Where are you getting your capital from? Is it more difficult today?
Real Estate Services Chair Ken Weissenberg speaks with panelists on the topic of where capital is coming from in today’s market, how accessible it is for new projects, and the reality of debt and equity chasing real estate. The group also discusses trends in experiential building, and how amenities are being used to differentiate properties.
Kenneth Weissenberg: What money's out there, both foreign and domestic? Where are you getting your capital from and is it easy still or is it more difficult today?
Jonathan Kaufman Iger: We've worked with a number of strategic equity partners in the past. Definitely on the development side personally, before I came to Sage Realty, and we work both with domestic and international. When we look at deals, we try to look at the deal from what we call a blind perspective. We underwrite the deal and then when it fits our strategic equity partners’ requirements we send it off to them with a pretty comprehensive business plan. We're always in contact with them and kind of their eyes and ears typically, sometimes not exclusively in Manhattan, but definitely an avenue for information as well. I think there's a lot of dry powder out there. I think there's a lot of, particularly domestic money that's waiting on the sideline. At least that's what they're telling us. So if they're telling you something differently, let me know.
Leslie Himmel: My problem is I'm not finding the type of product and the returns that are really commensurate with what people in the potential pension funds or private equity funds want to invest in. So the capital at this point, I mean, I think we started talking about this before, there's a lot of debt and there's a lot of equity chasing real estate. And I think you can't talk only about the equity without talking about the debt because part of the reason returns are a little bit low right now is because interest rates and financing - interest rates are at an all-time low and financing allocations are at an all-time high. And I know we just bid out 1460 Broadway and we're borrowing at 3.6% interest only 10 years. It's like, wow, all day long. Give me more. I've never, I don't think in my lifetime, maybe in my kids' lifetime, they'll see rates go back like this. I've never had this happen before. So financing is spectacular and it's partly pushing returns way down because you can borrow long at 3.6% or even lower if you're floating. It's just, their liquidity is amazing right now.
Kenneth Weissenberg: Experiential building seems to be a key in the marketplace today, as just a way to differentiate properties.
Jonathan Kaufman Iger: You know, for us, there's a focus on the physical amenities and that's kind of the hot topics that you hear. But I think from long-term managers, that's really where we've been able to add tremendous value to our properties in just the last couple of years. And while it's to say we like to internally talk about our management company not as a real estate company anymore but as a hospitality company, and we send a lot of our employees out to work at a WeWork for a week or two, but we also send them out to work in lobbies of hotels. And we're very particular with the hotels that we choose when they're traveling for work as well. And we see how people really are working and socializing today.
Phil Watkins: What's clear is that this type of experiential desire is permeating across the asset classes, right? It's happening in retail because of the change in people's buying habits and their ability to go online. So when they do go out and it's why you're seeing high street retail and the most productive malls in the country be the ones that are the most successful and that more commodity product people can do online. And on the office side, I think it's clearly being driven by the fact that the tenants are, and the employees of the tenants, are saying I spend the vast majority of, in some cases, especially here in New York, of my waking hours in this space. And you know, why not have the experience be almost as important in some cases.
Jonathan Kaufman Iger: I mean, we want to take that one step further. So potentially if you're a tenant at 77 Water Street, after we're done with the reposition, you'll get off the subway, your method of transportation, when you're within a two, three block radius of the building, you'll get an alert from the coffee shop that we plan on setting up saying do you want your regular coffee? In fact, we’re talking to two companies right now who create robotic baristas to do that for you. So you'd get a four digit code, you'd walk into the lobby, you plug in that four digit code and within 10 seconds you'd have your regular coffee. And if you wanted to change it up, you could do that too. At the same time when you enter that building, we don't have turnstiles in that building now. And we don't plan on installing them, slightly different access management system, but the building will basically recognize who you are, and direct you to the elevator that it believes you should be going on. So destination dispatch, but directly from your phone cause everyone has a phone. And so our focus on technology really is that mobile aspect, building will realize that you're in the building and we'll reset the temperature in your office depending on how you like it. So that's kind of the technology we're looking at. And most importantly, how do you integrate it into that experience that benefits your day and not as just there as a small amenity or something.
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