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BMAC West: Part 3

Los Angeles

Our BMAC West coverage wraps up with two panels on acquisitions funding and new trends in multifamily product. On the lending side, some panelists say it's only going to get better for borrowers as competition heats up. (Our previous coverage: Part 1 and Part 2.)

Lone Oak Fund's Alexa Mizrahi says the firm specializes in bridge loans of $250k to $18M throughout the state, trust deeds only. (Lying deeds, go elsewhere.) During the '09 to '11 era, there wasn’t too much competition in California in terms of bridge lending, but in the past six to 12 months, she's seen capital from private and mezz lenders flooding the market. In the private lending world, the firm sees a lot of deal flow, and if it passes on those deals, they get shopped around to every other private lender out there. "We run into them at these conferences, and we're talking about the same deal."

Alexa was speaking on a panel about acquisitions funding, which was moderated by GRS Group director Kevin May. Centerline Capital Group director of originations Peter Clasquin notes we're getting closer to negative leverage in some of the safer infill areas. The company just got bought by Hunt, a developer out of El Paso, and owns over 280,000 units combined. Later this year, the company will be rolling out a conduit to buy B pieces.

Compared to '06 to '07, Beech Street Capital SVP Greg Reed says numerous players are ready to come to the table with 30% to 40% equity to play in the multifamily space. While he sees fierce competition on pricing and structuring, he's still not seeing lenders, especially traditional banks, take equity risks. In the next few weeks, Beech Street will be rebranded as Capital One, which boasts a $35B to $40B commercial real estate bank. And here you thought they were just a credit card company with funny commercials.


Liberty SBF CEO Alex Cohen isn't seeing cap rate compression just in California; things are heating up at its Boca Raton office, as well. According to Berkeley Point Capital director Kevin Mignogna, the agencies were playing down the middle of the fairway—last year they were conservative; this year, because volumes were off in Q1, they’ve become more aggressive in chasing deals.

PayLease director of account management Matt Amoia moderated a panel on trends in multifamily product. With a typical 200-unit apartment community taking in 30 to 40 packages per day, Package Concierge prez Barry Hume says package management is one of the major pain points for multifamily managers. (We need our chocolate-covered strawberries immediately.) That said, providing the service can be an important amenity to residents, second only to fitness centers. According to Mike Rovner Construction Orange County VP Sterling Lund, clubhouses and large data capacity are big deals for clients.

RE3 managing director Don MacKenzie, with Alliance Residential COO Brad Cribbins and Harley Ellis Devereaux principal Daniel Gehman, notes that new small-unit (500 SF) buildings in LA have a narrow unit mix and end up with a rabbit-warren feel to the community. On another note, Don says broadband speed is becoming a factor in lease-up, and movie theaters in apartment complexes are being replaced by WiFi lounges.

Brad says there are certain dynamics for which small units work well. But Alliance is looking at increasing some of the sizes of its units because the empty nesters are coming back to the market. Scottsdale is a case in point: 60% of the folks who looked at the inventory loved the product but couldn’t get comfortable with 900 SF.

Daniel foresees a backlash against the "all-tiny, all-the-time" trend. You can do a big bundle of tiny units if you’re close to a major university, a major tech job center, and not too far from Mom and Dad’s house. When you start designing units in the 275k SF range, you’re taking your cues from an Airstream trailer. No one’s furniture will fit, so you need built-ins that do more than one thing at a time. "You get this little Faberge egg of a unit, but you’re spending big bank to deliver that."