A Broker’s Paradise: Uncertainty In Politics And Economy Makes NYC Brokers Indispensable
It’s anyone’s guess where multifamily is heading in New York City. Some experts think the market has hit its peak and a downturn has already begun. Others say the market is still swinging up.
Meanwhile, the state legislature is poised to introduce sweeping reforms to rent regulations in June that could turn the market on its head.
Amid this chaos and uncertainty, brokers are seeing their day planners fill up. As they look to the future of their business, owners and developers are turning to brokers for their expert opinions on how to make the most of the assets on their balance sheets.
“There are innumerable ways for a skilled broker to add value in an uncertain market,” said Shaun Riney, senior director of investments at Marcus & Millichap. Riney has been a New York City broker for over a decade.
“When the market is going up, up, up, most owners get by on their own," he said. "But in these periods of uncertainty, owners really need to seek out the best advice they can find to make sure their holdings are diversified, which may involve repositioning their assets for future growth."
The looming possibility of a recession is one force driving owners to seek out brokers’ expertise. Owners realize that when a downturn comes, they will need to run lean. Those concerned about the arrival of the next recession are already looking to minimize their risk and get out in front of upcoming debt maturities.
During the last downturn, Riney said he was able to save many clients' buildings by helping lower property taxes on their assets. He added that today’s market for brokers resembles the market in 2009 and 2010, saying that even in non-transactional ways, brokers can add value now that will pay off in the coming years.
More than economic uncertainty, Riney said owners are concerned about the slate of rent regulations that could be passed into law come June. The bills that legislators have proposed could fundamentally alter the NYC multifamily landscape. One bill rolls back vacancy bonuses, which allow landlords to raise rents more quickly when a tenant leaves. Another advocates for statewide “universal rent control.”
“We’ve been meeting with clients to outline the 17 proposed bills, what they entail, and what they mean to each particular owner,” Riney said. “We’re also looking at clients’ records to make sure they’re in full compliance with the requirements of the Department of Housing and Community Renewal, which has become increasingly hostile to landlords. Some of these laws will make it much easier for tenants to withhold rent and make claims for damages, and the burden of proof is on the landlords in those cases."
The number of meetings that clients were requesting with Riney rose significantly in December, after Democrats gained control of the state legislature. As the regulatory environment makes maintaining and operating a building increasingly burdensome, many of Riney's clients are facing the psychological challenge of giving up their assets.
In light of the proposed regulations, some owners are choosing to transition out of the multifamily market entirely. Riney said many are initiating like-kind exchanges for triple-net properties that do not carry nearly the administrative and financial burdens of their residential assets.
“The new rent rules may not impact bigger, newer owners as much, but think about the plumber that also owns two or three buildings: He may not be able to survive in this new market,” Riney said. “Those kind of owners are staring down the possibility of multiple drawn-out legal battles and flattening net operating incomes. They're thinking they would rather own something less management-intensive that produces a much higher in-place cash flow.”
When it comes to these like-kind or 1031 exchanges, Riney said having an experienced attorney and broker is crucial, because transitioning to the wrong properties could mean a serious loss of value. He compared these exchanges to a heart transplant.
“When you’re having heart surgery, you want the best surgeon out there,” Riney said. “We’re the nation’s largest provider of triple-net properties, so we can help clients transition to portfolios of assets that make the most sense for them.”
While brokers’ time is more in demand, providing substantive and accurate advice remains as difficult as ever, Riney said. When uncertainty is high, so are owner demands. But he added that confronting a demanding market is the best way to get ahead in the world of brokerage.
“Since I came up during the last recession, I’ve had to learn how to anticipate people’s problems,” Riney said. “Having that experience made me the broker that I am today.”
This feature was produced by Bisnow Branded Content in collaboration with Marcus & Millichap. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.