As far back as the 1970′s Sears envisioned a kiosk in their stores where a customer could buy stock and even real estate. It was a bold look at the future from one of the world’s largest retailers. All they had to do was to get the consumer to come to their stores to do business. This was quite a challenge thrown down to both Wall Street and Main Street USA. Most of us probably never heard or remember this strategy, and it never got off the ground. People just did not equate Sears with stock or real estate; they were a department store.In fairness to Sears, the technologies and conveniences did not exist to enable the plan. Sears may have also thought themselves too big to fail. That theme does seem to be a constant.Hmm, it appears that history does indeed repeat itself, and perhaps at shorter and shorter intervals. It may be ironic that by speeding up processes and the rate at which things can change, the lessons of history are lost at a quicker rate. Did that make sense? If it did, you may be thinking a bit like me – you’ve been cautioned.In the 1980′s the successful real estate agent became more independent and needed fewer and fewer services from the brokerage firm. As they claimed a higher and higher portion of the brokerage fee, margins for the real estate brokerage began to shrink. Some phenomenally high interest rates had a similar impact on the mortgage banking industry. Unless buyers had no choice, they did not take on these inflated mortgages. The mortgage industry literally shrunk along with their profit margins. We all know that real estate cycles; it goes up and it goes down. The curve is rarely smooth, and is punctuated by sharp turns in one direction or another. Most features of the real estate industry react quickly to the conditions in the market that affect it. Now we have the background for the next attempt to create a commodities market from the real estate process.In 1974, the Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act (RESPA), as amended, was passed. It opened the door for consolidations within the industry. To foster competition, companies were regulated to prevent abuses in the industry and to keep prices to the consumer lower. It was almost ironic that the very act that was passed to prevent abuses, in a way opened the door. I don’t know that it has empirically been demonstrated that RESPA actually lowered costs or prevented abuses. With HUD as a watchdog, there was little real enforcement, and although fines were levied, industry practices ultimately were left to the states to manage. It took decades to sort it out, and Wall Street only a few months to make it yesterday’s issue.The point for mentioning RESPA was that it allowed what was called “controlled business entities,” a term later changed to “affiliated business entities.” The home builder and the real estate brokerage could now have a captive mortgage and title business. The theory was that this would somehow create efficiencies and economies lowering the cost and improve service to the consumer. It didn’t. With all of this vertical integration, each one of the independently managed businesses was caught in the same financial wringer.What was not taken into consideration was the pro-cyclical nature of the model. When one business was down so were the others. The upside was champagne and roses, but the downside left little room for beer and carnations. There were other oversights as well. Not understanding the risk models for businesses outside of their core competencies was seldom given the focus it deserved. Few also embraced managing the business with the same zeal they had for their core model.The result was that many of these affiliated arrangements have failed, and the industry model for how transactions are managed remains much the same as it has since the post WWII era. Certainly technology has improved systems, but not nearly to the extent that it could. The competitive natures of the individual sectors of the real estate business keep the technologies proprietary and therefore parochial. A 21st Century model for the industry will come from somewhere outside of the core real estate industry. Next came a far a more organized and systematic attempt to create a commodity market in the real estate arena.The boldest strategy to commoditize the residential real estate market came from a company called National Realty Trust (NRT). NRT has gone through a number of name changes. In the mid to late 1990s NRT was known as Cendant (CD). The CEO of Cendant, Henry Silverman was a Wall Street visionary who understood commodities. He was big in the rental car business (Avis) and in hospitality with a string of motel franchises. Mr. Silverman viewed the real estate as a commodity that could be franchised and methodically went about acquiring national real estate marks such as Coldwell Banker (Residential), Century 21, ERA and Sotheby’s. Subsequently they also acquired established regional real estate companies. They were and remain the largest single group of real estate companies in the industry.Cendant experienced an accounting scandal in the last decade and lost its impetus. It never quite recovered from the scandal, and the company divided its assets into four groups. The real estate companies were sold to the Apollo Management Group. Apollo has been beset by the soft real estate market and a suit filed by Carl Icahn over a debt exchange plan. With the continuing financial and legal problems, they stumble along with business as usual. They are not in a position to lead the real estate industry into the 21st Century. This strategy involved getting in upstream in the transaction by “owning” the gatekeeper function. It required enormous amounts of capital, and technology was evolving to provide a far more efficient less capital intensive platform to emerge. The Internet makes anyone with the vision and the concept to be a potential player.Allow me to introduce Soft Sell Solutions LLC, a creative concept for the 21st Century model for real estate. Forged with decades of experience and inside industry knowledge, the concept is supportable by existing technology, demonstrated consumer practice and buy in. The vision and passion to deliver a seamlessly integrated system stands ready to tie the disparate process together.The third article in this series Who Controls the Real Estate Process sets the stage for a 21st Century approach.
The game of commercial real estate could be won in many ways, and has provided many individuals a way to make some serious money. As a matter of fact, a large percentage of the worlds millionaires earned their wealth via real estate investment. While nothing is a sure thing, real estate offers numerous opportunities for the savvy investor. Whether you want to create wealth or simply sustain it, there are several methods that you are able to implement to get where you wish to be.Where should you start?Let us look at the investment factors involved in commercial real estate.Commercial Real Estate Step 1: Research.The first thing you need to understand before you can invest in real estate is an understanding of the characteristics of a real estate transaction. All of the subtleties can be taken care of by an attorney and accountant, who are well-equipped to protect you from fraud and risk. So, step one is finding a real estate attorney, and accountant who can service your requirements. Do not be concerned too much about the price, as this expense will be computed into your return from the investment. You can discover the right property, and engage a mortgage broker before hiring an attorney.Commercial Real Estate Step 2: Figure out your budget.How much cash are you able to invest or raise, and what return do you have to produce from that investment to make the investment worthwhile? This issue needs to be determined up front. This amount is purely subjective, and will vary from instance to instance. Some investors will apply a work-backwards strategy that looks for properties with the greatest returns. This is an unfortunate technique in that many deals that offer a good return are passed by in favor of the potential ‘home run.’Commercial Real Estate Step 3: Determine your specific technique.Here are the most popular strategies:RehabA rehab is where you purchase a run-down building that requires lots of attention. You will then provide the necessary elbow grease. When finished, the property is returned to the market, and you produce a tidy profit, mostly from your ‘sweat equity’.The key to this technique, of course, is to find real estate that are undervalued. Should you overpay, no matter what you do to the property, you’ll lose on the deal. Also, you ought to stay away from real estate that only need superficial enhancements. You will not make a profit if all it needs is a new layer of paint and the yard mowed. Stay with the properties that need the most TLC and you will come out on top.Buy and Hold:Probably one of the most common method of commercial property investment is the buy and hold strategy. You buy real estate that is valued at a fair price which will stay in your portfolio for years to come. It could be in your neighborhood, across town, or even in a foreign country. While you hold on to the real estate, the value will continuously rise. At least that’s the principle, because hopefully developments and enhancements are going on all around you. After a few years (or decades) you, the master entrepreneur, sell the asset for millions more than you pay for it. It doesn’t get a whole lot of better than this.While there’s a whole lot of money to be produced in this type of venture, it can take a long time to mature. This really is great for someone who has a big chunk of money that they wish to sit on for a few years. There is no set time limit as to how long it will take you to win. You basically need to go with your instinct on this one. This strategy can produce an excellent return and it’s a pretty passive source. You don’t truly have to do anything except buy the real estate and wait.Quick FlipThe quick flip usually requires a property struggling with foreclosure or bankruptcy. In this circumstance, a home owner is under duress, and might take a significant cut in the price in order to get out quickly. You then acquire the distressed property and quickly return it to the marketplace. Since you don’t need to sell quickly, the property will get fair market value and you can make thousands of dollars in profit. As with rehabbing property, the key is finding cheap properties that you know are undervalued. If you know the market, you are able to do very well with this type of transaction.Whichever investment technique you decide on, make certain it’s the correct one for you. Think about all the elements carefully before making your decision. Just remember that you too can be successful in commercial real estate investment.Commercial Real Estate Step 4: Start the search.OK. You’re now ready to begin the property search. Though you should look for the greatest returns, if you find a property that meets your return specifications, you ought to send it to a mortgage broker to shop it around, and get you a few quotes for the cost. Don’t worry about wasting their time, as they understand that only 1 out of every six opportunities will close, so they are content to shop your deal around to investors.Conclusion:As mentioned earlier, the world of commercial real estate can supply a serious income stream to a savvy investor. But as with any investment strategy, it’s not without risk. So that you can maximize gains while minimizing risks, it is suggested that you seek advice from an investment specialist.