CCIMs’ Biggest Deals of 2021
In a bounce-back year for CRE, these deal-makers share keys to closing the largest transactions of last year.
While day-to-day life through 2021 might've felt pretty similar to 2020 — both years dominated by the global pandemic in respect to how/where we work, live, shop, gather, and relax. But in terms of commercial real estate, those corresponding sectors — office, multifamily, retail and industrial, and hospitality — saw rebounding interest and investment. By the number of transactions included in Commercial Investment Real Estate's Deal Makers section, which is notably a small sample size, 2021 looked pretty similar to the previous year in total transactions (172 in 2021 to 176 in 2020) and deal value ($2 billion in 2021 to $1.98 billion in 2020).
As expected, industrial had a banner year, accounting for 28 percent of all deals, while office saw its volume drop from $628.38 million in 2020 to $463.6 million last year. For our 2021 in review, we spoke to some of the CCIM designees behind some of the year's biggest deals to see how they came about, how CRE can respond to changing COVID-19-related conditions, and what you should know to close blockbuster deals.
CIRE: What recommendations do you have for CCIMs looking to identify, develop, and close big deals in their markets?
Kevin Goeller, CCIM; Ryan Goeller, CCIM; and Chase Stewart, CCIM: Stay relevant. Focus on the market. Use your skill set to identify, understand, and create the business. It takes as much energy to complete the little deals as it does the larger ones. It's not about the commission; it's about the relationship. You never make the money without the relationship — if the relationship is short and sweet, the commission will be too.
Glenn Thomas, CCIM: First and foremost, you need to build a reputation for being a knowledgeable and trusted professional. We serve as advisers/brokers at Pathway Capital Corp. When we take on an assignment, the goal is to get the right deal for our client -that means understanding the transaction and its nuances better than anyone else involved. … When an issue arises (and they always do), be prepared and solution oriented to get over the hurdle as quickly and as painlessly as possible. … It's essential to be resourceful, hardworking, and tough — but diplomatic. Once you build a good reputation, you won't need to find deals, they will find you.
Justin Lossner, CCIM; Michael Minard, CCIM; and Marcus Pitts, CCIM: A lot of times, you only get one shot at making an impression on either the buyer or seller. They are looking for top-of-the-market talent from their brokerage team to put the deal together at market pricing. Having your CCIM
designation helps qualify you for these types of conversations.
Robert Sawyer, CCIM: Always look for ways to utilize your network to expand your reach. Ask for introductions, volunteer introductions, and never hold back during an opportunity to talk about ideas for big transactions. Ask for the business with confidence.
CIRE: What is the greatest challenge in closing big transactions?
Thomas: It's all about keeping the lines of communication open and keeping the deal moving through the process. This means managing borrower's and banker's expectations alike. It involves managing the process and avoiding any and all miscommunication. The bottom line is, we make sure people are doing their job, doing it right, and doing it in a timely manner.
Sawyer: A big transaction requires you to ignore your own frustrations and absorb the issues over a long period of time. You must be prepared to spend months on high alert and remain steady.
Goeller, Goeller, and Stewart: The challenge with the big transactions is the same as the little ones: focus, commitment, and tenacity. Don't let the deal wear you out. You have all the connections. And if you don't, then connect with partners that do. Get on a team that truly collaborates and works as one.
Lossner, Minard, and Pitts: Most groups capable of large transactions have experienced teams and processes in place for underwriting and due diligence. The most important step is ensuring that you have accurate information to start with. The one thing most sellers dread are re-trades. If you have accurate information up-front, it will limit this possibility.
CIRE: What current market forces are creating big deal opportunities?
Lossner, Minard, and Pitts: The amount of capital focusing on Des Moines is a major factor in better returns. We are starting to be viewed more as a secondary market instead of tertiary.
Sawyer: Fears over potential inflation, tax implications with capital gains and 1031 exchanges, and a strong forecast for tenant absorption during economic recovery.
Goeller, Goeller, and Stewart: The current market forces that are creating the opportunities today are certain changes that have occurred in the past 18 months due to COVID-19, which exacerbated the underlying changes already taking place. The various disciplines are undergoing bigger changes than anticipated. Office is now more about “smart, secure, and safe,” as well as the rightsizing of tenants in the buildings. Retail is undergoing a strategic reevaluation of shop space sizing. Industrial is feeling an entire wholesale competition for space. Land is all being repriced on a quarterly basis. Finally, IT spaces (data centers) are now a recognized discipline across all investment vehicles and is outpacing all other disciplines due to several factors, including rapid worldwide expansion of data, cloud computing, hyperscalers, microcenters, 5G, multitenant data centers, and the Internet of Things. And honestly, entire articles can be written on each of these disciplines.
Thomas: There is so much opportunity in the market right now — interest rates remain relatively low, housing demand is high, the job market is robust, and we seem to be finally coming out of the pandemic. The government passed the infrastructure bill and strongly supports numerous job and housing programs. Furthermore, municipalities across the country are finally started waking up to the fact that the existing housing stock in cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago as well as a few cities on the west coast are aging and inefficient. Opportunities abound!
CIRE: What's the key to being involved in big deals?
Goeller, Goeller, and Stewart: The proper “care and feeding” of your clients. It's essential to remain relevant, focused, ethical, and honest. Relevant means living the market every day; focused is direct unstoppable focus on your specific discipline; and ethical behavior and honesty win business with your clients because they can trust you. To some extent, the big deals are luck. Just know if you are the best you can be, the big deals as well as the small deals are all equally important.
Sawyer: Building trust with respected colleagues and leaders in your market is key. And you need to rely on the right people to vouch for you.
Thomas: There's no key to being involved in big deals. Some companies work only on large transactions, some on smaller ones. At Pathway Capital Corp and American Standard Capital, we do both. Generally, deal size is coincidental. Regardless of the size of the deal, each member of the team needs to put in the time and effort necessary to get the job done right. If you are involved in a large and complex transaction, you need to carry your weight.
Lossner, Minard, and Pitts: It's imperative to know the underwriting of the deal from both the numbers and market standpoint. You also have to add value to the transaction process — this is where market knowledge comes into play.
CIRE: What does the future hold for closing big deals?
Lossner, Minard, and Pitts: It's difficult to say, but interest rate volatility could be something to watch for and its impact on commercial real estate.
Thomas: The future in extremely bright. There has been an incredible amount of wealth created since the financial crisis. The real estate investment market is on fire, and an abundance of capital is available to support the market activity. The average size of a deal seems to have tripled in the last 10 years.
Goeller, Goeller, and Stewart: The future is the present. Who knows what the future brings? The big deals of yesterday are the small deals of tomorrow. The world is changing — and the real estate business is and always will be a people business. Those who say that computers will take our jobs just don't understand relevancy, focus, and relationships. If you really think we will be obsolete, you should probably look for another career now.
Sawyer: The people who source the big deals will need to have extensive knowledge and vision when it comes to construction and repositioning assets. Construction costs and labor are going to be a persistent problem for the foreseeable future, and teams who can deliver on complicated projects will reap the rewards in the future.
CIRE: How has your CCIM training prepared you for closing big deals?
Ryan Goeller: In a nutshell, the CCIM designation gave me the education critically needed to complete the business side of the real estate transaction. I believe it delivers this so well — it developed my self-confidence to take the important steps necessary in developing the strong and long-lasting relationships that propelled me into the completed transaction cycles that do not stop at the settlement sheet. Those agents that complete the transaction at the signing of the settlement sheet and the cashing of the check have missed the big deals. What happens after the settlement is the future big deal.
Thomas: The CCIM course work thoroughly covers the fundamentals of commercial real estate. When you work on a large, complex transaction, these core competencies are the backstop for getting the deal done. The rest is just hard work.
Sawyer: CCIM Institute taught me to treat everything like an IRR calculation. Anyone who is a principal in a big deal is going to want to know you are pressing the negotiation at every opportunity and that the financial underwriting has been stress tested to show that the IRR is holding up.
Lossner, Minard, and Pitts: Understanding how to underwrite the deal from both the buyer's and seller's perspectives is essential to bridge any gaps that come up during the process to closing.
Submit your qualifying deals to CCIM Deal Makers at www.ccim.com/deal-makers.