Tag Archives: real estate

Jeri Schlickbernd

April 21, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Jeri Schlickbernd enjoys working with all of her clients. But she especially enjoys time spent with female clientele.

“Our female investors are fun to work with because this is often new and exciting to them. Since I am a woman, they have a lot of trust in me, and they confide their fears, hopes, and so on with me more than they likely would with a man,” says the CEO of DVG Realty. “I do the same with them, which naturally creates a trust level.”

Her office is unique in the real estate investment world—50 percent of her employees are female.

“I think one of the greatest things about women working together is our ability to do business and get things done at a high level while also involving our emotions,” says Schlickbernd. “It creates a level of trust and camaraderie that men don’t typically share.”

DVG Realty specializes in income-producing residential real estate—house flipping and turn-key rentals. “Turn-key” means that DVG Realty handles everything for a client—from acquisition through rehab and then rental or sale.

Schlickbernd has been through the ups and downs of real estate investing.

“I started my real estate career in Phoenix, and I lived through the real estate crash of 2008. Because of this, I am super careful with my real estate investments,” she says.

Women are generally a bit more cautious than men when investing, she adds.

“So, our philosophy of investing only in what we would invest in ourselves and of looking at worst-case scenarios really speaks to our female clients,” says Schlickbernd. “Most investment-focused companies sell the upside because it’s exciting. I sell the worst-case scenario because I want my clients to know that when the real estate market turns again, they will be fine, and when the market is good, they will be great.”

Trust is a key word for customers. “We have a very successful track record, and our clients know they can trust us,” she says. “We look at every investment with the mindset of ‘would we invest in this ourselves?’”

“Women control a large, and growing, percentage of the wealth in the U.S.,” she adds. “Many women are intimidated with investing this money. We make investing in real estate easy to understand and to be successful at by being a trusted partner and service provider.”

Some customers are single women or women investing without a spouse or input of their spouse. “Historically men have made investment and real estate decisions when it’s not the primary home they live in,” says Schlickbernd.

Stocks or real estate? She says a big advantage that real estate investing has over investments like stocks is that you own a tangible asset: “So, if the market turns bad, you still have something instead of losing everything.”

“We want to be the go-to company for real estate investing,” she says. “We want to be known as honest, fair, and trustworthy, while at the same time creating great return on investment for our clients.”

4669 L St.
Omaha, NE 68117
402.680.1010
dvgrealty.com

Julie Tartaglia

March 27, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The Tag Team at CBSHOME is different from other real estate groups, according to team leader Julie Tartaglia.

“We have all women and just one man. We call him the ‘lone wolf,’”
she jokes.

How they work with each other also is different. “It’s more of an atmosphere of lifting each other up with a positive and encouraging environment and helping people be successful,” she says. “We’ve made it a point to focus on helping each other succeed on every transaction.”

Ask a team member to describe the Tag Team at CBSHOME, and you’ll be impressed by the passion they display.

“We are a passionate group of professionals who have the philosophy that real estate doesn’t have to be complicated, and we’re driven for positive results,” says Tartaglia. “We pride ourselves on thinking outside the box with creative marketing and innovative ideas. We have a clock in the office that says, ‘Sometimes you just need one more patch than the inner tube has holes.’ We pride ourselves on being creative while being ethical and achieving desirable results.”

Understanding that women are a significant part of any transaction and treating all clients with no bias is part of the team’s beliefs.

“We don’t just do transactions,” she says. “We build relationships. And all
of us build our businesses by referral. Referral-based business is the
foundation of our whole team’s work.

“Our philosophy and concepts work.
We’re one of the top teams with CBSHOME.”

15950 W. Dodge Road
Omaha, NE 68118
402.215.2156
tagteam-realestate.com

 

Feeding Frenzy

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The chatter among agents in the spacious, sunny work area of the NP Dodge Real Estate office in Elkhorn doesn’t focus on the global economy, the Brexit fallout, or what Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve might or might not do about rate hikes. They are too busy writing up contracts and swapping stories about how fast a listing sold in what continues to be a robust housing market.

“We’re seeing multiple offers on one home, like we had 20 years ago,” says Nancy Bierman, who manages 120 agents in the office at 204th Street and West Dodge Road. “Homes are selling above asking price. We’re seeing more cash buys, and homes are going very quickly, selling in one day.”

Homeowners now include millennials, the biggest generation ever to come into the marketplace. They’re moving into all areas of the metro, not just west Omaha.

“The urban market, Omaha’s core, seems to be really strong,” says Jeff Royal, president of Dundee Bank. “Young professionals want to live closer to older, established neighborhoods with more character like Benson, Blackstone, Dundee, Field Club, even south of Old Market in Little Italy.”

What’s driving Omaha’s housing frenzy? Chronically low 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages, now below 3.5 percent, tell part of the story—one that has benefited everyone involved in real estate, from brokers to builders to bankers.

InterestRates1“It’s a good time to be a buyer,” says Royal. “We’re seeing an uptick not only in mortgage applications, but refinancing as well,” which follows a strong national trend. Figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association show applications have been running more than 21 percent higher than last year—a far cry from the darkest days of the Great Recession of late 2007-2009.

“That was bad,” John Caniglia says bluntly. The owner of John Caniglia Homes, builders of higher-end custom homes, remembers buying a few foreclosures and flipping them just to stay afloat. “We started to see a perk up in 2011, even in the $450,000 range, when interest rates were really low. Then the tight regulations on borrowing money started to ease and we’ve been rolling along every year since, even our apartment and office development.”

The experience of that recession made Caniglia and other developers highly skittish to build on spec—building before you have a buyer—which explains an equally huge factor in Omaha’s hot market: a lack of existing homes. According to Omaha Area Board of Realtors statistics, the 2,600 homes on the market this spring represented a 16 percent drop from 2015, and a whopping 56 percent drop from 2011, when 6,000 residences were available. In addition, the median price of existing homes rose 7 percent over the past year, to $155,000.

“Many baby boomers looking to downsize are finding they have to pay more for less square footage because of the median prices going up, so they’re staying put and their houses aren’t available,” says NP Dodge sales associate Therese Wehner, explaining another piece of the housing crunch equation.

This classic scenario of low supply and high demand has tossed homebuyers into a whirlwind.

“When a house under $150,000 comes on the market, it’s like throwing raw meat into a lion’s cage,” quips Carole Souza, associate broker at NP Dodge. “You have it on the market and within four or five hours you’ve got 10-15 showings. Before the day is done you have at least one offer, sometimes more.”

But the downside of quick decision-making often leads to headaches for all involved.

“We’re seeing an increase in buyer’s remorse,” explains Souza. “They win the battle, but lose the war sometimes.”

The number of sales contracts that fall apart keeps rising. Wehner noticed, over a two-day period in early July, 19 houses that previously sold went back on the market. Three hours later, when she checked again, the number had risen to 21. Sales agents concede it is getting tougher and tougher to seal the deal.

“The buyer rushes into something, they sleep on it and decide, ‘Well, I really like the first house I saw better,’ and then they look for an out,” says Wehner. “And I’m telling you, when that happens, the emotions from the buyers and the sellers can run very, very high.”

Well-trained real estate agents will make sure their client asks all the right questions up front before making any decision. Sometimes they’ll suggest a simple, but effective, gesture to win a bidding war.

“A listing agent told me my client got the house because of the ‘sappy’ letter my client wrote to the homeowners saying, ‘I love how you took care of your home and I will love it, too,’” says sales associate Kori Krause. “Letters can work.”

The health of the real estate industry always depends on the big economic picture, especially as a presidential election looms. As John Caniglia says, “We builders pretty much spend our whole life worrying.” But with less than two months’ worth of housing inventory available and high demand, experts expect the Omaha market to continue its amazing run for the next three to five years.

Visit federalreserve.gov/releases/h15 for more information. B2B

Linden Estates

December 5, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It originally carried the decidedly blah designation of “SID 353,” but Linden Estates is now among Omaha’s most prestigious neighborhoods. Known for its approximately 120 stunning luxury homes that sit on large, exquisitely landscaped lots, the properties start at 3,000 square feet and more than a few attain the classification of “mansion,” with the largest topping out at 23,000 square feet.

“The beauty of the neighborhood is that you didn’t have one builder going in there with a specific style,” says Deb Cizek, of the Cizek Group with Prudential Ambassador Real Estate. “You had the individual taste of the owners who contracted with these builders. You have some contemporary homes in there, some traditional, you have some Tuscan—just a beautiful mix of architecture.”

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Cizek has been in real estate more than 25 years, and as a realtor who specializes in high-end properties, she knows Linden Estates particularly well. “It will go anywhere from half a million to multi-million, and everything seems to blend just fine,” she says.

The residents themselves also blend well, says Kim Syslo, who’s been in the neighborhood for about a year. There are homes with play structures side-by-side with homes that feature stately courtyards or pristine gardens, and Syslo says her young family has felt at home from the beginning. “We have friendly neighbors who are so kind to my kids,” she says. “Children really are welcome—we’ve been thrilled with the neighborhood.”

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John Belford, president of Linden Estates’ board of directors, agrees that, as the neighborhood enters its third decade, it has become more diverse in recent years. “There’s definitely been a lot of turnover. We’ve had a lot of new kids come into the neighborhood, young kids from 2 to 14. There are also people who are retired with no kids as well. Everyone 
gets along.”

“It’s a pretty good mix,” Cizek agrees, “and that’s what you want in a neighborhood.”

Located in the area of 144th and Dodge, Linden Estates is close to West Omaha business parks, retail developments, and 
other amenities.

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“We used to think 72nd was the heart of the city, and now it’s 132nd,” Cizek says. “Everything is easy to get to. It is a phenomenal location: easy access to downtown, easy access to the interstate.”

“There are a lot of restaurants and grocery stores and amenities that are within 10 minutes,” 15-year resident Nancy 
Hultquist adds.

Linden Estates is in the Millard Public Schools district, so neighborhood children generally attend Ezra Millard Elementary, Kiewit Middle School, and Millard North High School. Catholic schools St. Vincent de Paul and St. Wenceslaus are also nearby. Belford, who is the parent of three high-school students and also has one in college, says, “I’m fortunate to live here. It’s been great for our family, and it’s a great location—between 132nd and 144th and Dodge to Maple, we have everything we need.”

Linden Estates was annexed by the City of Omaha in 2008, Belford says. There is also a Linden Estates Second Addition, but although the two neighborhoods are adjacent, they are independent developments and even managed by separate home-
owners associations.

“Linden Estates is, in my opinion, probably the premier neighborhood in the city,” Cizek says. “It has stood out for twenty years.”

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Not only has the natural maturation of the community’s trees enhanced the look of Linden Estates over the years, the April hailstorms that came through West Omaha this year had an unexpected silver lining—many of the homes now sport new roofs, which has refreshed the neighborhood. “You have homes in there that look like they’re brand-new again,” Cizek explains.

The new roofs will also be a perfect canvas for the elaborate holiday light displays for which Linden Estates has become known.

“It’s always been like that since we’ve been here,” Hultquist says of the collective enthusiasm for holiday decor. “Everyone really puts up a lot of lights and celebrates the holidays. It’s a very festive environment not only for the homeowners, but also for Omahans to enjoy. I think when you go out to look at Christmas lights, this is one of the neighborhoods 
you go through.”

Even the entrance to Linden Estates is welcoming, Belford says. “The homeowners association started putting up lights about 10 years ago at the main entrance at 144th Street and Hamilton. The homeowners were already putting lots of lights up, so we decided to enhance the holiday season by adding lights.”

Linden Estates is an active neighborhood year-round. Even the surrounding areas are pedestrian-friendly, Hultquist says, with plenty of paths, parks, and even a small reservoir near the First National Business Park.

“In the morning, you see children walking to school, and after school, you see more people walking their dogs, children riding bikes,” she says. “There’s just more activity with more families and younger children in the neighborhood.”

Beef Up Your Offer

June 20, 2013 by

With home prices rising, potential buyers need to make their offer stand out. To help beef up your offer, here are five questions you should ask:

  • Do I have a strong pre-approval letter? Get pre-approved for a loan from a trusted lender. This letter is evidence of how much you can borrow and shows that a lender has done a credit check and verified income and assets, so your ultimate mortgage approval can go more smoothly.
  • Do I know what the seller wants? Working with a reputable real estate agent, you should determine the seller’s motivations. In some cases, sellers want to close quickly. Other times, they may be waiting to relocate and a speedy closing is less important.
  • Can I avoid contingencies? Sellers who do want to close quickly may get antsy about contingent offers—such as when the buyer needs to sell a current residence. Try to avoid contingencies if possible.
  • Is my offer price strong? A good real estate agent should be able to advise you on comparable sales and listings in the neighborhood you want. This information can help you strengthen your offer.
  • Do I have the cash to close? It’s helpful to have your cash amassed in a liquid account to cover the down payment, closing costs, and other expenses.

If you answer “yes” to all or most of these questions, then you’ll be on stronger footing when it comes to making an offer on a home.

Mike Becker is a mortgage banking regional sales manager for Bank of the West – Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender. Becker lives and works in Omaha and can be reached at mike.becker@bankofthewest.com. 

Homes for Heroes

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When mortgage loan officer Michael Petrovich with The Private Mortgage Group in Omaha was offered the chance to work with the national Homes for Heroes program, he says it seemed like a perfect opportunity to show his thanks to those we depend on.

The program—which uses the tagline ‘Service Deserves Its Rewards’—offers discounts on real estate-related services to active and retired military, police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other civil servants that serve our communities and our country.

“My dad was a fireman for years with the Omaha Fire Department, and a good friend of mine’s dad is a retired Omaha police officer,” Petrovich says. “I also have a lot of friends in the military. [The program] sounded like an opportunity to help out a lot of friends and family, and this was an area I felt I could really make a difference…saving them some money when buying a home.”

Petrovich says as a Homes for Heroes affiliate member, he offers “hero” homebuyers free home appraisals, which are often required for home purchases and refinances handled by his firm. Waiving the fee saves the homebuyer $400. Fellow Private Mortgage Group employees Pete Coen and Jeremy Wilhelm are also affiliate members.

“[The program] sounded like an opportunity to help out a lot of friends and family, and this was an area I felt I could really make a difference.” – Michael Petrovich, The Private Mortgage Group

“We can offer the discounts to any qualifying client in the Omaha/Fremont territory we cover. All they need to do is sign up on the Homes for Heroes website, and it directs them to all the affiliates in the area,” Petrovich explains.

Real estate agents make up a large number of HFH affliliate members nationally. Locally, Prudential Ambassador Real Estate agents Michelle Gustafson, Gary Gernhart, Mamie Jackson, and Matt Anderson are affiliates. “We know the agents [at Prudential], and we’ve worked together to offer clients the HFH discounts. It’s been a team effort,” Petrovich adds.

The Homes for Heroes program was first created in 2002 by a group of lenders and Realtors in Minneapolis in response to the tragic events of 9/11. Petrovich was among the first Homes for Heroes affiliate members in Nebraska, joining in November 2012 when the program first launched in Omaha. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit, comprised of Realtors, lenders, and other real estate-related service providers, now has approximately 750 affiliates nationwide serving homeowners in 44 states.

Steve Minino, a Realtor with NP Dodge Real Estate, is another Homes for Heroes affliate in Omaha. Along with Realtors Deb and Mark Hopkins (all part of the Hopkins Home Team), Minino got involved when he learned about the program on the local news.

“We saw the advantages right away and jumped on board…being able to help our local heroes while getting some great exposure for us,” he says. “It was definitely a win-win situation.

“My family also has a long tradition of members serving in the Marine Corps. We liked the idea of helping out family and friends who serve and who could really benefit.”

“We saw the advantages right away and jumped on board…being able to help our local heroes while getting some great exposure for us. It was definitely a win-win situation.” – Steve Minino, NP Dodge Real Estate

As an affiliate, Minino says he offers 25 percent of his sales commission back toward the purchase process for Homes for Heroes clients. “This money is typically applied toward the closing costs being paid by the homebuyer,” he says. “If the buyer is not responsible for closing costs, then the money is donated to a charity of their choice.”

Minino also donates another five percent of his commission directly back to the Homes for Heroes organization, which they use to fund other projects, including the rehabing of homes to accommodate injured veterans.

“We’re currently working with several Heroes clients, and we hope to grow that number in the next six months or so.”

Millard Public Schools teacher Stephanie Poltack and her fiancé, Aaron Mackel, recently purchased a home together in West Omaha and took advantage of discounts offered by several local Homes for Heroes affliliates. “My Realtor, Judy Kramer with Prudential, told me about [Homes for Heroes] and referred me,” Poltack says. “Through the program, we received closing-cost assistance and got a discounted home inspection, and The Private Mortgage Group gave us a free home appraisal. I believe we saved $1,325 in all.

“Being a first-year teacher and a first-time homeowner, I’m very appreciative of all the help we received…It meant everything to us,” Poltack adds. “We were able to use the money saved to go out and buy a washer and dryer. It’s a great program, and I think if more people were aware of it, more would take advantage of it.”

“Being a first-year teacher and a first-time homeowner, I’m very appreciative of all the help we received…It meant everything to [my fiancé and me].” – Stephanie Poltack, teacher

Nationally, several media outlets and Hollywood celebrities have helped publicize the good works being done by Homes for Heroes’ affiliates nationwide, including Sean Hannity with Fox News, actor Gary Sinise, and the Orlando Magic basketball franchise. However, the nonprofit has grown primarily through word of mouth via the internet and news media.

Petrovich says one of the goals of the Omaha-area affiliates is to raise awareness of the Homes for Heroes program in Nebraska and encourage participation by our local heroes.

“We’re getting together to discuss ways to advertise,” he said. “We’ve placed ads in the Fremont paper, hung posters in firehouses and around town…We want our civil servants and military to know we support them and say thank you for serving our country and our community.”

Retail Centers

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Malone & Co.

For some of the Omaha area’s newest and most cutting-edge retail developments, 2012 was a successful year during a time when the national economic climate was still uncertain, and 2013 is so far looking good, say representatives.

“Both shopping centers had solid sales performances overall for 2012 and the 2012 holiday season, and of course, some retailers reported considerable sales increases compared to last year,” says Kim Jones, marketing director for both Shadow Lake Towne Center, located at 72nd Street and Highway 370 in Papillion, and Village Pointe, located at 168th Street and West Dodge Road in Omaha. The two developments are managed and leased by RED Development, based in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Both centers welcomed new tenants in 2012. And we will be making announcements for both properties soon. There’s a great interest in both shopping centers and that just means that retail is certainly coming back after we’ve had some leaner years during the recession.”

“If we look at year-over-year sales development-wide, we saw retail sales up 12 percent. I think our retailers will tell you, they’re happy and cautiously optimistic about the future, given the trend lines,” says Molly Skold, marketing director for Midtown Crossing in the Turner Park area near 33rd and Farnam streets. “Our anchor tenants are also doing well. Wohlner’s (Grocery and Deli) was up 31 percent in March, year-over-year, and Element, Marcus, and Prairie Life have all seen double-digit growth.

“Our condo sales are doing extremely well also. From January to April 2013, we have had 18 new contracts; that’s a 63 percent increase, year-over-year, from 2012.”

Regarding plans for 2013, Skold adds: “We currently have two letters of intent from potential retail tenants. Tenants looking at our development are service-type tenants and specialty stores. And we have an olive oil concept store, Chef Squared, opening in June.”

The 2012 retail year wasn’t without its challenges. One retail sector that has struggled somewhat is apparel, Skold reports, and its performance has slightly modified the outlook for Midtown Crossing’s development.

“The apparel industry nationwide has performed lower than expectations. In 2012, we actually saw one of our apparel stores close its doors, a national chain,” she says. “The apparel industry is opening fewer and fewer stores nationwide. We would have thought that, at this point, we’d have more boutiques or apparel stores.”

“Having community ties is very important to us because we want to make sure that our community knows that we’re invested and that we want to serve them beyond just providing great retail.” – Kim Jones, marketing director with Shadow Lake Towne Center and Village Pointe

However, the apparel sector may be gaining some steam in 2013, Skold says. “Currently, we have five apparel retailers interested in specific spaces—doing drawings, looking at plans, expansions, etc. We are encouraged by the activity.”

Another ongoing concern in the retail industry is that online shopping, which continues to grow, may funnel away sales from its tangible counterpart—shopping centers and freestanding stores. Jones says, however, that there is plenty of room for both channels. “While online sales are certainly not going away, you can continue to see lots of brick-and-mortar and online retailing in concert together, so it’s really just giving the shopper more of an advantage,” she says.

Both Skold and Jones say some of the success of their respective developments lies in how they are structured to reach beyond merely retail services to support a lifestyle and serve as neighborhoods in and of themselves.

“The lifestyle center is currently predominant, but you’ll see it evolve in what kind of tenants it brings in. In some cases, it will hybridize. For example, Shadow Lake is a hybrid with the power center, which is on the perimeter with the big boxes, while the lifestyle center is on the main street,” Jones explains. “So together they offer a different kind of shopping center for Papillion and the community beyond.”

Skold says Midtown Crossing’s growth and development centered around four anchors, with restaurants and retailers developing out next, and service providers coming onboard more recently to round out the development as it passes 90 percent occupancy.

“Those last 10 percent of types of retailers we’ll be looking for are those service-type of stores that really will be providing services and products to our guests and visitors and residents alike,” Skold says, adding that 2012 events and activities, including the new holiday celebration Miracle on Farnam and the summer Architects of Air exhibit, add to Midtown Crossing’s ambiance and image. “I think we have moved from development to a neighborhood,” she says. “I think we have met our goal of Midtown becoming a destination rather than a pass-through.”

Midtown Crossing will also open The Pavilion at Turner Park, which will provide a permanent stage and infrastructure to the center, ideal to host many entertainment and shopping events on the grounds and predicted to draw many new shoppers. “The Pavilion is a stunning addition to Omaha’s Turner Park,” Skold says. “Omahans are in for truly amazing treat!” The structure is scheduled to be complete by the first Jazz on the Green concert July 11th.

Creating community spirit is also an important part of Village Pointe’s and Shadow Lake Towne Center’s identities, Jones says.

“Having community ties is very important to us because we want to make sure that our community knows that we’re invested and that we want to serve them beyond just providing great retail,” Jones explains. “We want to be a place where they come even if they’re not going to shop. It may be to enjoy one of the concerts during one of our concert series or an event that’s going on like a charity walk or something of that nature, or various attractions we have throughout the year. So while they’re retail centers, we also like to consider them community centers.”

Apartment Construction

Photography by Bill Sitzmann, Thom Neese, and Malone & Co.

When it comes to looking for the perfect apartment, bigger is not always better…or affordable. And with the main demographic of apartment dwellers in Omaha being Generation Y—those ranging in age from 22 to 27 years-old—they are making their feelings known and developers are listening.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development, has been working in commercial real estate for nearly two decades and owns several apartment buildings, including The 9ines and Joslyn Lofts. He knows intimately the wants and needs of those looking for their next space to live.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

Christian Christensen, owner of Bluestone Development.

“We have done condos, townhomes, row homes, historic renovations…” says Christensen, “but our focus right now is on apartments…all urban. Part of that is due to the market and part of it is due to our passion for apartments.” While the Old Market has been for years the go-to location for urban living, Christensen says that things are changing, especially with the development of Midtown Crossing. “Basically, anything east of I-680 are projects that we look at.”

With his primary customers being Generation Y, Christensen says that price is a big concern. “To make [these spaces] affordable, you’ve got to work hard on floor plans.” He explains that most developers today are designing smaller floor plans because, not only are they more reasonably priced, but “people are heading toward a no-waste type of living.”

“When you look at how homes were developed 15 years ago, you really only utilize 60 percent of your home on a daily basis. The other 40 percent you’re paying for, but not really utilizing it. It’s the same thing with apartments.”

Combine this with the fact that fewer people are living with roommates, these highly sought-after urban apartments are becoming more accessible to people who, a few years ago, could only dream of living in these locations.31273_0279_Web

Jerry Banks, portfolio director of real estate for NewStreet Properties, LLC, also works with developing and remodeling apartments, as well as retail and office spaces. The Omaha-based company owns properties all over the country, including Tiburon View and Huntington Park Apartments in Omaha,. While NewStreet does not develop urban locations and his tenants tend to range from 20- and 30-somethings to empty nesters, Banks says that his tenants are also looking for scaled-down floor plans. “We’re seeing more and more trends toward smaller units, both in studios and one bedrooms.”

Safety and security is another big focus of his tenants, says Banks. “That’s always been and will continue to be a very important renter requirement…very high on the list.”

To meet the demands of his residents, Banks says that NewStreet has been actively addressing a variety of security concerns, including changing all exterior lighting to brighter, more efficient LED bulbs, as well as implementing new, fully automated locks for all their apartments.

Banks refers to the possible security breach of buildings that have master keys or by former residents who may have had copies of keys made in the past. “None of our apartments have a master key of any type…we’ve de-mastered 100 percent of all the locks on all of our properties.” Each key is also tracked by a bar code, allowing the property owner to know who has borrowed a key and when that key was returned.31294_0219_Web

“We put a real emphasis on safety and security for our residents,” says Banks. “These are just some things that most residents don’t see and think about but just take for granted.”

Both Christensen and Banks say that their tenants are looking for convenience and ways to make their lives easier. Fitness facilities, both indoor and outdoor, as well as pet-friendly spaces and amenities, fire pits, and plenty of grilling areas for entertaining are options that NewStreet is providing to their residents.

Bluestone is exploring the options of adding a hot yoga studio, as well as the possibility of shared gaming rooms and a community kitchen that may provide cooking lessons and opportunities for socializing.

Both Christensen and Banks say that customer service is their main priority. “Going forward, everyone is going to have to look at their operation and see how they can deliver outrageous service,” says Christensen. “Because that’s what our customers get when they go to other places. They go to Starbucks…they go to Urban Outfitters…they get outrageous service. They can expect that service where they live.”

Strict Banking Requirements

Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Great Western Bank

With interest rates having been at all-time lows for over a year and forecast to remain at record lows for the foreseeable future, it’s likely that either you or someone you know has refinanced their home recently. But does the same hold true for commercial building owners? Have business owners and those with commercial leases been able to take advantage of such low rates? Have entrepreneurs seeking new loans been able to set their dreams in motion, even in these tough economic times?

According to Gary Grote, Omaha group president for Great Western Bank, while commercial loans may not have been impacted by the low rates as much as residential loans have, there still has been a significant effect in the commercial market.

“The difference between residential and commercial is that in the commercial loans…there may be pre-payment penalties that apply until the maturity day,” explains Grote. “So you can’t always just pick up the phone and…refinance on a whim like with a residential mortgage.” He does add that though it may not be as “easy” to refinance a commercial loan, “many people have already taken advantage of the low rates…and we continue to see opportunities.”

Craig Lefler, senior vice president and manager of commercial banking with Mutual of Omaha Bank, agrees with Grote, saying while there may be a few more obstacles for commercial loans to be refinanced, there are still ample opportunities for businesses to seek lower interest rates on existing loans. “A lot of commercial real estate loans are done by banks on a five-year type of basis and some of those, depending on the bank, may have a penalty for early payoff. That would certainly be a consideration for [when it comes to the] cost of refinancing the loan.”

“The difference between residential and commercial is that in the commercial loans…there may be pre-payment penalties that apply until the maturity day.” – Gary Grote, Great Western Bank

Both Grote and Lefler say that although rates are at historic lows and there are many opportunities available for commercial loans to be granted as well as refinanced, the process and underwriting standards are higher than ever.

“After the financial crisis, credit certainly tightened up and [banks] returned to more prudent, conventional underwriting standards,” says Grote.

Lefler agrees that there are more stringent standards and more in-depth analyses today than in the past. However, those are countered by the benefit of lower interest rates. “It’s a mixed bag,” he says.

Interest rates for commercial spaces are different than those for residential mortgages. Grote explains that the typical five-year loan originated from the trouble that the Savings and Loans went through in the 1980s. The S&Ls offered CDs for two to four years at fixed rates. They then would loan money at fixed rates for 10- or 15-year loans. “When the rates went up, they got burned because their cost of money increased but their loans were at a fixed rate.”

He shares that banks typically keep five-year commercial loans on their balance sheets while traditional home mortgages are sold off to other organizations.

“A lot of commercial real estate loans are done by banks on a five-year type of basis and…depending on the bank, may have a penalty for early payoff. That would certainly be a consideration for [when it comes to the] cost of refinancing the loan.” – Craig Lefler, Mutual of Omaha Bank

As another option, Grote says that some banks, such as Great Western, may offer certain clients 10– and 15-year fixed rates. But he says that this is a unique situation.

Thirdly, he shares that the Small Business Administration has a popular product called the SBA 504 Program, in which a portion of the loan allows the borrower to do a 10- or 20-year fixed rate. “So there are options out there, and it just kind of depends on the property and the borrower and where they’re at in their life cycle and what makes the most sense for them.”

Depending on whether the loan is for owner-occupied real estate or investor real estate, Grote explains that the lender will underwrite the occupant’s financial statements or the investor’s ability to rent space. Both men recommend that businesses have their financial records in order and ready to be submitted for review.

“Be organized and be able to quickly produce their financial statements in an organized fashion,” says Grote. “That helps banks respond quickly and be able to give good guidance and good answers.”

Lefler adds that, in addition to the financial records, the lender will also consider “the projection, going forward, of how the space will be used and ultimately, from the lender’s point of view, will the debts get repaid.

“My sense is that there is a feeling that banks are not willing to lend money on new business ventures and to projects like this, but I would say that this is not true,” says Lefler. “In our market, which is stable, banks play an active role in these spaces on a daily basis.”

Educational Building Design

Photography by DLR Group

School buildings have come a long way from the stately, institutional structures of yesteryear. Today’s newest K-12 environments echo some of the best elements of commercial and residential design trends, say representatives of integrated design firm DLR Group.

“What we really see as far as trends are a lot of renovations, a lot of energy retrofits, and a big push for security measures as well,” says architect and DLR Group principal Pat Phelan, K-12 sector leader.Marysville-Getchell-High-School-Campus_Web

While established structures in longstanding neighborhoods undergo renovation and expansion, most of the new construction has been in elementary schools, says architect and DLR Group principal Mark Brim, K-12 designer. He adds that it’s a matter of numbers related to how school districts are structured, explaining that “for every high school you build, you’re going to be building three, maybe four, elementary schools and maybe two middle schools.”

One lesson learned from the past is planning for future expansion during new construction and major renovation, Phelan says. “With some of the older buildings that weren’t designed for expansion, those present some unique challenges, obviously.”

Brim adds: “We’ve had the opportunity to work with the rapidly growing districts here in the metro area. In those cases, the new buildings we were involved with, we did master-plan those to expand as enrollment increases.”IMG_8674_Web

District residents also have a vested interest in their school buildings, and today’s schools include spaces that can be adapted to serve the community for activities from public meetings to presentations and receptions. Of course, durability is also a consideration when it comes to school buildings with a life expectancy of 75 years or more.

“It’s selecting the right yarn type so the carpet will hold up, or high performance paint,” explains Melissa Spearman, DLR Group senior associate and interior designer leader.Creighton-Preparatory-School_Web

“A school is going to have a lot of traffic. It may not have a lot of money to fund a lot of maintenance,” Brim adds. “Energy efficiency is always a concern, but also sustainability with the push for green architecture, and not only on the energy side but also with use of more environmentally friendly materials and recycled materials.”

Spearman says function now drives form when school interiors are planned.

“We’re seeing how the teachers interact with the students or how the students can work in small groups, how different collaboration zones are set up, or how maybe they’re studying in common spaces and those are becoming more gathering spaces,” she says.Joplin-11th-&-12th-Grade-Interim-Campus_Web

“We’re really focusing more on the learning environment overall,” Phelan agrees. “That involves bringing natural light into as many spaces as we can, it means comfortable climate, it means transparency so students are more engaged in what’s going on in different spaces.”

Phelan explains that engagement elements range from wi-fi to adding more display areas for student works to considering environmental features evocative of where students naturally congregate, like the comfortable, portable seating in malls or coffee shops.

“We think that research supports the fact that the learning environment has an impact on the performance of students in the classroom. As a result, DLR Group has become the number-one K-12 firm in the country,” Phelan says. “That’s something that we take a lot of pride in, and we don’t rest on that; we know we have to continue to always look to the future, look to innovate, and listen to our clients.”