Browse Tag

commercial real estate

4 mins read

In Conversation with Bakari Adams, Head of Starwood Impact Investors

As the Managing Director and Head of Starwood Impact Investors (SII), Bakari Adams leads a return-driven investment platform dedicated to investing in commercial real estate opportunities controlled by underrepresented partners.

Through this collaboration, Starwood Capital, a global private equity real estate firm, will invest programmatic capital and provide strategic advice through board participation and infrastructure support. 

In this interview, Bakari sheds light on the inspiration behind SII, the challenges it aims to address, and his vision for the future of impact investing in the industry.

What motivated Starwood Capital to launch Starwood Impact Investors (“SII”), and what challenges do you hope to address in the real estate industry? 

Starwood Capital Group (“SCG”) started by partnering with top local operators in strong markets and asset classes, which provided broad exposure to investment opportunities.

However, as the firm grew, its strategies evolved. SII returns to SCG’s roots, supporting skilled partners to pursue attractive investments the firm might otherwise miss, widening the net for greater opportunities. SII aims to achieve this by investing in undercapitalized and underrepresented real estate operators who historically lacked liquidity to optimize outcomes.

Less than 5% of real estate firms are diverse or woman-owned. Diverse managers oversee less than 3% of real estate AUM, and only 0.5% of recent third-party capital funding goes to diverse or woman-owned managers. This highlights a significant market segment with immense potential that is currently overlooked. Through SCG, SII is positioned to drive more equitable outcomes in the real estate industry while capitalizing on excellent investment opportunities. 

What are some key criteria you consider when evaluating impact investments? 

  • SII investments include non-controlling positions in real estate operating companies and GP / LP positions in real estate assets through joint ventures.  
  • Sponsors seeking OpCo investments should have strong institutional experience, demonstrate expertise as investors, present a proven track record, and have institutional-grade, scalable business plans with a strong pipeline. Collaboration is key in our partnerships. For asset-level joint ventures, we seek partners with a proven track record and strong institutional experience. 

How will SII support its partner companies beyond providing capital?

SII goes beyond providing capital to its partner companies, offering infrastructure support and board oversight. Partners gain access to training, research, industry experts, and a network of operators,  capital providers, and real estate professionals to aid in their growth. Furthermore, partners can utilize SCG’s capabilities in acquisitions, asset management, and capital markets.

What is your vision for the future of impact investing in real estate?

Impact investing in real estate is a powerful force for driving strong financial returns and positive change in the built environment. Strategies such as affordable or workforce housing, energy efficiency, sustainability, community development, and investing capital with underrepresented sponsors are gaining popularity. Impact investing’s ability to uncover positive opportunities and deliver great returns makes it increasingly appealing.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs and young professionals from underrepresented groups interested in pursuing careers in real estate? 

Several excellent real estate training programs and organizations are available to assist young professionals in their development. Each offers valuable insights and expertise across different skill levels.

Some notable options include REEC, REEC Mentorship Program, Project Destined, SEO, Toigo, and Wall Street Prep Real Estate.

by Tony O. Lawson

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4 mins read

Revitalizing Urban Landscapes: The Asland Capital Partners Approach

Established in 2019 by James H. Simmons III, Asland Capital Partners is a New York City-based real estate investment firm focused on urban renewal and workforce housing.

Over the past ten years, Asland has committed more than $700 million in equity to projects that involve adaptive reuse, workforce housing, and affordable multifamily residences.

In this interview, James offers his insights on current market trends, investment strategies, and valuable advice for aspiring real estate professionals.

Asland Capital Partners
Asland Capital Partners founder and CEO, Jim Simmons

What inspired the formation of Asland Capital Partners?

Asland was formed after I spent 17 years at Apollo Global and Ares Management, managing a series of institutional real estate private equity funds and separate accounts.

As both firms grew and matured, they were no longer the small firms that resembled start-up alternative investment companies. Asland was formed to replicate the success of those accomplished investment managers. 

It was also created to establish a firm that reflects an entrepreneurial and nimble vision and values, with the aim of benefiting the team that embarked with me on this journey to launch the enterprise five years ago.

It’s our goal to make Asland the preeminent fiduciary of our client’s capital and to provide our residents with a world-class living experience.       

What key market insights and trends are you observing, particularly in the affordable housing sector, and how do you anticipate these trends shaping future investment strategies?

There has been a longstanding supply and demand imbalance within the affordable housing sector.  Nearly every large city and small town alike is struggling to provide adequate housing opportunities for its teachers, police, nurses, and service workers. 

To help solve the problem, municipalities have emphasized implementing programs and policies to retain and create affordable housing alternatives including middle-income/workforce housing through very low-income housing for the most vulnerable. 

Despite the concerted effort of elected officials and housing agencies, the cost of construction materials, labor, and the lack of availability of developable land limit the production of additional housing units.

Furthermore, the long lead time and predevelopment expense of building any real estate development in high-cost domiciles further complicates the situation.

What advice would you give to aspiring professionals looking to make a positive impact in the real estate industry?

Be the best that you can be at whatever you endeavor to do. Opportunity finds those who match talent with dedication, desire, and determination. Real estate is one asset class that touches all of our lives daily including where we live, work, and play. 

It is also a career that can be rewarding in many ways including providing much needed shelter and affordable housing, positively changing neighborhoods for the better, and giving professionals a path to wealth creation for themselves and the communities that they invest in.

by Tony O. Lawson

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10 mins read

Icon Heritage Partners CEO on the Untapped Power of Tax Credit Financing in Real Estate Development

In the world of real estate development, the utilization of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) stands as a pivotal force, reshaping the landscape of affordable housing projects.

In this interview, Fabiola Fleuranvil, CEO of Icon Heritage Partners shares the intricate strategies and transformative power of tax credit financing. Her insights shed light on how these credits have evolved into a fundamental pillar for developers, igniting a fresh era of affordable housing solutions.

What sparked your interest in real estate development?

I’m a left brain – right brain person and have always had both analytical/strategic and creative strengths. I’m a lifelong entrepreneur and have always been one since the 7th grade. I’ve never held a real job out of college and immediately started my marketing agency immediately after graduating with an MBA in 2005 and we’re still in business all these years later. At the same time, my left brain took an immediate fascination with investing and that’s when I purchased my first investment property after graduation and started the parallel paths of running both a marketing firm and real estate business.

At the time and as you can imagine, and since I opted out of the corporate world, I didn’t have the typical qualifications to purchase the investment property (i.e. W2 income, credit, etc). What I did have was the creativity and strategy to put the deal together and I partnered with a friend who loaned the down payment money and another who was the guarantor. They trusted that I knew what I was doing because I would sit at Barnes & Noble for hours reading all of the real estate books for free learning all the strategies and fundamentals from the big guys.

So I purchased the first investment property, made my partner whole within the first 30 days, and because the property had a lot of equity in it, I was able to provide a profit split again in less than 6 months. I was able to do that a few times before the market crashed in 2007. And then I had to sit my butt down somewhere and recover and grow up. That’s when wisdom takes place and you sharpen your toolbox and become more prudent. Don’t run from failure!

What drew you specifically to tax credit financing as a niche within real estate development?

I admitted I knew nothing about affordable housing and the various financing tools to do deals. I’m an accidental affordable housing developer but it was also because I was prepared, willing to adapt and understood financial modeling.

It happened when I purchased the 138-unit building in Detroit. I closed on it the day of the mandated shut down which was a gut punch but turned out to be a blessing. My initial plan for the building was to redevelop it as senior housing since that was its prior use and had been distressed and vacant for years.

I initially planned to develop it as affordable assisted living after an introduction to an individual who created the first affordable assisted living facility in the entire country. This model was attractive because assisted living is never affordable but this model focused on Medicaid waivers to make it affordable.

During my first meeting with a potential lender to discuss financing the property, he mentioned that they mostly do Low Income Housing Tax Credits and not traditional financing. And that’s when the shift happened. I went back and studied this for 3 weeks night and day and became a mini expert at modeling LIHTC deals.

LIHTC is a very complicated financing structure that very few developers ever get to leverage let alone Black and women developers, but it is single-handedly the number one contributor to how affordable housing gets developed. These tax credits get allocated by the federal government to each state who then allocates them under two separate financing buckets – 4% and 9% – that are awarded to affordable housing developments as equity into the deals in exchange for keeping the rents affordable typically not exceeding 60% of the area’s Average Median Income (AMI).

LIHTC can reduce the debt burden by anywhere from 40%-80% of the total development cost which essentially means that these developments can afford to keep rents affordable because the loan is much lower than average. In layman’s terms, a $20 million multifamily development being financed with LIHTC can reasonably have just a $2-4million loan due to the rest of the development costs being financed through equity in the form of the tax credits.

It’s too complicated to explain to the average person but there’s a niche of developers who focus largely on affordable housing because it requires less out of pocket equity to get deals done but there’s a high barrier to entry to doing these deals. And now I’ve become one of those developers since my development was successfully awarded 4% and 9% LIHTC after a very arduous 3 ½ process and I’m working on a couple other LIHTC deals in my pipeline.

In your experience, how crucial is it for real estate developers to grasp macroeconomic fundamentals, and how do these factors influence your decision-making process?

You have to be a student of the economy. The economy is cyclical and we so quickly forget that. It’s also important to understand financial modeling so that you can read and interpret financial analysis and understand what it means for the deal’s fundamentals.

What advice would you give to budding real estate developers interested in exploring tax credit financing as a means of funding their projects?

Tax credit financing is not for the faint of heart. It’s not something that you just get into. It’s a good ole boy’s circle for a reason. There’s a lot of complexities to structuring these deals and quite a bit of experience is needed. If you run into it head in like I did you better have patient capital. It took me 3 application rounds in 3.5 years before I got funded and I still have about 8-12 months before I close and can be shovel ready.

I say that to say that because access to capital is always the biggest barrier for emerging, Black and women developers, LIHTC would make a lot of sense since it requires much less equity at the table than a market rate deal and the debt size is much lower. However, this is not a sector where you can just experiment. These are federal dollars which come with a lot of compliance and restrictions that you need to deeply understand.

If you’re really interested in these types of financial tools, your best bet is to partner with an experienced LIHTC developer, which means that you will have to give up equity in your deal even if it is your deal that you invested your own money into. In fact, many LIHTC deals are done between experienced LIHTC developers. You can also become a student of the game and dig deep into the research and read the tons of available information you can find just by searching for it.

In fact, each state has a Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP), which essentially spells out the application and scoring requirements for LIHTC. Pick one and read it. There are affordable housing conferences that you can attend as well as organizations like Urban Land Institute that you can become a member of.

by Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Daryl Carter on Building a $4 Billion Real Estate Investment Firm

Daryl Carter is the founder and CEO of Avanath Capital Management, a real estate investment firm that specializes in acquiring multi-family apartment communities across the United States.

With almost $4 billion dollars worth of properties acquired in 15 states since its establishment in 2008, Avanath Capital Management is one of the largest Black owned real estate investment firms in the country and the largest Black owned affordable housing investment firm.

daryl carter
7 Dekalb (Brooklyn) 251 units | Acquired January 2023

Notable purchases include a high-rise in New York for $101 million, two properties in California for $132 million, and a recent acquisition in Chicago for $119 million, which is one of the largest deals in the city’s history.

daryl carter
Lincoln Park Plaza (Chicago) – 256 units | Acquired March 2023

In this interview, Daryl shares:

  • His thoughts on the current state of the affordable housing industry and future predictions.
  • His strategy for attracting institutional investors.
  • How affordable housing investors can position themselves for success in this economic climate.
  • Commercial real estate markets he is interested in.
  • Personal characteristics that entrepreneurs need to have.
  • The importance of including Black owned businesses in his ecosystem.

by Tony O. Lawson

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16 mins read

Three Black Developers Drive $400 Million Revenue to Black Business Ecosystem

The real estate development industry has long been dominated by white-owned companies, with only a small fraction of the 112,000 firms in the United States being Black-owned.

However, Black real estate developers are proving to be just as successful as their white counterparts, and they are also more likely to hire Black owned businesses.

This creates more opportunities for these companies to participate in larger projects and provides economic empowerment for these businesses to reinvest in their communities through scholarships and other empowerment activities.

Despite their success, Black developers still face many constraints, including a representation crisis, a revenue gap for medium-sized Black developers, and revenue cliffs for large Black developers. However, removing these constraints could be an opportunity to increase wealth in Black communities and expand the overall economy by creating many new jobs.

In this article, we interview a group of Black real estate developers to discuss their experiences and perspectives on these issues.

Ericka Keller – Managing Member, Brisa Builders Development.

Ericka Keller

How has being a Black developer influenced your approach to community engagement and creating economic opportunities for other Black-owned real estate-related businesses?

Being a Black developer is intrinsically tied to my approach to real estate development. From my perspective having a strategic plan regarding the path to economically empowering other Black and brown businesses is a fundamental component of the development process,  just as much as having a zoning analysis completed, an environmental study completed, and a budget, which we all know are usually the first steps in developing a project.

Every development has to be viewed through the lens of not only real estate but also through the lens of developing minority-owned businesses because that is the only way to truly close the economic disparity and racial inequality.

One of the first questions that I ask for every project is “What Black or Brown-owned business can I engage for  various aspects of this opportunity?” Who is the best fit for this opportunity? I truly believe that it is the responsibility of every Black developer to take this approach to their development projects – to consider every sector of the development process and seek out and research Black businesses for varied opportunities.

Can you talk about projects you’ve worked on where you specifically prioritized hiring Black-owned businesses? What impact did that decision have on the project and the community?

We take this approach seriously for all of our projects, however, I would like to highlight one of our substantial projects,  Ebenezer Plaza which is a three-phased project in Brooklyn,  New York producing 523 units of deeply affordable housing, 22,000 sq. ft of commercial retail and 40,000 sq feet of community facility in the form of House of Worship.

In this project, we went well beyond the required minority participation as stipulated by the city policies. The General Contractor was particularly deliberate in ensuring that the supervisory personnel on the job site represented the community’s diversity, with the Superintendent Project Manager and Assistant Project Manager being Black. Additionally, we enlisted the services of various Black-owned businesses, including National Standard Abstract, a title insurance company. Moreover, we exceeded the city’s mandate on the minimum amount of contracts required for minority and women-owned businesses by doubling the number.

For one phase of the project,  which required $6 million worth of awarded contracts to certified M/WBE firms, we had over $12 million worth of contracts, which still didn’t capture minority and women-owned businesses that were awarded but choose not to certify their status with the city as well the employment opportunities that occurred for black and brown people during the construction period. The reported numbers above also don’t capture the other strategic ways to empower minority and women-owned businesses like our choice to hire an MWBE property manager and minority-owned social service provider.

Kenneth M. Morrison  – Managing Member, Lemor Development Group

black developers
Ken Morrison

What role do Black developers play in addressing the housing affordability crisis, and how can the industry as a whole work to create more equitable access to housing?

In the US, affordable housing does not get done without government assistance. Starting with that premise, legislatively; that means that Black developers need to be a part of the legislative process. We should be heard and part of the process when programs are being created/updated and we should also play a significant role when those programs are put in place. Many times Black developers come from the same type of communities they develop in.

They can relate to the communities they develop in. For the community members to see and work with developers who look like them creates an intangible benefit from these interactions. Black developers have the same capacity to deliver competent work and returns to investors just like all developers. The issues begin when Black developers are challenged with smaller, harder to execute deals that get pushed back so municipalities can focus on larger developments.  This is a major pain point for Black developers.

Municipalities need to fundamentally change how they prioritize funding of developments. When Black developers have the same access to deal flow, they will grow and can execute larger developments that will help alleviate the affordability crisis. If this issue is addressed, Black developers will have the opportunity to compete in the affordable housing space.

Prioritizing Black developers getting deals done not only grows the capacity of these companies but since the majority of these developments are in areas that need affordable housing, you begin to see higher prioritization of local hiring, reduction of blight, locally based business growth, and Black dollars circulating in the community a little longer.

What advice would you give to other Black developers who are struggling to access capital and secure funding for their projects?  

Collaboration and partnerships are the keys to growth in this business.  Not only for the capital and funding but when growing capacity; collaborations with experienced developers are a tool for growing capacity. The capital space is slowly beginning to open up to black developers, but it is nowhere as equitable as it should be.

Leaning into capital funders who are doing business with Black developers is a good place to start.  It is also important to know what funders are looking for. Your company’s administrative structure needs to be in place with a clear delineation of roles, in particular, how are finances handled. Who is preparing your financial statements etc., are questions funders want to know.  Even if you don’t have a CFO or someone on your staff working on your financials, think about using a third-party accounting firm to serve as your company’s CFO.

This is a primary area funders focus on.  If you don’t have this in place, funders will not have confidence in funding your organization or project.  Also, seek funding from organizations that fund the sector you practice in.  You can find lenders, funders, pre-dev financing, and debt specific to your sector.  In particular, around affordable and workforce housing, there are funding sources specific to that sector.  There are increasingly more dollars available for green development and conversions which can be used in your capital stack.

Chris Bramwell, Jr. – Managing Partner, CB EMMANUEL 

black developers
Chris Bramwell

How do you navigate the challenges of securing financing for your projects, and what strategies have you found to be most effective in obtaining funding?

  1. Identify the type of housing you are developing: Understanding the type of housing you are developing can help you figure out what types of financing are available.
  2. Build strong relationships with funders, syndicators, agencies, and community stakeholders: Developing strong relationships with key players in the industry can help you gain access to financing opportunities.
  3. Pair different sources of funding to create a financially feasible project: You need to understand the different types of funding sources such as subsidies, grants, equity, and debts, and how to effectively pair them to make your project financially feasible.
  4. Consider joint ventures: Joint ventures can help you build your knowledge, experience, and balance sheet. It can also allow you to gain access to multiple financing awards.
  5. Seek guidance from experienced professionals: It is essential to seek guidance from experienced professionals who can help you navigate the complex world of financing and provide you with valuable insights.
  6. Focus on developing a solid business plan: Having a well-defined business plan that outlines your project’s goals, strategies, and financial projections can increase your chances of securing financing.

Overall, securing financing can be challenging, but by implementing these strategies, you can increase your chances of obtaining the necessary funding to bring your projects to fruition.

Can you share any specific examples of projects you’ve worked on that have had a positive impact on the surrounding community, particularly in terms of economic empowerment?

Our projects have had a positive impact on the surrounding community by empowering the local economy through our commitment to hiring Local Minority Small Businesses, subs, and employees. We prioritize using individuals and companies from the community and this has resulted in a ripple effect of economic growth.

Our projects create jobs, which in turn leads to local employees patronizing small businesses in the community. Additionally, the small businesses we work with are able to donate services or funds to local churches, non-profits, and other community organizations. Overall, our projects have had a significant impact on the economic empowerment of the communities we serve.

As a minority developer, I’ve had the opportunity to empower the communities we serve through the use of local minority small businesses, subs, and employees. For example, I was able to help a union doorman grow his moving and storage business by hiring his company for a project, which eventually led to him quitting his union job to run his business full-time and even partnering with another local entrepreneur to open a restaurant in the community.

Another example involves a small home improvement business that I hired for a project. They did such a great job that I continued to use their services on several other projects. As a token of appreciation, they helped renovate a local church’s sanctuary, transforming it into a state-of-the-art multi-purpose room used for various community events.

Lastly, a father and son duo approached me to use their title company for my projects. Despite my initial skepticism, I gave them a chance and it turned out to be a great success. They have since given back to the community by sponsoring networking events, giving out scholarships to local students, investing in other small businesses, and supporting local sports clubs for kids.

These examples show how giving opportunities to local minority entrepreneurs can help them grow their businesses, create jobs and opportunities, and ultimately give back to the community.

Overall, our projects are not just about creating buildings or infrastructure, but also about creating a sustainable ecosystem that benefits the entire community. This is a great example of how business can be a force for good, and I hope more developers and entrepreneurs.

Osei Rubie – Founder and President of National Standard Abstract

black developers
Osei Rubie

The success story of my company, National Standard Abstract, illustrates how Black developers can play a critical role in empowering Black businesses within the development ecosystem.

These developers have strategically chosen to hire and partner with businesses like ours, resulting in over $2 billion in closed deals for our title insurance firm, and the ability to hire Black employees and invest in local communities through initiatives like scholarships for youth organizations.

This cycle of economic empowerment can be seen in the support provided by National Standard Abstract to local organizations like The Rosedale Jets, HBCU Lincoln University, and elementary school students in Harlem.

Overall, Black developers can be a powerful force in creating a more equitable and thriving ecosystem for Black businesses and communities.

by Tony O. Lawson

3 mins read

Over $2 Billion Closed by Black-Owned Title Insurance Firm National Standard Abstract

National Standard Abstract, the leading Black-owned firm in the title insurance industry, has reached a major milestone by closing over $2 billion in transactions. The driving force behind this family enterprise, Osei Rubie, and his son, Nadir Rubie, are setting a new standard for excellence.

“With 1 million ways to fail, we came up with 2 billion reasons to succeed as Black entrepreneurs,” says Osei Rubie, President and Founder of National Standard Abstract. “In the last eight years, we have developed a blueprint to close the opportunity gap and build generational wealth within the communities we reflect and serve.”

National Standard Abstract
Osei Rubie, Founder and President of National Standard Abstract

The Rubies’ multi-billion-dollar portfolio includes notable commercial and residential transactions, including affordable, faith-based, and market-rate developments in the New York metropolitan area. They have streamlined the title insurance process for projects of any size, with decades of experience and public-private partnerships.

“This $2 billion milestone is significant because it illustrates the correlation between representation, investment in marginalized communities, and their long-term impact on thousands seeking jobs or homes for their families,” says Nadir Rubie, Partner at National Standard Abstract. “I am proud of what we have accomplished by being true to ourselves since day one. We value every client and partner because relationships matter; that is the core principle of our business.”

National Standard Abstract
Nadir Rubie, Partner at National Standard Abstract

Amoy Chin, Vice President of Closing Operations at National Standard Abstract, shares her insight, “Every problem solved brings us one step closer to our mutual goal of transforming communities. We have supported our diverse clientele for the past eight years at every phase. It has been an incredible experience to watch the progression of their confidence alongside their projects.”

National Standard Abstract‘s first year in business saw transactions ranging from $24 million to $43 million in Brooklyn, and its portfolio has grown exponentially since then. This year, they will close individual commercial transactions exceeding $300 million and provide title insurance for a significant pipeline of multifamily apartment buildings in New York City.

The firm has expanded its footprint into philanthropy through the Osei Rubie Charitable Fund to help end racial inequity and support community-based organizations working on the ground to create real change.

A percentage of every closed transaction goes towards empowering people of African descent through education, entrepreneurship, youth programming, sports, and community development.

by Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

Proptech 101: Understanding the Growth and Impact of Real Estate Technology

Proptech (property technology) is the use of technology to improve the efficiency and profitability of real estate transactions and operations.

From online platforms for buying and selling properties, to virtual reality tools for property tours, to data analytics for real estate market analysis, proptech companies are leveraging the latest technology to create new and innovative solutions for the industry.

The proptech industry is experiencing significant growth, as more and more companies enter the market and investors begin to recognize the potential for strong returns. The market size is estimated to reach $86.5 billion by 2032, up from $18.2 billion in 2022. A report stated that there were 2,045 PropTech companies– operating in 66 countries – at the end of the fiscal year in 2021.

This growth is driven by a number of factors, including the increasing adoption of technology in the real estate industry and the growing demand for more efficient and sustainable real estate solutions.

Proptech can be used in a variety of ways to advance the real estate industry, including in the construction and sustainability sectors. In the construction industry, proptech companies are using technology such as Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D printing to improve the design, construction, and maintenance of buildings. This can lead to more efficient construction processes, reduced costs, and better-performing buildings.

In the sustainability sector, proptech companies are using technology such as energy management systems, smart building controls, and sensor networks to improve the energy efficiency and environmental performance of buildings. This can lead to significant cost savings for building owners and tenants, as well as a reduction in the environmental impact of the built environment.

One specific example of proptech in action is the multifamily industry, where technology is being used to improve the leasing process, streamline property management, and enhance the overall living experience for residents.

For example, many multifamily buildings now use digital platforms for leasing and rental payments, making the process more convenient for both tenants and landlords.

Additionally, proptech companies are developing virtual reality tools for property tours, allowing prospective tenants to explore a property from the comfort of their own homes.

Another example is the industrial industry, where proptech companies are using technology to optimize the performance of warehouses and distribution centers. For example, companies are using sensor networks and data analytics to improve inventory management, reduce costs, and increase efficiency.

Lastly, proptech is also being used in the office sector, where technology is being used to improve the experience of working in an office building. For example, companies are using sensor networks and data analytics to optimize the performance of HVAC systems, improve indoor air quality, and enhance the overall comfort of the building.

Overall, this dynamic industry offers a lot of potential for growth and innovation, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in the near future.

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2 mins read

She Created the Largest Commercial Real Estate Conference Focused on Diversity

Adeola Adejobi is the Founder and CEO of Diversity in Commercial Real Estate (DCRE), the nation’s leading conference for professionals of color in commercial real estate.

DCRE hosts the largest conference in the U.S. that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion in commercial real estate. The national DCRE community includes 4,000+ professionals, entrepreneurs and developers.

Annually, DCRE facilitates masterclasses, training, workshops, networking, real estate tours and career opportunities supported by corporate partners committed to closing racial equity gaps in commercial real estate.

This year, DCRE will host its 4th annual conference from July 28-31, 2022.

Attendees will participate in four days of dealmaking, keynotes, masterclasses, panels, recruiting and networking at Columbia University.

diversity in commercial real estate
Diversity in Commercial Real Estate Conference attendees participating in an engaging mainstage industry session.

“This conference is about leveling the playing field, working with the right partners who are dedicated to diversity and connecting them to talent and entrepreneurs”, says Adejobi. “DCRE creates a space on a national level to help bridge the wide diversity gap in commercial real estate. Our conference is known to help attendees find career opportunities, business partners, and secure capital for their deals. We are committed to increasing our results and impact, year after year.”

Key industry leaders participating in this year’s conference include: Tammy K. Jones, CEO and Founder of Basis Investment GroupH. Jerome Russell, President of H. J. Russell & Company and Russell New Urban Development, LLC, Dr. Gina Merritt, Principal at Northern Real Estate Urban Ventures, LLC, Buwa Binitie, Managing Principal at Dantes PartnersWarner Walker, Director of Global Store Development at StarbucksYarojin Robinson, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group (UIG) at Goldman SachsOla Oyinsan Hixon, Executive Director and Assistant Portfolio Manager at PGIM Real Estate.

Register at Sponsors and recruiters may contact to learn more. Follow DCRE on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

7 mins read

How to Buy a Commercial Real Estate Property for Your Retail Business

The location of your retail business has a huge impact on its performance. Factors like availability of access routes, the appearance of the area, visibility, and zoning regulations are vital aspects to consider when buying commercial property for your retail business.

Regardless of whether you are setting up a new retail venture or an additional branch for your existing venture, choosing the right physical setting for it is essential.

Though the process is complex, commercial properties have a more straightforward approach to pricing compared to residential properties.

However, there are also some crucial risks involved. Here are some things you need to know before investing in a commercial property for your retail business.

How to Begin the Journey of Purchasing Your Commercial Real Estate:

1. Consider the Nature of Your Retail Business

The type and nature of your retail business are probably the first things to consider when looking for commercial property. For instance, if you plan to open a coffee shop, gaming studio or bookstore for youngsters, then a building located near a school or university would be ideal. This will help you capture the attention of your target audience and boost your visibility.

2. Determine Your Spending Capacity

Have a good estimate of the amount of money you can invest in your property. Take everything into consideration including the initial down payment, closing costs, and renovation costs. Renovations may be necessary to attract customers to your retail business. A badly designed retail space can also negatively impact the productivity levels of your employees. However, if you have to deal with exponential renovation costs, then it may not make sense to buy the specific property.

3. Financing Your Commercial Real Estate Purchase

This is a no-brainer. No real estate transaction can be carried out without capital. But it doesn’t have to be from your own pocket. Financing your property is not as complicated as many beginners make it out to be. So, start searching and try to secure financing even before you start searching for your retail property.

The financing option you’re able to secure will depend on your personal and business credit scores, the type of property you’re buying and the type of loan that’s best for you. Retail business owners can choose from several financing options including private money lenders, hard money lenders, traditional commercial real estate loans and seller financing to name a few.

4. Perform Due Diligence

Once you have selected a commercial property, start doing your homework. Inspect the property thoroughly and look out for discrepancies. Review any lease agreements, title documentation and surveys related to the property. Also, check if the layout and structure of the building are good for your retail business.

Remember, no matter how much information you gather pre-purchase, it’s never too much! Therefore, it is always advisable to hire professionals for this since you may miss out on important details. Moreover, most lenders prefer valid inspection documents that have been prepared by reliable sources.

5. Find the Right Experts to Partner With

Buying commercial real estate involves lots of complicated rules. Thus, you need to have the right team of experts to help you process the deal smoothly. These professionals can help you secure financing and warn you about potential problems from the beginning.

Here are some professionals you will surely need to collaborate with to purchase commercial real estate properties:

  • Commercial Realtor
  • Accountant
  • Commercial real estate attorney
  • Commercial real estate broker
  • Tax attorney

In fact, it’s better to have your team ready before you start searching for potential properties. This process of hiring professionals may not be cheap, but it could save you from costly mistakes and unnecessary harassment in the long run.

6. Start Searching the Real Estate Market

Once the budget, desired property type and other necessary requirements are confirmed, it is time to search for available commercial properties. Look specifically for properties that will match your commercial requirements. Searching online is a good option, and it’s recommended you seek help from an agent who can shortlist commercial properties based on your requirements.

Alternatively, you could also opt for help from experienced professionals of REIT – Real Estate Investment Trust.

7. Check Terms, Make an Offer, and Close the Deal

Once you find the perfect property and make an offer, make sure the deed contains an inspection contingency clause. An inspection contingency clause will allow you to opt-out if the commercial property doesn’t pass the inspection.

A professional commercial real estate agent will help you write up the purchase offer. However, it’s always best to get it reviewed thoroughly by your attorney before you sign and submit it. Make sure that the offer includes a due diligence period so that all documents can be reviewed properly.

There’s a lot that goes into a commercial real estate transaction, so make sure you take your time and follow all procedures step-by-step. As mentioned earlier, it is crucial to work with a reliable team of experts in advance. These professionals can guide you through the many complex steps involved in this process.

Apart from investing in commercial property for your own retail business, you can also be prepared for other investment strategies if the need ever arises and prepare documents accordingly. These strategies can also give you good returns and profits.

All real estate investments, whether commercial or residential, come with risks. Thus, it’s vital to ensure you cover all the bases when you enter a commercial real estate transaction. The whole idea may be overwhelming to a non-expert. This is where expert help can be useful.

Lendistry can help you through the process and help make sure you’re not wasting valuable time and hard-earned money.

9 mins read

Black Developer Hires Black Owned Title Insurance Company for Multiple Deals Totaling $310M In Affordable Housing

Brisa Builders and National Standard Abstract are two Black owned real estate firms that are creating stability within underserved communities through housing opportunities and philanthropy.

Ericka Keller, CEO of Brisa Builders Corporation, has committed her organization to circulate dollars within the ecosystem of Black entrepreneurs. An example is engaging National Standard Abstract, one of the largest 100 percent Black-owned companies in the real estate industry, to provide title insurance for all of her real estate transactions.

black owned firms
Ericka, CEO of Brisa Builders Corporation and Managing Member at Brisa Builders Development

Since 2018, Brisa Builders has developed several faith-based real estate projects totaling over $310 million, including the $154 million Ebenezer Plaza Phase 1A and $75 million Ebenezer Plaza Phase 1B with the Church of God of East Flatbush, $45 million Bishop Philius and Helene Nicolas (BPHN) Senior Residences, and the $36 million Harry T. Nance Apts.

Brisa Builders Corp. is a family-owned construction management, development, and general contracting firm based in Brooklyn. Founded by the late Lilly and Thomas Keller in 1997, the company has a long history of working with faith-based organizations to construct affordable senior housing. 

Ericka Keller was a principal for the New York City Department of Education before taking the helm of the family business in 2012. Four years later, she opened her company called Brisa Builders Development LLC to continue educating and forming partnerships with faith-based institutions throughout New York City to build quality and affordable housing accessible to all residents.

Although there are very few Black real estate developers, studies show that they have the highest percentage of hiring other Black-owned firms throughout the development process. In 2014, The Church of God of East Flatbush engaged Brisa Builders to develop two parcels of land in Brooklyn, NY, known as Ebenezer Plaza. Three years later, Brisa Builders enlisted National Standard Abstract to provide title insurance for the transaction.

Family Affair

Ericka Keller introduced Bishop Dr. R.C. Hugh Nelson from the Church of God of East Flatbush to Osei Rubie of National Standard Abstract in 2017 to cultivate partnerships with faith leaders through educational forums. Ironically, in 2020, Osei Rubie discovered Bishop Dr. R.C. Hugh Nelson was his cousin.

Osei Rubie’s mother, Jamaican-born Yvonne Rubie, identified the new family connection during a Zoom meeting led by Bishop Dr. Nelson’s sister, Joy Nelson. She immediately made the revelation of a development project in Brooklyn that would now reunite long-lost cousins working side-by-side for years and unaware of their shared roots. After a quick confirmation call between mother and son, it became clear why the friendship with Bishop Dr. Nelson and Osei Rubie came with such ease.

Strengthening communities is a family affair for these intergenerational organizations. After realizing the complexities of faith-based development, National Standard Abstract began to supplement the industry insight offered by Brisa Builders. Osei Rubie facilitated public forums on title insurance where he shared crucial knowledge about the history of properties that could benefit faith leaders considering development.

National Standard Abstract is a full-service title insurance agency with expertise in faith-based developments, residential and commercial real estate transactions. Since launching in 2015, the family- and Black-owned firm has closed over $1 billion in transactions within New York and New Jersey. As the bridge to building one community at a time, National Standard Abstract expanded its footprint into philanthropy through the Osei Rubie Charitable Fund to help end racial inequity and support the organizations working on the ground to create real change.

Cooperative Economics

“Cooperative economics is critical in Black communities, where small businesses competing for government contracts are already at a disadvantage because of our race, level of experience, budget, and capacity. Relationships with Black real estate professionals and developers, including Brisa Builders, who hired our agency to provide title insurance, were essential to expanding our business portfolio.

Today, we have set the industry standard with quality services while deepening our commitment to investing in the communities where we do business. As a proponent of Black entrepreneurship and generational wealth, I am excited to carry on this vital work amongst newfound family like Bishop Dr. Nelson,” said Osei Rubie, founder and president of National Standard Abstract.

black owned
Osei Rubie (L), founder and President of National Standard Abstract, and Nadir Rubie (R), Partner at National Standard Abstract

“In less than a decade, National Standard Abstract has grown exponentially because we believe that relationships matter – at home and in the workplace. Before one can lead, you must first learn the fundamental principles of life and business. I am collaborating with my business partner, mentor, and father on development projects that will uplift historically marginalized communities. Together, we have achieved what others thought was impossible because we are family and of African descent,” said Nadir Rubie, a partner at National Standard Abstract.

According to a statement from Ericka Keller, “Every opportunity to partner with industry leaders and faith-based institutions that reflect our community deepens our longstanding commitment to providing stability to Black and Brown families who are vulnerable to economic insecurity and homelessness. I am proud to uphold the legacy of my father Thomas Keller, who believed that it is our collective responsibility to build affordable homes that combat efforts to uproot local residents.” 

Bishop Dr. R.C. Hugh Nelson is the senior pastor of the Church of God of East Flatbush. Currently, he oversees two phases of a three-phase development project called Ebenezer Plaza, totaling $364 million to build nearly 530 affordable housing units, commercial spaces, a sanctuary, and a community facility to provide social services.

“In recent years, houses of worship in New York City have begun to expand their ministry’s focus beyond the borders of the sanctuary to improve the quality of life in the community. Foundational to the existential needs facing the urban landscape is affordable housing.

A little over a decade ago, our congregation decided to take a leap of faith and incorporate affordable housing in our future expansion. A few years after purchasing two city blocks to relocate the church facility, we were introduced to Brisa Builders and later National Standard Abstract to bring the vision into reality. After doing due diligence and checking several references, I am convinced this was the most important step in bringing the vision into reality,” he said.

black owned
Bishop Dr. R.C. Hugh Nelson, senior pastor of the Church of God of East Flatbush

Brisa Builders and National Standard Abstract have created a blueprint that has every potential to spur economic growth, stability, and opportunities in underserved communities.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, where Black-owned businesses were largely excluded from the federal government’s emergency relief programs, we must begin to rely upon ourselves to rebuild Black wealth and communities. Black dollars can only circulate when we hire within to secure the future for the next generation.

Tony O. Lawson

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