Investment

Mordechai Katzman: Saving $$ on your Largest Real Estate Expense

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When considering your largest real estate expense, most people think of utility charges, insurance costs, H.R. fees paying for your employees administration and a slew of others. But would it surprise you if in fact property tax is your largest expense? In 2017 in the US alone over five hundred and thirty billion dollars was paid in property tax and upwards of 300 billion was paid by owners and multi-property portfolios businesses organizations.


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Mordechai Katzman, President & Co-Founder, ReThink Solutions

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VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

Hi Everyone. 

My name is Mordecai Katzman and I'm the President and Co-Founder of a company called Rethink Solutions. Today I'm gonna talk to you about your largest or at least one of your largest real estate expenses that really any typical occupier owner and manager of a multi property portfolio is going to encounter.

When we talk about real estate expenses what comes to mind?

I think typically most people think of utility charges. Insurance costs you know H.R. fees paying for your employees administration and a slew of others. But would it surprise you if I told you that in fact property tax is your largest expense? In 2017 in the US alone over five hundred and thirty billion dollars was paid in property tax and three hundred billion dollars out of that or  upwards of 300 billion was paid by owners and multi property portfolios businesses organizations 

What I still find interesting is when I'm speaking to multi property owners and I ask them what they pay in property taxes, I'll still get answers that are really in the form of ranges oh anywhere from two hundred to five hundred million dollars. at least for me three hundred million dollars is still quite a significant range for one of your largest expenses. I think that's because it's tax and people look at tax a little bit differently. Frankly as soon as I mentioned property tax people's eyes typically glaze over and I think it's because no one has patients for tax or even property tax. 

They see it as a tax that simply needs to be paid and I'm here today to tell you that property tax is really unlike the other taxes. I think it would be fair if you're talking about income taxes or corporate taxes or even sales and use tax that are very fact based. You're providing the individual taxing jurisdictions information about your sales your profits your income and as a result they're taxing you. But for property taxes individual jurisdictions are telling you what the value of your property is and hence based on your value this is the tax you're going to pay. 

Property tax is different, as I mentioned it's really very subjective because you're getting values from the individual jurisdictions and I should point out that there's over 17,000 different taxing jurisdictions in the US, so when you talk about transparency and standardization it's all over the place. All the more reason that this needs to be managed and can be controlled because there is tremendous opportunities for savings. Just to stress on that point for a moment there was a study done by an international organization that measured all the various jurisdictions both in the U.S. and globally that found the average U.S. jurisdiction just got a grade from a C to a D when it came to transparency and standardization. Again tremendous tremendous opportunities here. 

I was recently talking to one of our clients the senior property tax manager for this particular portfolio and he had told me that the CFO now recognizes that they exist and that it's a good thing and a bad thing. I proceeded to ask, OK so where's this going. What's good what's bad. So firstly it's a good thing because he says now that you're such a significant line item on our balance sheet and income statements we need to be paying more attention. So whatever tools resources you need to mitigate and control this expense and cost, we're all for it whatever you need you let us know so that frankly sounds pretty good. 

So what's the bad thing. Well he said, Now the CFO knows that we exist, which means there's tremendous pressure on this department to do something about controlling this vast and wide expense property taxes are also rising and our research has shown that even when values are staying constant, meaning your values aren't going up, the taxes are still going up because those local jurisdictions, their fees aren't going down and they need to pay for their local improvements. 

Another interesting thing about property tax is that it's going to impact your organization in a number of different ways across all sorts of different departments. It would be very typical or traditional to find one or two people within a property tax department sitting somewhere in the office again which department they belong to is usually questionable as well but sitting there doing their thing managing their values managing their taxes and submitting some information to accounting but as you can see the entire property tax management process is very complex and it really touches on all sorts of different departments. 

So yes once you verified your payments you'll send it off to accounting but you've got your finance department doing their forecasts and budgets and isolation in a silo using their own data their own spreadsheets to determine what they think property tax is going to look like. You'll have acquisitions going about acquiring more properties for your portfolio. Sometimes doing their own work up or not even inquiring with property tax as to what the tax impact is going to be. And what I'm happy to see that that more recently this is now becoming a requirement. Certain companies aren't letting their acquisitions team acquire without having sort of a suggestion or a report from property tax. 

And the list goes on. It affects operations it affects your leasing in terms of setting your rents or even recovering tax from those individual portfolios. So again it affects the entire department. And today it's all done in silos. Each with their own.

That sets of data without one talking to one another so that's so we're where we come so far. So we've noticed that the property tax itself is going to be one of your largest expenses. We know that there are significant opportunities for savings there. And we know that up until now it's been fairly mismanaged as we've seen it's all done in silos all over the place. And there's a lot of data involved in the process itself. In fact from a data perspective because again you're getting data from so many individual jurisdictions. It's not uncommon for an individual property to have at least one hundred pieces of individual data on an annual basis. 

Again extrapolate this to a portfolio of two three hundred properties you're easily dealing with 30000 pieces of data every year. So that's a concern. 

So what do we do?

Well we have to rethink the way we manage your property taxes and that's frankly where we come in our solution lets you manage and optimize the entire process and bring everyone together on a common platform and what that's going to achieve and that's going to allow you to empower your users to make smarter better decisions when it comes to every aspect of your operation that that addresses or includes property tax and these aren't just buzzwords anymore. It's very important. Again all these technologies exist today and they fit quite naturally and very well within property tax the ability to collaborate with those other departments the ability to automate some of your workflow. So as soon as you get a new value forecast and Budget has that so they know exactly they can alter and adjust in real time you can integrate with other systems you can apply a eye to help you determine where the values are out of sync maybe certain values certain properties. This is what we should be looking at to appeal to further drive savings.

At the end of the day I think we're all trying to achieve the same goal. The goal is to maximize portfolio value. And what I'm here to tell you today is that rather than you know addressing the revenue side which a lot of systems and usually some of the easy pickings to be able to you know acquire better properties to make sure they're fully rented out to drive and maximize the revenue from individual locations. That's obviously a way to drive value and revenues. But another way to do it is also by looking at your expense side and being able to control the costs especially something as large as the property tax is going to have a significant impact on the bottom line value so quite a bit so far.

So just as a quick recap if there's one message I can leave you with is that don't ignore your property tax. As I said there's tremendous savings opportunities there. If they control all tax again you just need the right tools information and data available so that you can properly address it make well-informed decisions that will impact not just the tax side but all the other departments within your organization. Thank you very much. 


Sean Fitzpatrick: Faster, Smarter, Easier - A New Era in CRE Valuation & Underwriting

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CRE is evolving and technology needs to evolve with it. Coupling years of experience consulting for commercial real estate decision makers with technological know-how, rSquaredCRE launches to tackle advancement in CRE valuation and underwriting.

Filmed in Partnership with Realcomm | IBcon


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Sean Fitzpatrick, CTO, rSquaredCRE

WEBSITE | TWITTER | LINKEDIN

 

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

So CRE is evolving and what we've found is while our industry is rapidly evolving the technology hasn't quite kept up pace. In particular we're expected to close acquisitions now and half the time that we previously did but our software isn't keeping up with the task. 


So valuation software in particular hasn't met our expectations. We're still using desktop software, we're using software that was built over a decade ago. And while that's okay it's not going to get us to the efficiency that we need to be as an industry. So things like multi day training sessions to get you up on your valuation software. We think this is really a symptom not a solution. It should take you an hour, two hours tops to get you up on your your CRE software. 

So we're going to show you a solution here in a moment that hopefully will solve some of those problems. 

Our company our squared CRE is a brand new company but we're based out of an original consulting company. We've had hundreds of years of experience producing software. We have two existing software applications right now, our abstract and our budget that our SAS software applications in use for over a decade. So we're not new to this game where we're very much in a technology leader. We've got wonderful very popular clients, clients like Hines, EOP, Griffin Capital, First Capital to name just a few. 

These clients have reaped the benefit of our experience are hundreds of thousands of hours of modeling commercial real estate software. So we used our experience our frustrations that we found in modeling software to come up with a new solution a solution we think that the industry will greatly benefit with.

Here's our mission statement. So we're of course all about empowering CRE. We feel that our solutions will allow the industry to grow more quickly to have less friction and to get what we all need to get done which is valuations more efficiently processed.  So what do you need? What is absolutely necessary to solve this problem? Your solutions have to be SAS based. There's zero cost of ownership as it relates to owning hardware. So your TCO is going to be lower. You don't have to make those commitments, there's no sequel server upgrades. This is what is required for 2019. We cannot be using desktop software. We can't use software that you have to be at your office to actually be able to use it. You've got a SAS solution. All you need is a browser, ubiquity anywhere you have a browser. You're going to be able to use our application.

So again if you've got to spend time training people, if people have to guess what it means in a particular field you're going to introduce errors, you're going to have problems. So our application is intuitive. We have something we call an input carousel so you don't see hundreds of columns, you have to studiously scroll through the input carousel shows you just the field you need to see and just the areas you need to see them. So you're going to realize a much more efficient more intuitive interface. The UI feels kind of like a rich desktop application but you're in a browser so you get all that benefit of the rich desktop but you're in a browser environment and fast.

So we've got all sorts of hooks in the application. We've got hotkeys, so hotkeys to navigate to different places quickly hotkeys to add things to delete things. In addition to our hotkeys we have things called walkthroughs. So we can walk you through common things so you'll find in the application that we can get the data calculated the data in and the data out in the most efficient fashion.

So one knock on a lot of the incumbent software is that they're just pretty close environments and we built this with an open environment we want you to get your data into and out of our application with no friction. We have what we call round tripping of Excel so you can export your data manipulated in excel and return it. And while that's helpful for a single asset if you have hundreds of assets this can be a huge time saver. Take inflation for two dozen buildings change it in one place upload it simultaneously. 

There's a lot of benefits of being open. And we also open in the ability to consume data from other applications out there. So we've got a very robust VTS integration. We can import deal data from VTS we can import portfolio information from VTS we have links to legacy software. So we wanted to be as inclusive as possible to gain as much traction as possible our application is available for third gate trial for free. We don't want anybody to not have the opportunity to try to use the software. While you're using it, you have the ability to create snapshots. These are little things you can email anybody else or you can share the snapshots via our own email links. So you can send out to as many people as you want and get them up and running on the application.

So obviously everybody wants to use a DCF application that's accurate and it's something you'd expect. We try to bring it home further by giving you the ability to see all of your reports in excel. So these are not just CSV exports of data. This is formulas, these are presentation quality reports and that ability to vet them in excel guarantees the accuracy. 

Finally we need things to be transparent, so you can look at that formula, we have wonderful audit reports. A lot of times things like recoveries become black boxes you don't understand how the numbers came to be. When you see the formulas you can confirm to yourself that the application is doing precisely what you want. 


Collaborative. So we've got this in the cloud SAS application. We can have multiple users simultaneously editing the same property, they can be editing the same property, they can be running reports, they can view doing portfolio analysis, they can be working on multiple properties simultaneously so there's no ability to have to check out a property check in a property all of it can be done simultaneously allowing for a more collaborative environment. And again you can send out those snapshots so it doesn't have to just collaborate within your organization. If we collaborate with organizations around the world. 

Our underwriting work this may be our single biggest differentiating factor. So you get this rich 15 to 20 page workbook that has all of the analytics that are typically very difficult to find within these reports. So we've got excel where everyone kind of does their last mile analysis. They're going to layer on debt they're going to put in partnerships going to tiered participations. All this stuff is typically done by taking canned reports cutting and pasting into Excel. 

You know cutting and pasting into Excel you're going to introduce errors.  You know it's going to take you a long time. So we get rid of all that by having this underwriting workbook. We think this will save hundreds of hours for each client each month.  So this is the kind of stuff that we think has to be in an application to be fast and efficient in 2019.

So what we're talking about is a new era. were going to have a new era where people can openly collaborate fast efficient intuitive. No need for weeklong training sessions multi day training sessions. No need to engage another consultancy to get your users up on the application. Our DCF will be that solution that allow you to cleanly efficiently model from start to finish your last mile analysis and excel and we think we will change the industry with it. 


Thanks for your time.