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


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.



Mordechai Katzman, President & Co-Founder, ReThink Solutions




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. 

Greg Fasullo: Empowering Multi-Site Owners & Operators Through Technology


By elevating the level of transparency within a portfolio of mixed assets, owners and operators can use actionable insights to improve the performance of their portfolio. WATCH to learn more.

Filmed in partnership with Realcomm | IBcon.



Greg Fasullo, CEO, ENTOUCH




Good afternoon everybody, my name is Greg Fusillo, I am the CEO of Entouch.  Entouch is a smart building automation platform currently focusing on the large number of multi side distributed facilities, portfolios are not large centralized buildings and what we view that we do is we enable the promise of smart energy technology in facilities that they are mostly left behind by smart building tech and the infrastructure. 

In particular our clients are either operators or tenants in these facilities. They could be the landlord as well. What we enable to do is connect the building take data and enables sustained reductions on energy maintenance and capital expenditure. I'll focus a little bit on energy to Star because energy is a great opportunity. You hear the speeches here. There are significant opportunities to address energy efficiency in buildings with relatively modest capital investments and process investments and very large returns.  So we all know there is about 6 million commercial buildings in the US, about 90 billion square footage. 

Those buildings use a lot of energy. I actually put this slide together 7 quadrillion BTU’s. I don't even know how many zeros you had to put on an excel spreadsheet to calculate what a quadrillion was I had to look it up. About 1.2 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity which again big number. How big is that?  the equivalency in coal fired power plants 360 coal fired power plants are required to power all the commercial buildings in the US today there are only 359 of those plants in existence. 

So essentially at buildings we're 100 percent efficient. We can eliminate all of the coal usage in the United States, a fairly audacious goal.  On top of that, if you look at EIA government estimates, a large portion of energy and buildings is actually just wasted. Wasted due to inefficiencies, its wasted due to lack of people and processes in those buildings. While we hear a lot about smart building technology, the building to connect the assets in a facility, the climate control the lighting to use database on occupancy to drive changes in behavior in the buildings and optimize energy efficiency, the rally is electricity consumption in buildings is actually going up. 

So why is that. If we've got all these great technologies if they have fantastic ROI’s why are we having issues where energy efficiency is not catching up with buildings. And the dirty secret is, most of these smart building technologies are designed for facilities teams they're designed for organizations that have people on the ground, that have people and process to drive change. They're not designed for the majority of buildings that do not have onsite facilities. 

Those organizations are distributed typically geographically they're centralized from a small corporate facilities team but they simply lack the people, the processes and the priority to focus on energy efficiency at the regional. 

Now we think of buildings we think of large buildings like the one we’re in.  Typical class A building here where there's a hotel or it's an office very large square footage, buildings with significant infrastructure, but the reality is that it's just a small portion of commercial buildings. Most commercial buildings are actually small less than 1% of buildings by building count are greater than 200,000 square feet that only represents 20,000 or 20%  of the available square footage and buildings. What are these smaller buildings?

Well their buildings and services that you know well.  They are retail stores they are restaurants they are health and fitness chains there are financial services the small facilities that are distributed geographically that have very unique pain points very unique operational priorities from a large building that has onsite facilities and can be operated in a different way with a smart building technology platform. Many of these organizations do not have the onsite facility, they've got a remote team. If it's a thousand location enterprise a health and fitness chain you do have people in corporate who are thinking about energy efficiency. They're thinking about investments in technology but locally they rely on essentially maintenance people. 

Occasionally you'll have regional tech or a facility person. But the people are thinking about energy and efficiency are not on at the buildings. In addition there is a trend to rely on outsourced services. You may have an onsite maintenance tech you probably rely on somebody that provides IFM to actually do the work in your facilities. So an organization in charge of keeping the lights on and keeping that facility running. But the line item that they touch on maintenance is a very different line item for a strategic item like energy. So they're fundamentally dis aligned with an incentive to reduce energy consumption. 

Then you rely on the manager so the P&L typically rolls up to the regional manager or the local manager the store manager, that individual to some degree, has visibility to energy inefficiency because in their P&L they have much bigger priorities running the organization dealing with staffing and the top line issues at that location. 

To put that in perspective a Navigant study multi site operators in 2016 essentially talking to folks and these people have building automation systems they've got a range of technologies roughly a quarter felt that they had a smart building technology strategy for their organization. So even though they've adopted a building automation system or a BMS or an energy management system the past their disconnected assets and they really didn't feel they had a connected smart building technology strategy. 

Sixty percent were aware of the pain point they're aware of energy they're aware of sustainability challenges they are looking to do better and operate more efficiently.  They're just now starting to evaluate what they want to purchase. And over half of them, when they're surveyed will tell you, they'd actually like to outsource this in the service. So what they're telling you is they also realize we have other priorities as we're outsourcing non core services energy management optimization of our energy footprint probably something we're not the best at and we're looking at providers that can do that for us as a service. 

That's where Entouch comes in. What do you have to do to solve this problem? Well at heart it's not a technology, it's not a hardware, it's not a systems level problem. It's a holistic software and services problem. The buildings may or may not have a connected system. You need to deploy some way of connecting and access and those are the equipment in those facilities. The buildings when they're connected you've got a commission. So if you connect the system is built you've got to know the various conference rooms you've got to know where occupants are. 

You have to know how that building is supposed to occupy. Think about doing that over a suite of outpatient health care clinics that are all different in size of different assets on the roof have different operating hours in different parts of the country. How do you deploy at very low cost very high quality has to be done with software. Now it connected that building and I've got this firehose of data and all is great information coming in. I can figure email alerts on every time there's a problem. The next thing I know is I my email box is filling up. I turn off the alerts. There's got to be a process that you can take that data coming in. You can analyze it and you can quickly enable support for the ongoing operation of the site.

It has to be integrated. So I've got a services provider I've got an IFM provider. They are the boots on the ground they've got the work order system seeing the mess that I use. Any new solution cannot be a point solution that requires additional work, to extract value it has to be integrated with the existing workflow. That's probably the most important point on this slide. Most legacy systems were independent point solutions. They were not integrated. They were not open and essentially people have deployed these systems and they're a little bit stuck. How do I extract value out of what I've already invested. 

They're very basic users has gotten very easy to use and then ultimately to effect change in these distributed facilities. You don't have a facility team that can optimize HVAC temperatures or do maintenance initiatives to try to improve the efficiency of the rooftop that the systems have to be autonomous to be able to adjust. They've got a watch. They've got a rack based on user behavior and ultimately affect the change to drive real change. 

Entouch does this through a software platform today, we've got about fifty thousand of our systems deployed in the US leading multi site operators.  We start with the ability to deploy and commission. We are a software platform so this third party tech shows up on site, he's got the Entouch app on his mobile device. You can install our platform. He can connect with existing assets and then we can remotely commission that design. Now we've got a high quality installation and we're collecting data. We're streaming it to the cloud. We start doing things with it. So we collect that data we analyze that data. We apply machine learning. We help you optimize the operation of the building autonomously. And now as a facility individual you move from having no intelligence of what's going on and having real time data and the reactive tasks that are associated data. 

We've integrated with your third party services provider and ultimately you can take this organization. You can start pulling the young in you can start feeling figuring out opportunities to optimize and continuously improve. So what we enable in organizations that traditionally were reactive there are maintenance and support they're keeping the lights on of these facilities but they don't fundamentally have the ability to optimize to transform that facility organization into one that can be strategic that could be thinking long term and frankly could be pulling levers to optimize and reduce energy in those facilities. 

So in addition to the operational benefits most of our customers are the facility organization and corporate they love the fact that now they've got an automated enterprise ultimately the business case is driven by energy because that is a large line item this year. Our average customer today saves about 13 percent on their energy bill. Not bad. It's about two hundred million kilowatt hours and over 4000 tons of carbon that we are saving today on an annual basis across our clients. And what they really like because that's equivalent to about 20 million dollars a year of economics. 

So that's Entouch. We enable and frankly we deliver on the promise of smart dollar technology and multi site organizations. Great. Thank you very much for your time. 

David Sullivan: Solving Rental Evictions

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David Sullivan, CEO of Till illustrates why tenant evictions occur and the myth of landlord “late-fee revenue.”



David Sullivan, CEO, Till




My name's David Sullivan, I'm the CEO and Founder of Till. I'm here to talk today about why evictions suck. The underlying problem that creates eviction risk on our portfolios and how we can use innovative financial products to improve both the residents lives and ability to pay rent but also your portfolio's performance.

So each year 900,000 evictions occur. Many more occur in the shadows and we as landlords use different tax to get residents out of our portfolios who aren't paying rent. So why do evictions occur? Well the Rent Is too damn high, we've all heard that story and that's true. Affordability challenges are affecting all of us as landlords in finding residents who have the right ability to pay rent. We have serial skippers and professional residents who squat. We've all faced in battle those. But more importantly I believe that the cash flow challenges within our resident base. Drive almost all of the evictions and default we see in our portfolios and place eviction risk on an even broader set of residents.

So let's go down another level. Why do our residents face eviction challenges and cash flow risk? Well we have median household income of about forty five thousand dollars and that is really representative of stats that we all know. We've had stagnant wage growth with rising costs rent being the primary cost that we replace on the resident base. In a similar demographic, half of Americans see 25 percent month to month income volatility. Our resident bases are working multiple jobs, they're paid hourly, they're part of the gig economy. This makes their ability to budget and to pay rent challenging.

Most people in the country also have limited savings. Half of the country has less than four hundred dollars in accessible savings to actually weather a financial event Then finally we as landlords are placing a constraint on the resident base ourselves. We're putting a cash timing constraint by charging rent on the first of the month which makes it hard for the resident who is having to pay 30 to 50 percent of their income to us as landlords on that day.

So okay if a resident can't pay rent, what do they do? What current options exist? We have the family bank, family and friends, asking mom and dad or cousins or relatives for help. That works but people are embarrassed to do it and the capital base is inherently limited. We have banks real banks. The reality is many of our residents, especially in the workforce housing space, are under banked. They have limited access to the right capital and credit solutions that can stabilize their financial ability and means to pay rent on time.

We have new online peer to peer banks popping up, these are offering more personalized lending solutions that can help solve this problem but many have principal requirements that are above what the resident actually needs. We have payday and title lenders. These are real. Many of our residents are using payday and title loans to finance rent payday and title loans are giving their residents two to four weeks to pay them back and charging them three to 700 percent APR’s. As a side note, there are three times as many payday lenders sitting in our rental communities as there are McDonald's in the country. So they are a very real capital source for our resident base. And what's what the worst part is about are residents using them as a credit solution is that they are increasing the long term default risk on the resident base. The average payday loan will be refinanced eight times. And once that borrower is hitting that eighth borrowing cycle they are likely in default to both the payday lender and to use the landlord.

Finally, I want to highlight the landlord us. We are landlords. We as landlords offer credit to our consumer base our residents but it is not a effective credit. We do this in two ways. We have payment plans. We have a good resident they'd been with us for a few years and they hit a cash timing problem. We give them a payment plan because we don't want to lose them and we understand the cost of the eviction.

But more prevalent is the second form of financing we're offering them. We're giving residents a form of financing called a late fee. The late fee in most jurisdictions is 5 to 10 percent of rent for that month and we usually give them two weeks to pay. So what happens if they don't pay? We then file eviction and charge them eviction fees and them if they don't pay that we put them on the street. So let's just look at the initially late fee. The initial late fee is let's say 10 percent and we give them two weeks. That is a over 200 percent APR and we are not giving the resident any adequate time to solve the problem that they're facing.

Fair housing makes custom rental payment solutions challenging. And we as landlords are under resourced to deliver this type of credit. We are not re underwriting them. We can't read underwrite them. We don't actually know what the residents credit risk is at this point of need.

So I want to dispel a myth that I hear all the time from our landlord partners and people that we work with. So I talked all the time to landlords and they say well, we like our late fee revenue. I want to challenge that. Late fee revenue is a lost center. At best, it is a breakeven value proposition. I want to quickly talk you through why I believe that and why we as landlords are really bad at delivering credit.

We as landlords look at our income statements and there is an explicit line that says late fee revenue that makes us feel good. I ran a portfolio that had 1 million dollars in annual leave fee revenue that made me feel good. Well some residents might not pay but we made a million dollars. That is not true. We pulled it apart and the challenge in understanding late fee revenue is understanding the costs that drive and are associated with the doing quinsy and the collection effort. I challenge you to go look at your portfolios and actually pull apart these costs to see whether you're making money. And I would hands down bet that you are not. The challenge is we have five different items sitting in three different sections of our income statement. They create a loss center. We have bad debt that's easily tracked it sits in revenue. We have excess vacancy due to longer turnover for an eviction than a regular turnover. That also sits in revenue but it's harder to understand. We have our collection teams costs we have an eviction filing cost hidden in property management expenses. We then have materials and labor to turn a turn over. We all know our evictions cost us more. We have materials and labor to turn on eviction. Turnover beyond a normal turnover that are hidden somewhere. Ideally we shove them into Cap X but are also hidden in turnover and maintenance costs. The portfolio I was running I did this exercise a million dollars in annual revenue off late fees. We were spending one point four million dollars on those items we were losing 400,000 dollars a year charging our residents over 200 percent APR is giving them two weeks to pay us back and still evicting many of them.

The worst part is the resident is the biggest loser in this equation.

So even if they aren't evicted they face the stress of eviction month to month. But the ones that are evicted we are damaging their confidence, we are destroying their credit scores and we're destroying their ability to find housing in the future. Many families who are evicted are forced into transitional housing with family or friends homeless shelters or hotels, children are ripped out of schools and there's just an overall loss of community. Parents who are the breadwinners of these families who face the cash instability or the cash uncertainty, are then distanced from their job opportunities making it harder for them to actually earn income to rent a home from us again.

I want to talk about two solutions. We have a suite of financial products that we're delivering into and specifically designed for the multifamily and single family rental housing industries. We have a core rental loan that is meant to weather a financial emergency. It is a three to six month loan. We underwrite the resident on their ability to pay. We want to make sure that they have the ability to pay us back and the ability to pay you as a landlord in the future. We partner with landlords to deliver this product is a B2B to see model. This is another tool that the onsite property managers have to offer their residents who are struggling to pay rent. We underwrite them. We take the entire default risk away from the landlord and we pay you the landlord directly on time and in full. Every resident's balance that borrows from us goes to zero when we pay you. We also have a short term rental loan that is meant to solve intra month cash timing issues. So as I said earlier 30 to 50 percent. of our residents income is spent on rent.

We have designed as landlords a very inflexible system allowing our residents to pay rent when they have a challenge and we use sticks with late fees to hurt them to get them to pay on time. The short term loan allows us to pay you as landlords every single month on time and it gives the resident ultimate flexibility over that month's time period to pay us back. They can pay us back on their pay cycles, they can pay us back weekly, they can pay us back daily whatever improves their ability to pay you rent to lower their ultimate default risk and costs you as a landlord.

So I am very passionate about addressing the affordability challenge with innovative financial solutions. I believe that alternative credit specifically designed for the rental industry can do good and do well, that we can improve the financial stability of your resident base while improving your portfolio's performance. Thank you.

Jamie Hodari: A Better Way to Workplace as a Service (WaaS)

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Jamie Hodari, CEO of workplace provider Industrious, describes the latest office strategy: Workplace as a Service (Waas).



Jamie Hodari, CEO & Co-Founder, Industrious

Website | Twitter | Linkedin



My name is Jamie Hodari, I run a company called Industrious. We're the largest premium workplace provider in the country so we're in about 35 cities and launching three or four units a month. Within that context I wanted to talk a little bit about what our industry actually is and then to talk about risk in our business. So when we started our business, in those initial sort of pitch meetings, all anybody wanted to talk about is coworking the real deal and how long is it going to be around for or is it just a trend? And I think at this point that's really receded but people do want to know. Okay I believe it's here to stay.

I know that adoption is growing really quickly but how risky is it? And so I wanted to focus a little bit on that and then in particular what landlords can do to take advantage of the rapid rise in adoption of this product category and in a way that mitigates risk. So what is our business? Here's the truth about workplace as a service, it is in large sense an outsourcing business. So when we started the business the premise at the time was that the white space in the coworking industry was for a more professional, more elegant product and that was true and I think that remains true to this day.

About a year in we had a customer, a large Silicon Valley firm that was growing out of one of our spaces and they approached us and said, hey we actually really need your help. Would you be willing to build out our headquarters in Chicago for us, we think that you'll deliver a better product than if we did it ourselves.

And in that moment I think my Co-Founder and I had sort of a light bulb moment where he said this is an outsourcing industry. This is basically where a large sophisticated company is taking a major cost line non-core complex out of their business and handing it off to a third party. And the observation is that in a lot of outsourcing industries, they kind of exist as niches for decades. So if you think about manufacturing outsourcing that was around in the 70s and the 80s as 1% of the market, your factories are overloaded so you use an outsourced manufacturer in data storage. You've run out of server space, so you outsource some portion of your data storage. Until someday when you see this rapid rise in adoption, and in a lot of outsourcing industries it goes from 1% to 5% to 50% in data storage. 95% adoption, and the question is what causes that rise in adoption?

For us it's clear that in most outsourcing industries it's the moment when someone can walk in your door and say I can do this better than if you did it yourself. So I can manufacture the iPhone more efficiently, more effectively, with less errors than if Apple did it. I can store your data more effectively with less downtime, fewer service interruptions than when you hosted on your own servers and we've basically spent five years trying to cross that exact threshold to be able to walk into Johnson & Johnson's Head of Workplace's office or Pinterest or Twitter or Spotify or Bank of America and say we are going to deliver a better workplace experience to your employees. You're going to have happier, more engaged, more productive employees if you let us deliver your workplace experience for you rather than if you do it yourself.

I think about a year and a half ago Industrious and a few other providers were actually able to start crossing that threshold. And that's why when you look at our business and you say what's going on here? Why is this cropping up everywhere? Why are large enterprise customers starting to really crank up their adoption? It's because like a lot of outsourcing industries it's also addictive once you started doing it and you see that you get a better outcome. It's really hard to go back to doing it yourself. So that would be kind of my framework for where we are today.

I don't want to oversell it. I think for small businesses and teams of 20 and below that ship has sailed. You're going to be in some sort of outsource setting. For larger teams from big businesses, I think we're in the experimental phase. If you look at most big Fortune 500 hundreds they're doing one or two major experiments with putting a team of 200, 300, 400 people in an outsourced setting and they're testing, how happy are my employees? How many people quit in an 18 month period. They're taking stock and a lot of those companies are coming to the end of that experimental period and I think, look I'm biased here but I think most of them are coming to the conclusion that they actually did get a better outcome and they're now starting the wave of really pushing adoption, at least outside of their headquarters, moving a lot of their workforce portfolio to a third party setting. So the question I think at hand is what does that mean for landlords?

This is, I think, very clearly becoming the most important amenity in a building. Meaning, Ernst and Young comes with a 300,000 square foot lease in a building and they're trying to decide if they're going to be in you know Columbus Circle or the building three blocks south of here. And it matters if the gym is nice, and it matters if there's a roof deck, but really if you can say look, I have four floors of the building that are dedicated to highly serviced flexible space that you can grow your team into, that really is an amenity that moves the needle on how corporate occupiers are deciding where to go. We're in the building already having whisky tasting classes and lectures and a highly serviced sort of amenity base and we're able to deliver that to the entire tenant base of the building not just to the flexible workplace customers and you find that increasingly are saying I really want this in my building but this feels risky.

What I will say is the knock on our business, which is that it is a mismatch of long-term liabilities and short-term asset, and I think if you talk to any coworking skeptic that's the first thing they will point to is a very valid criticism of our business. I think people bend over backwards in our business to try to say it's not true and here's why it's not true and you don't have to worry about that. The reality is, it is true. I think as our business becomes an increasingly large part of the commercial real estate industry more broadly, that's a problem because you're amassing a lot of risk and we think there's a better way to do this. So this would be an exhaustive sort of you know revenue of a coworking operator over various ups and downs, various cycles and it probably looks a lot like other revenue management businesses which is to say you know if you look at lodging over the last eight recessions there tends to be a 15% swing in revenue. If you look at Regus, which is comparable to the different businesses in the last recession in North America where they have twelve hundred units they saw about an 11% reduction in revenue at the unit level. That's not that risky of a business within the framework of most industries. I think that's a relatively reasonable risk profile.

The problem is when you put a lease underneath that, it's basically like putting leverage on our business. It's like if you put debt on your house and you get all of the upside from appreciation and you're underwater immediately if you go below the loan amount. What it does is creates these wild swings in profitability for coworking providers where in good years they're printing money and in bad years they're in the red. And the problem for landlords is if you look at a WeWork, Industrious or any other coworking provider and this is brutally honest, they will put money into a unit for 3-7 months perhaps if it's losing money in a recession but they're not going to forever. It means the landlord is bearing a lot of the downside risk and participating in none of the upside risk.

We believe very strongly that it's time for our industry to start shifting over to the model of the hotel industry where coworking providers and workplace service providers partner with landlords. They program the whole building, they have coworking floors of essentially custom suites for teams of 20 to 400, and you do that in a profit sharing arrangement rather than on top of a fixed lease. This is something that doesn't sound that cutting edge but it's at the very forefront of the industry right now.

This Reuters article from I think four days ago is the first time I've seen a major publication talk about the fact that providers like us are starting to move to management contracts. It's happening very quickly. So for Industrious for example, a year ago 95% of our pipeline was arm's length leases and 5% were partnerships with landlords. It's now about 75% partnerships with landlords and I really think this is not just about Industrious. This is something that's going to turn our industry into a more sustainable, safer business. That large occupiers can really use with peace of mind that it's not going anywhere and that landlords can take advantage of without taking on undue risk.

This for example is a project we just announced with Blackstone in Los Angeles to manage an entire campus of buildings for them under a profit sharing arrangement where we're managing coworking or managing custom suites and also all of the building common amenities. So let's say your the landlord and you decide, this makes sense, I do think I want to partner up with a provider under a sort of management or partnership arrangement. And then you've got to really dig in on who you're going to partner with because more so than an arm's length lease scenario, you're really shoulder to shoulder with that operator.

I'll go very quickly through some of the ways in which a landlord should approach this question.

So first what is the quality of the provider to go back to the earlier point. The name of the game in this business is to walk in the door of Pandora's Head of Workplace and say, we can deliver as good or better of a workplace experience than when you do it yourself. That's a high bar to cross and it's very important when you're working with your workplace-as-a-service provider, to be working with a quality provider that can actually make that pitch. Here's some images of industrial cities across the country. Increasingly it's a relationship business where the coworking provider, whether it's WeWork or Industrious, is working directly with the occupier. So it's important to be working with one that already has a series of existing relationships with those occupiers to start to deploy more and more of their workplace portfolio across the country.

The next is what is the profile of the actual people to walk into work everyday? Some buildings want a very young engineering-heavy sort of workplace, some want more mature, broad national businesses and there's no wrong answer to it but it's worth thinking for your building about matching the type of workplace provider you're bringing in, with the general brand tone of the building.

The next is, and I do think this is quite important, you need a national provider. So this is true for a Johnson & Johnson, they're looking for one or two providers to do 7, 8 markets with and it becomes increasingly hard for single point local providers to compete. So that's part of why you're seeing a lot of consolidation in the business.

Britt Zaffir: The Real Estate Business Case For Co-Living

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Britt Zaffir, Director of Real Estate for co-living company Common discusses the concept around their shared homes. The basis for this model is derived from a changing housing landscape and the need to design housing for the roommate generation.  



Britt Zaffir, Director of Real Estate, Common




Hi everyone, I'm super excited to be here today. My name is Britt Zaffir and I run real estate acquisitions at Common. For those of you who don't know who Common is we are a residential operator of modern living focused primarily on the management of both traditional and co-living units. So I'll talk a little bit about who we are how we got here and where we're going, but first let me dive into a little bit of the background. So to give a little bit of a lay of the land, the way that people are living has fundamentally shifted and cities and property managers are not really prepared to keep up with these societal shifts. Around the world we see that cities do not have adequate or affordable housing for their young working professionals. So why is this happening? One of the reasons is that people are delaying getting married.

So, in 1960 the average age of a bride was 20. The average age of a groom was 23. Fast forward to today and the average age of both the bride and groom is just shy of 30 years old. So we've seen marriage be delayed by almost a decade. We see that people are living with roommates. More people are living with roommates and for longer into their lives. So according to Pew Research data seventy eight million Americans live with someone that they are not married or related to. This is definitely largely driven by the millennial generation though as you can see on the slide this is driven by older generations as well. But you know the fundamental reality is that the two parent, two child dog nuclear family is just not the way that things are trending anymore.

You see that real wages have stagnated and particularly in the last 15 years they've declined. While rents have done nothing but increase and so the gap between what people can and should pay on rent and what they actually are spending on rent has significantly widened. And lastly our cities are comprised of mostly single people so this is 2011 data. New York City we see that more than 50 percent of people are either single and living alone or single living with someone that they are not married or not related to. This is obviously New York data but we see this similar trend in sort of many cities in the United States and across the globe. So that's sort of where Common comes in, and what we're doing is designing and operating housing for the roommate generation. I think the main thing sort of to consider here is that this isn't anything new or different people have been living with roommates for you know tens of years and you know even for centuries. What Common is doing is really just making the process of finding and living with roommates better and easier than in the past.

So how are we making it better and easier? Three main ways: The first is convenience. The second is community and the third is flexibility. So in terms of convenience we're remove removing a lot of the annoyances of living with roommates. So we furnished the units we have weekly cleaners who come through the apartments. We pay all the bills. So really trying to strip away the pain points of living with other people so that we could focus on the good part which is the community. So we provide and program community spaces that really allow organic communities to generate from the ground up from within the units. And we also provide flexibility. So while most of our members are on 12 month leases and just a quick side note we call our tenants our members so when I use the word members it just means a tenant. Most of our members are on 12 month leases. However we provide the flexibility to transfer from any home in the common portfolio to any other home seamlessly and easily so when we say flexibility that's sort of what we mean.

So this is just sort of you know a typical common home. This one is in New York. I think the the key takeaways here is that these really are beautiful elevated homes. And another side note we call our properties, our buildings, homes. And that's really because we're trying to inspire a feeling of home. So some examples: every member has their own bedroom, there's no bunk beds there's no Murphy beds. Every unit has its own living rooms so this is a typical living room as I said. This is an actual property in New York. We have a vertically integrated team which includes an in-house design and construction team that spends their entire day thinking about how to optimize space for roommates and how to make the homes really feel like home. I think this really two ways one it really helps with lease up so people come and they see the beautiful spaces and you know they realize that you know for the price point it's quite frankly much nicer than whatever else they would be able to afford and I'll get into price point a little bit later. But it also helps with retention because you know people really feel attracted to these spaces and get really comfortable and so end up staying.

This is a home in D.C., Common Bowman, again just to show you high quality furniture lots of windows lots of lights so really inspiring a feeling of home. This is a typical bedroom. This is in a separate home in D.C.. As you can see the bedrooms are are quite minimalist and quite basic and this is done intentionally. We really want to provide members the ability to have a blank canvas with which they can express themselves. So all the furniture and the mattress is provided by Common. The walls are left intentionally blank. You could see in the top right corner there's a little hook that we provide for people to be able to personalize the space themselves.

So our story, we were founded three years ago almost exactly. We just had our three year anniversary by a gentleman named Brad Hargraves who previously was co-founder at a company called General Assembly, if any of you are familiar with General Assembly. We started with a 19 bedroom brownstone in Brooklyn. And fast forward three years and we're at 700 members in six cities in the U.S. So the six cities that we're in are New York, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. What have we seen in the last three years? We've seen really really strong demand. So we have less than 3 percent vacancy across our entire portfolio. We have 80 percent of our members that are on one year leases. So again, we don't do any month to month leases and we do some six month leases but the majority of members really are on regular 12 month leases and we have 70 percent renewal rate on those 12 month leases. So this is a number that's typically pretty staggering to real estate developers because in traditional multifamily your retention rate is closer to 50 percent. So we see people really you know as I said loving the spaces and loving the living solution and really staying. We get 1300 applications a week, so we could fill our entire existing portfolio of 700 bedrooms in literally half of a week based on current demand.

So why is the demand so strong? You know what's in it for the member. I think there's a lot of things I think there's the community, the convenience, the flexibility that I talked about earlier but I think another big one is certainly the affordability so members will save anywhere from 20 to 30 percent a month by choosing to live in Common rather than living in their own studio so this is sort of New York pricing. We have a bedroom available for $2,200 a month that would include all your furniture your utilities your Wi-Fi a weekly cleaner all your shared goods pots pans salt pepper olive oil all of that stuff. And so if you were to do that yourself, and live in your own studio, the comparable pricing would be about $2,200 dollars a month or more. So definitely significant cost savings for individual members. This is what a typical common suite looks like. They typically range from three to six bedrooms. This is a five bedroom three bathroom apartment. What you could see is there's lots of storage. There's built in closets in every individual bedroom. There's a shoe and coat storage closet up front. There is in unit washer dryer. So again trying to inspire that feeling of home and of comfort elevated living. And then there's you know very regularly sized living rooms dining rooms kitchens so the only difference here is really that you're sharing your unit with more people that you otherwise would in a more traditional multi-family apartment. Otherwise the apartment really looks and feels the same. So that five bedroom suite is down below, that's what I just walked through it's 1370 square feet. If a traditional developer were to try and create bedroom rentals for five people that would be about 3000 square feet. So more than doubled the amount of space. And so the result of that is about 100 to 200 basis points in terms of annual yield for real estate developers and that sort of driven through a combination of the efficiency that I just talked about as well as the common brand which is really due to our proprietary technology, our hands on management, and our creative design. So not only sort of does it make sense for the member but from the real estate perspective it's certainly an interesting alternative as well.

Where are we going? This is our sort of existing portfolio in New York as well as our pipeline of what's to come. Right now we have 320 beds that we operate in New York they're all located in Brooklyn but we are expanding to Newark, New Jersey, midtown Manhattan and Harlem as well with hundreds of more beds in our portfolio under construction and sort of looking to be in all five boroughs and beyond. So definitely actively growing. I wanted to just highlight this slide quickly it's one of our upcoming projects that's being delivered in the third quarter of 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. It's interesting for a couple reasons. The first is the blended price point. So a member will be able to live at this home Common Sussex for $1250 a month and it will be a 20 minute train ride from Penn Station. So that's a pretty staggering price point with all sort of you know services and amenities that I mentioned earlier included. Secondly this one's interesting because it's an adaptive reuse of the former St. Mike's hospital. So I think you know a really creative use of space in a really creative you know repurposing of a real estate asset. And third the financing is interesting. It is both located in an opportunity zone and it was financed using a new market and historic tax credits. So we think a couple of different elements on this one that were worth highlighting.

I'm obviously happy to talk about anything else sort of in our portfolio or anything else that's that's coming up, but if there's one thing I want to leave with everyone here today is that co-living is not really a new fad it's something that's been around for tens and hundreds of years and it's it's not only is it here to stay, but it's here to grow. We started with 1 19 bedroom brownstone in Brooklyn and just yesterday we signed a upcoming site for 600 bedrooms. So co-living is real and I'm looking forward to sharing and all of that with all of you.

Thank you.

Elena Ashkinazy: Building And Selling A Smart Apartment

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Time Equities Director of Sustainability, Elena Ashkinazy walks us through her smart apartment case study showcasing each component and sharing the amazing returns she garners.



Elena Ashkinazy, Director of Sustainability, Time Equities




Just imagine, thirty nine million people already have Amazon Alexa or Google Home in their apartments. Real estate companies can take advantage of it and start to create value for the customers of new generation who want to just move in to their apartment, plug in their Alexa and be able to control everything with their voice or with their phone. At Time Equities we always strive to be technologically up to date and innovative. So last year, we successfully completed the first smart apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. So we did it in pre-war apartment and when you think about pre-war buildings, a pre-war apartment you would probably never expect to see anything smart, but we did it. The project was so successful it was featured in The New York Times. This apartment was scheduled for renovation so we still have to buy switches, bulbs, kitchen appliances. Now we spent an extra $10,000, however we were able to sell this apartment for $120,000 above similar apartments just one flight down. So in this slide you can see green screen from two apartments, one is in the second floor and smart apartment on the third floor. And the difference in the prices was about 10 percent and the first apartment was on the market a couple of months before our smart apartment. So we sell it quicker and for a higher price. And today I'm going to tell you about all devices we installed and their features and benefits for residents.

One of the main challenge and actually it's become our value proposition for the customers was that old devices can be controlled through one application so the customers don't have to hassle between different apps. Of course we'll also estimated that the smart apartments can be super Energy-Efficient so customers can save up to 20-30 percent on their electric bills. And of course it's all about convenience. You can control everything with your voice. You can say what you want and you get it. And all with your phone. The first thing we installed was smart door lock. So you still can use your traditional keys, however, you don't need to. You can open and close your door from anywhere anytime. So imagine you're standing in a traffic and your guest came early. So now you can just open the door from anywhere. You can see when the door was opened, was closed and you can give access to your housekeeper, dog walker. So people love it, it's so convenient. We’ll also install smart lighting systems throughout the apartment. And before I started to work on this project I actually bought a lot of stuff for my place and I have to tell you it's amazing. I don't touch my switch anymore. Especially when you're tired. You lay down in bed and before my husband told me, “Elena, can you go around and turn off the lights?” And now I just said Alexa turn off all lights and she's like OK your wish is my command. So people definitely love this convenience.

We also install smart color lighting so you can pick any color you want. So for example we have open house for this apartment and a couple came and the lady was pregnant. So we ask, “do you know what's going to be, boy or girl? She's like it's going to be a girl. And we like Alexa make all lights pink, and of course she did it. And that just create this wow factor that you can also use even when you just show an apartment to potential clients. We also install smart shades in the bedroom so first you can open and close them with your voice but you also can schedule and automate them. So if you want, for example, you wanted them to be open Monday through Friday at 6:00 a.m. when you wake up and on the weekend youu want them to stay close until 12:00 p.m..

We also install smart kitchen appliances. So this is a smart refrigerator. This is what a game changer for the customers. First you can see what is inside of your refrigerator while you do shopping. Also your refrigerator will start to track expiration dates. You know we all have some stuff in our refrigerator. We have no idea how long it was there. So now your refrigerator will take care of it and will send you a notification when the milk is about to expire. Also it has a big screen on the door. So instead of putting stickers like we used to, now you can send pictures, voice messages, just messages to your family straight on the fridge door. You also can mirror a TV, play music and even do food shopping from your door. Other kitchen appliances are smart too.

So we have smart range. It's a gas range. So for safety reasons you have to start to cook while you in an apartment and set up a timer. But then again control it remotely. So you can change the temperature where you can turn off range completely. Also you can check the status so if you're worried that you forgot to turn out the gas you always can go on the app and check of that everything is OK. And we have smart dishwasher that sends you a notification when the cycle is over or when there's not enough dish soap. We installed smart outlet. So any appliance you plug into that outlet becomes smart automatically. So in this apartment we know we bought kettle and we teach Alexa when we say Alexa good morning, she started to boil your water tells you the latest news, the weather outside, the traffic situation on your way to work.

We also put that motion sensors in this apartment. So motion sensors can help you to create different scenarios. So for example, you have a scenario like the late snack time at night. So if you want to go after 12 p.m. to get a snack, you don't want to be blind with all these bright lights so you can schedule if some someone enters the room after 12:00 p.m. the lights will be dimmed maybe blue. We also brought some technologies to the bathroom. So we have this shower head with LED lights . So now you don't have to wait to try water and see if it's hot, you just can see if the water is hot, it becomes red, if it's cold, it becomes blue. And especially it's nice when it's a hot summer, you can get blue shower and when it's cold winter you can get a warm red shower. Also kids will appreciate it and love it.

Of course people love to control climate. So this is must have to have a smart thermostat and smart AC. Of course we will see a lot of benefits and opportunities to incorporate smart technologies in multi-family sector. First, it's a great competitive advantage. It's a great marketing tool for you. Also statistics show that you can increase either its rent price or sales price on average by 5 percent. And it's also energy efficient. So if you’re a building owner who’s paying for heating costs you will benefit from this as well. So what I want you to do, what I recommend you to do think where you can start. So for example, renovation is the best time to incorporate smart technologies or if you have a vacant unit so you can pilot. You can see feedback and then scale and roll out across your portfolio. Thank you so much. It was great to speak to this audience and if you have any questions I'm always open. Thank you.