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The first affordable housing REIT is here, and it’s Black-owned

(BROKERAGE) The first affordable housing REIT is here – and it’s founded by two of the largest Black-owned firms in the country.

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Sunrise over affordable housing REIT neighborhood

At the beginning of the month, California-based Avanath Capital Management and San Francisco’s MacFarlane Partners came together to launch a new real estate investment trust (REIT). The two firms state that this new REIT will be the first of its kind in that it will be the first publicly traded REIT to pursue a strategy focused on affordable and workforce multifamily housing. The trust – dubbed Aspire Real Estate Investors – is targeting $1.6 billion in investments.

This announcement comes at a crucial time. The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has left much of the country’s working class in shambles. Affordable housing is becoming an increasingly coveted but scarce commodity. Not only do Americans need affordable housing, but they need affordable housing that will be invested in, accessible, and respected.

Avanath Capital Management and MacFarlane Partners – both Black-owned – are two of the largest minority-owned estate investment firms in the country. Avanath Capital was founded by Daryl J. Carter in 2007, and reported $1.2 billion in assets under management in 2018. MacFarlane Partners was founded by Victor MacFarlane in 1987.

Hopefully, Aspire will inspire other firms to follow suit, and invest in meaningful, necessary assets that will uplift working Americans, like affordable housing. If the morality aspect doesn’t do it, then maybe the profits Aspire will reap from being the first of its kind will inspire.

The filing stated: “[The affordable housing sectors] historically have been fragmented in ownership and underserved by institutional capital, yet they comprise a majority of the U.S. multifamily market (by units) and offer strong long-term fundamentals to generate the attractive returns for investors.”

Aspire, who filed paperwork with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) already has an initial portfolio of 9 multi-family project investments. Six of these are located in Opportunity Zones – in Illinois, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, California and Michigan that will ultimately cost close to $582.4 million. Down the pipeline, Aspire’s acquisition pipeline totals $1.1 billion.

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Real Estate Brokerage

How do you know it’s time to become a broker?

(BROKERAGE) It sounds dreamy to open your own brokerage and be your own boss, but when is it TRULY time become a broker?

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time to be a broker

Everyone joins the real estate workforce for a different reason. Some to flip houses, others to represent buyers, and so forth. And most are happy with their broker of choice, but for others, the itch to become a broker becomes so great that it cannot be ignored.

But how do you know when it’s time to become a broker? Maybe it’s time for a new broker because you’re unhappy, but it’s also possible that you have the skills and drive to lead your own company.

To find out, we asked three brokers with thriving businesses:

Jennifer Archambeault is the Broker/Owner of Urban Provision, REALTORS®, a growing Texas brokerage.

We asked her how to know when it’s time to create your own brokerage:

It is time to create your own brokerage when the limitations of your current brokerage restricts your personal or professional growth, hinders your ability to serve your clientele at the highest level or you are no longer able to see the value your current broker brings to the table.

Regardless of the reason, it is important to be mindful of your competency and ability to handle the responsibilities involved with running a brokerage and/or managing or mentoring agents.

Is there a tipping point?

There are often many tipping points causing an agent/broker to dream about having their own brokerage, but they often only clue in on one when they are parting ways. A lack of respect or dissatisfaction within your current company, the inability to come to terms on differences with management, not seeing eye to eye on the company’s mission or vision and not being able to serve clients to the desired standard often top the list of tipping points if the agent leaves disgruntled.

However, there are times it is purely a natural transition having nothing to do with any reason mentioned above and solely taking your career and income to the next level.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

Personally, I think it is the latter more than the former. Gaps in the market will change over time but often the desire to be independent doesn’t ebb and flow as easily. If someone’s independent streak is unavoidable they often exude qualities that allow extreme focus to continuously keeping their eyes on a prize.

There are benefits of having your own brokerage, but there are also limitations as well. Some people’s independence can be a hindrance to their business especially when they want to start their own brokerage because they simply do not like or cannot continually follow the rules.

I believe it is better to part ways to build your own brokerage or brand because it satisfies a personal or professional growth need rather than leaving your previous company disgruntled. The latter generally allows for a flawed mindset.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Do not always focus on Plan A because often you’ll end up with the most perfect fit with Plan D.

Being nimble is a must-have quality for anyone in the real estate industry, but owning a brokerage often requires stretching far beyond being nimble and reaching for superhero status. Initially, I believed every agent could be molded into a specific model or a way of doing business but quickly realized that there is a not a one size fits all brokerage regardless of someone with decades of experience said so.

The perception of a brokerage with a large number of agents on the surface implies success. However, the old saying quality over quantity rings very true in a brokerage setting. Stop worrying about what others are doing – be different because that’s how you get noticed. Do what you do well and what works with your clients, for your personality or in your marketplace.

Tyler Forte, Co-Founder & CEO of Felix Homes saw a need to marry technology and real estate.

Here is his take on starting a brokerage:

Prior to starting Felix, I was a venture capital investor and I can tell you that any successful business, whether or not it’s a brokerage, is started because the status quo does not solve the market’s distinct needs.

Speaking specifically to why we started Felix, home sellers are facing a number of challenges that the traditional brokerage model does not address. When I sold my home last year, I saw firsthand how the home selling process is broken. I knew that starting a disruptive real estate brokerage was what I needed to do in order to make the experience of selling a home better.

The challenges homeowners currently face include hiring an agent who does not have their best interest in mind, to the uncertainty of not knowing if their home will be sold and for what price. At Felix, we are looking to provide consumers with the best home-selling experience period.

As far as the challenges we faced when starting a new brokerage, there are many. For one, the real estate industry is slow to adopt new innovative models. This is because current incumbents have built moats around the data and distribution of homes all at the consumer’s expense. In addition, because real estate is governed on a state-by-state basis, educating ourselves on the laws and regulations of each state was a challenge.

Jeff Brown, Owner of BawldGuy Investing has been a broker for decades and is never ever EVER shy about telling it like it is.

How do you know when it’s time to create your own brokerage?

I’ve always contended Dad was right, as you always thought most folks didn’t know when to create their own firm. Over the years I’ve spoken with countless brokerage owners about this very question.

Roughly a third of ‘em actually thought they knew the right time. Me? I did it WAY to soon, though in my defense, I had my dad’s infinite brokerage experience IN the office daily to back my rookie play, stop mistakes BEFORE I made ‘em, and generally mentor the crud outa me.

Most brokers told me they knew when decisions made by their broker bosses just were not what they would’ve done. They usually came a tipping point, where the decision made itself. But again, that was just a third of those with whom I talked. The rest just did what I did, rush in willy nilly. The huge advantage I had was a decades experienced brokerage owner mentoring me daily, in real time, and who, you know, actually gave a damn about me.

So what is that tipping point?

The most often heard tipping point was the feeling of being constrained by their boss’s operating policies. For example, and a gigantic tipping point, was a friend of mine who wanted to run his own office using the Broker-Centric model, not the Agent-Centric model run by the broker for whom he worked.

Is it better to do so because of a gap in the market or because someone’s independent streak is unavoidable?

The latter is merely personality. Sometimes it works to breakaway, and sometimes it’s been catastrophic. Being independent has nothing whatsoever to do with knowing what you’re doing as the person in charge.

The whole ‘gap in the market’ thing has always puzzled me as a reason to open a brokerage. The exception clearly would be that the policies of operation under which you’d run your own office would substantially improve your chances of taking advantage of whatever market gap you perceived. I find that to be uncommon, at least in my experience.

What do you wish you had known before starting a brokerage?

Without even a hint of maybe having a doubt, I wish I’d understood the good news/bad news joke that says: “Well, Jeff, the good news is you’re now the Go-To Guy. The bad news? See the good news.” 🙂

The difference between signing the backs of checks and the front of those checks cannot be overstated. Every single buck stops at your desk, period, end of sentence, over ’n out. Some folks find that to be too daunting.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Customer satisfaction feedback comes best from your own service

(BROKERAGE) How you collect feedback can determine whether your service actually improves or not. #science

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Woman looking at laptop reading customer satisfaction surveys.

Every significant endeavor utilizes measurements and scorekeeping to record activities and progress. The most trivial of human pursuits often involves record keeping and statistical analysis. While the sales and production side of real estate services are measured in-depth, the service and customer satisfaction side of the business enjoys less measurement, scorekeeping, and analysis than one might find associated with the performance of a neighborhood Little League team.

What does this truly say then about the importance many brokers, owners or managers place on service delivery, customer satisfaction, consistency, and service performance?

It’s true that a few organizations do attempt to measure service performance by means of a customer satisfaction survey. Most of these programs are produced and administered internally. The surveys are sent under the company banner and the company tabulates the results.

First, when a customer is asked directly by the professional or the company for performance/satisfaction feedback, that feedback is always more positive than what is obtained by an independent, third-party asking the same questions.

This is known as the halo effect. Consumers are more diplomatic in their response to the person or company that provided the service.

Second, internal service/satisfaction assessment programs typically develop standards and objectives to validate the belief that good service is already being delivered. Thus this positively biased feedback data suits the objectives of the internal program just fine.

It’s just that measurement of those areas of service performance that sellers and buyers feel are important is not taking place.

For those more serious about customer service satisfaction and service performance assessment, there is recognition that the halo effect lessens the value of the data for internal use, and that keeping score of one’s own results has less credibility externally.

Instead, they seek the objectivity and credibility that third party validation of service assessment can provide.

Ironically, even without expert resources and objectivity the attention that measurement brings to the organization will effect positive results and performance improvement. This phenomenon is known as the Hawthorne effect.

The effect was first noticed in the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric. Production increased not as a consequence of actual changes in working conditions introduced by the plant’s management, but because management demonstrated interest in such improvements.

Unfortunately, this phase of initial improvement is not sustainable. Sustaining improvement requires more than measurement and leadership interest. Action steps that result in the actual improvement of the situation must follow collection of data.

Measuring service results and satisfaction in the real estate organization is an important first step. It will certainly gain the attention of the organization and send a serious signal.

Sustaining organizational interest and performance improvement requires more.

It requires systematic and timely feedback, objectivity, systems and service delivery processes, coaching and recognition/awards. But it really all does start by keeping score.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Housing trends continue to surprise everyone during pandemic

(BROKERAGE) Despite whispers, then shouts, to the contrary, the 2020 pandemic did not drive droves of people seeking housing out to the suburbs.

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Apartments and other urban housing doing surprisingly well during the pandemic.

Some things are counterintuitive. People think something’s going to happen a specific way, then they start making predictions, in-person and all over social media. The next thing you know, people start accepting it as truth.

One problem with this rumor mill, though, is that unproven narratives often turn out to be false, as is the case with the COVID-19 housing market narrative suggesting that the suburban housing market is booming, because people are desperate to escape the more densely populated, virus-laden areas.

Zillow’s recent housing report shows the 2020 housing trends through June of this year. The data shows that housing sales are proportionally similar to recent years in both urban and suburban areas. Both areas are strong seller’s markets at the moment, in fact.

The Zillow report also highlighted some comparative analysis between the two markets, noting among other things,

“…suburban markets and urban markets have seen similar changes in activity in recent months: About the same share of homes selling above their list price, similar changes in the typical time homes spend on the market before an offer is accepted, and recent improvements in newly pending sales have been about the same across each region type.”

Austin Realtor, Jordan Wade, with Luisa Mauro Real Estate, confirmed that this report rings true in the central Texas market.

“Our urban sales for 2020 are proportionately similar to years past. When the initial lockdowns went into effect earlier this year, I thought it would negatively impact the overall market with reduced sales, but that’s just not the case. We have clients regularly contacting us looking to purchase in central Austin as well as the suburbs. Both urban and suburban markets are going strong.”

The Zillow report delves deeper into the housing market specifics. While overall, the market demands in urban and suburban areas stayed consistent with last year’s percentages, some smaller trends in 2020 appear to be a continuation of 2019 buying trends. Among those continuing trends, for-sale homes in suburban areas receive about three times as much traffic as downtown listings, yet interest in single-family homes has stayed about the same as last year, too.

Markets in the major metro areas, such as New York and San Francisco, are the exceptions. Each of these historically desirable market areas have seen drops in home values (4.2% and 4.9%, respectively), with houses staying on the market up to two months longer than previously, and more new listings for sale in urban areas.

However, this is not true of other major cities: Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. It’s worth keeping an eye on these trends in upcoming months.

As Wade concludes, “We’re keeping our eye to the future as we learn about long-term effects of the pandemic, with more people working from home. That may eventually mean people will be looking for more square footage than a downtown condo can provide. However, we’re not seeing that yet.”

If we’re counting the lessons that 2020 is teaching us, perhaps we can include that things can change quickly, and things are not always what they seem. It makes sense to slow down, study the data, and reassess our assumptions. Things still may change, of course. They always do, after all, though not always how we predict they will.

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