- or two-page statement every month, and some want a 400-page statement. That’s not an exaggeration. Good property management software systems can easily accommodate both and anything in between.

Communication is what allows a property manager to do perhaps the most important thing they can for their clients: put themselves in their clients’ shoes. If I can’t do that, then how can I manage somebody’s property as if it were my own? A mutual understanding is crucial, and only communication can bring that about. So when you interact with the property owners who’ve hired you to look after their assets, don’t assume, or merely imply or try to infer. Communicate instead.

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Real Estate

Kimco Realty Adds Weingarten Realty To Its Shopping Cart



Empty shopping cart in the supermarket shopping mall

Today Kimco Realty
, one of the largest shopping center REITs in the US, announced it was merging with Weingarten Realty
for $5.9 billion in a mix of stock (90%) and cash (10%).  Each WRI share will be converted into 1.408 newly issued KIM stock plus $2.89 in cash per share and upon closing the combined entities will have an enterprise value of just under $20 billion.

Kimco and Weingarten are highly complementary as they own high-quality grocery anchored shopping centers, and the combined portfolio will consist of 559 properties in top MSAs.

One obvious benefit for Kimco is the fact that Weingarten’s portfolio is focused on coastal and Sunbelt markets that have performed relatively well during the pandemic. This merger creates significant synergies (around $30 million to $34 million) as the costs can now be spread across a $20 billion portfolio.

In addition Kimco expects to benefit from debt synergies, thanks in large part to the fact that Kimco is using most of its currency (90%) in stock and the balance in stock (10%).

I spoke with Kimco’s CEO, Conor Flynn and he explained that this merger will generate “lower leverage and enhance the long-term NOI profile” for the combined companies.

Kimco is currently rated BBB+ with S&P and Baa2 with Moody’s
and Flynn told me that the “next leg up is the A-rating” that the CEO is hoping to see in 2022 or 2023.

The cap rate on the Weingarten transaction should be immediately accretive and I view the 5.8%-ish cap rate to be extremely attractive and Flynn told me that “you can’t get that (cap rate) in the private market right now”.

According to Nareit data there are 18 shopping center REITs with a combined market capitalization of $52.5 billion. In 2020 the shopping center sector generated the second worst total return (-27.6%) behind regional malls (that returned -37.2%).

Although shares in shopping center REITs have rallied year-to-date (+26.1%) Kimco opted to purse Weingarten so it could use its cost of capital to transact the deal (purchase price was 90% in stock).

Another catalyst worth noting is Kimco’s  ability to drive NAV (net asset value) through a collection of mixed-use projects and redevelopment. The combined company has a potential of 41 projects that consist of 34 mixed-use and 7 master planned projects that include 1.7 million square feet in retail and 9,000 multi-family units.

Conor Flynn will remain the CEO of the combined company and Milton Cooper will remain as Executive Chairman. Weingarten will have one Kimco board seat. There is a break up fee of around 2.5% but I don’t anticipate another bid given the fact that it will take a large player like Kimco to execute on such a large transaction.

KIM closed up 2.31% and WRI closed +12.5%.

I own shares in KIM.

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Real Estate

Vacation Home Checklist: Keep Your Place in Perfect Shape



Vacation home checklist items to keep in mind

Everyone loves a good vacation, and the option of having a private retreat is one of the many perks of owning a vacation home. With the soaring demand and interest in vacation towns and affordable suburbs, there’s no better time to jump on the opportunity to own a vacation home than now.

Whether you’re taking in the last snowy days at your retreat in Whistler, BC, or you’re looking to invest in a sunny escape in Fort Worth, TX, it’s critical to close up your vacation home properly at the end of the season to ensure your property is safe when you’re back at your permanent residence. To help you get started, this eight-point vacation home checklist will make it easier to maintain your vacant home while you’re away.

Vacation home checklist: what to keep in mind

A home away from home can be a great investment and a handy retreat for vacations. However, making sure you’re sustaining and securing your property during vacant months will help prevent potential problems while you’re away. These can include:

  • Frozen pipes and leaks
  • Downed wires
  • Fallen trees
  • Pests and animals
  • Mold
  • Theft and vandalism

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent these potential issues from becoming a vacation homeowner’s nightmare.

Secure your vacation home

1. Install a home security system

Leaving your home unoccupied for a season could leave it more vulnerable to burglaries or vandalism. A home security system is your first line of defense when you’re away, whether it’s your vacation home or full-time residence, and will allow you to monitor your home remotely. Some security systems can also include flood monitoring or smoke detection, giving you additional peace of mind. Depending on the system you choose, some may even come with an automation function that will allow you to schedule lights or turn a TV on and off, giving the appearance of an occupied home.

Have sufficient lighting in your vacation home checklist

2. Make sure you have sufficient lighting

To deter opportunists from approaching your vacation home at night, illuminate walkways, entryways, windows, and any dark corners with outdoor motion-sensor lights to startle would-be intruders. Indoor lighting is also critical in ensuring your home looks occupied from the outside as well. Simple outlet timers can help turn lamps on and off at intervals to make your vacant home look occupied. Keep in mind that when using outlet timers indoors that you ensure it’s visible from the outside, even through curtains or shades.

3. Consider smart locks

An essential step in your vacation home checklist is ensuring all windows, especially those on ground level, and doors have secure locks. Alternatively, you may also consider installing smart keyless locks that will allow you to grant remote access to neighbors or housekeepers. These locks provide additional control, security, and convenience, and may give you better peace of mind knowing you won’t need to keep track of any keys.

4. Adjust any blinds or shades and secure the windows

The key to deterring any surprises while you’re away is to make your vacation home look as if it’s being regularly visited, so be sure to include leaving any blinds or shades partially open in your vacation home checklist. Doing so gives the impression that your vacation home is occupied, and those passing by will see the lights through the blinds at night without being able to see fully into the house.

5. Ask your neighbors for help

Getting to know your neighbors can offer another line of defense while you’re away. Instead of leaving your key in a well-known hiding spot, give a spare set to a trusted neighbor so that they have access to the home in case of emergencies. Plus, it’ll ensure that you have another set of eyes watching over your home for suspicious activity.

Assemble a team of professionals

6. Consider hiring a landscaping service

Untidy hedges, overgrown grass, weed-infested gardens, or even overgrown shrubbery are dead giveaways of an unoccupied home. While a lakefront home in Seattle, WA might not need frequent upkeep compared to a beach house with a large lawn in Orlando, FL, investing in a routine landscaping service to maintain your property while you’re away will keep up the appearance of it being regularly visited. Plus, trimming trees and shrubs around the house will prevent them from blocking views of the house and removes any hiding spots for burglars.

Secure windows and adjust blinds in your vacation home checklist

7. Invest in a quality housekeeping service to maintain your home’s interior

If you’ll be leaving your vacation home unoccupied for an extended period, adding a regular cleaning service to your vacation home checklist will make returning even more welcoming. In fact, your housekeepers will be able to deep clean the hard-to-reach areas that are usually left out when your home is occupied for the season – like laundering the curtains, cleaning air conditioning vents, and shampooing the carpets. When you return to your vacation home, you won’t have to worry about dust build-up or stale odors from your home being left unoccupied.

8. Find a reputable property management company

The final item on your vacation home checklist is to find a property manager. If you lack a flexible schedule or don’t live locally, a property manager can relieve the everyday stress of maintaining a vacation home from afar. Property managers act as the point of contact to manage your home and can conduct regular walkthroughs to ensure your home is protected. Some companies may offer seasonal services such as preparing your home for winter.

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