Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Opportunity Zones

There was a provision in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (Tax Reform) that flew under a lot of radars,
including those of many in who make their livelihood in commercial real estate-related fields. The
provision – 26 U.S.C. § 1400Z-1&2 – created Opportunity Zones (OZ), which I liken to a combination
between a 1031 exchange and New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC). The program is similar to the 1031
exchange in that it can defer capital gains that would ordinarily be owed following the sale of property
by an investor, and similar to NMTC in that it is intended to incentivize investments in economically
distressed communities.    

What do OZs do? Briefly, they can defer capital gains for five years for investments made in qualified
OZs. After the fifth year, taxes may be cancelled on ten percent of the original capital gains investment
and deferred for the remainder. After the seventh year, taxes may be cancelled on fifteen percent of
the original capital gains investment, and the remainder may be deferred through 2026. And for
investments lasting ten-plus years, investors are exempt from capital gains taxes on the OZ investment
itself, in addition to the other benefits for capital gains carried into the investment.  

It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but once you do, you’ll concur that this is an incredible program.
Other commentators have realized that as well, penning articles titled An Unlikely Group of Billionaires
and Politicians has Created the Most Unbelievable Tax Break Ever and Opportunity Zones: Building the
Plane While Flying It.  

Two logical questions about OZs are 1) where are they, and 2) where can I get more information on

Each state’s governor proposed OZs, which were subsequently approved by the Department of
Treasury. In Louisiana, many proposed OZs were generated via suggestion by economic development
agencies. Louisiana Economic Development, the largest such agency, has put together a neat GIS tool
showing OZs across the state. Here’s a capture of their location within the city of New Orleans
(highlighted in blue):

And here’s a zoomed in image of their location within New Orleans’ historic core:

Per the text of the Tax Reform bill, the aim of the OZ program was to identify “lower-income census
tracts”, including those with poverty rates of at least twenty percent, or those with median family
incomes of no more than eighty percent of statewide or metro area family income. I would argue that
some of the identified census tracts, while perhaps meeting the letter of this portion of the law, likely
don’t meet it in spirit. But nevertheless, it’s likely that decision makers also took into account areas
which were likely to support the additional new investment that OZs are anticipated to encourage.
And with the already existing momentum in many of the OZs, such support shouldn’t be a problem.  

Getting back to the location of the OZs, you’ll see that large swaths of core neighborhoods – from the
Warehouse District, Central Business District, Central City, Treme and Mid-City – are included. That
means – you guessed it – opportunities await investors who can secure investments in these areas.  

The concept of OZs can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. Luckily, plenty has been written about
the nascent program since it came into existence less than one year ago. You can go direct to the
source with IRS’ FAQs, or Treasury’s Opportunity Zones Resources. Or you can seek out guidance from
the private sector, like Novogradac & Co.’s Opportunity Zones Resource Center. For those readers in
New Orleans (or for those looking for an excuse to travel to New Orleans), Novogradac & Co. is also
putting on a first-of-its-kind Opportunity Zone Conference here in October.  

I can’t tell you how much tax savings you stand to benefit from by investing in an OZ. And I can’t
advise you on the partnership structure of your OZ investment. But I, and the other agents in our
office, can certainly help you locate investment opportunities within the boundaries of qualified OZs.
Please reach out to let us know how we can help!  

Jonathan Shaver, CCIM
(504) 838-0001
(504) 579-4082

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Staying Ahead of Information in the World of Commercial Real Estate

There has never been a better time for access to information about the commercial real estate industry. Whether you are a seasoned investor, a first-timer getting started on your first property, or just curious about the industry, with a few clicks of the mouse there is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.

Here are three things I do every day to stay on top of things in the world of commercial real estate:

1) Listen to a podcast.

Podcasts are terrific and portable sources of information. They are better than talk radio, and there is almost no level of detail to which you can't drill down to find the exact info you seek. Although there are numerous podcasts specific to commercial real estate, I tend to favor shows that are more investment-based in their approach, but still deal with CRE. Three shows I tend to favor are:
  • Bigger Pockets. This show is more or less the gold standard of real estate investment podcasting. Their most recent episode (as of the writing of this blog) is #290 “7 Paths to Financial Independence” and it is an exceptionally good listen.
  • Real Wealth Show. Always real estate focused, lots of multi-family information, useful information, always.
  • Invest Like the Best. This show is more traditional capital market focused, but still has good discussion about investment principles.

2) Read a blog post.

A quick Google search can bury you in CRE blogs but I tend to gravitate towards the ones that speak to brokers and broker development. By preparing yourself as a broker, anyone can get an insight into the investment side of the industry. Again, this list probably changes weekly, but lately some of the ones I seem to keep going back to are:

3) Read a Book

Who has time to read books? Simply put, if you’re not reading, you’re not learning. A few of the books I find myself picking up more often than not for either reference or perspective include:
  • What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow by Frank Gallinelli. There is a lot of Real Estate Investment 101 in here, but that’s okay. When I started in the industry, I don’t think there was a book I referenced more frequently than this one.
  • Investing In Real Estate by Gary W. Eldred. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Mr. Eldred took a few of the CCIM course manuals and used them for a framework to write a book, but that’s perfectly fine because this book, though slight in size, leaves no method or metric of real estate investment uncovered.
  • The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller. Written by the founder of Keller-Williams, this book is written for residential realtors, but there are mounds of good information that can be gained by just about anyone in the real estate industry.
  • Right now I’m reading Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss. Simply put, it's an essential read for anyone who negotiates anything (which is pretty much all of us).

When it comes to information about commercial real estate, the internet is your friend, and indeed, the groundswell of information can seem overwhelming but if you start someplace and take the information in bite-sized chunks, you'll begin to see what works and what doesn't. The important thing if you want to get ahead in the field is simply to start somewhere.

Jon Smith, CCIM
RE/MAX Commercial Brokers, Inc.

(504) 838-0001  |  (504) 330-4879

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Rise of the Machines in Real Estate

We are entering an era of intimate intercourse with technology. We are cyborgs (cybernetic organisms). Each of us has a little device in our pocket or on our person with access to millions and millions of pages of information, anything from funny videos to the weather in Mozambique, the ability to record daily life or to find a mate. Even the simplest of minds has the capacity to access more knowledge than the most brilliant of minds. Technology has allowed people to market and reach an audience that would have been price prohibitive in the past and it has and will continue to cause serious disruption with the “old” way of doing things. Multiple companies and even entire industries have been decimated. We must confront the idea that we may be making ourselves obsolete through the sheer ubiquity of technology. The real estate industry is no exception; we have seen huge changes in the last decade or two with the democratization of information.

How do we balance the exponential explosion created by technology and the simple human, who has remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years? How can we assert value in a world where barriers for many industries have either collapsed or been completely rendered meaningless by technology?

Within the real estate industry, we can already see the disruption caused by technology and its double edged sword; on one side we are able to work from anywhere, send listings off around the world, use mapping technologies to better assess areas, research properties, explore zoning and expand our reach far beyond our local areas; and on the other side of the equation many of the same technologies are available to our prospective clients as well. They, too, can leverage the technology and search for properties, market and sell their property, set alerts for areas and do many of the same things that they would be contracting an agent to do. My clients send listings to me as often, if not more often than the other way around.

So, again, have we planted the seeds of our own obsolescence or how, do we as agents create a value proposal that ensures our survival and the survival of the industry at large?

What intangibles do we bring that cannot be replaced?

In my experience, there are always going to be those that just don’t get it. Why am I going to pay an agent for what I can do myself? On the other side, there are those who are more than happy to turn things over to a professional for any number of reasons. If someone does not see the value in contracting an agent, there is little chance that I am going to convince them of the benefits of hiring someone to represent him or her. I think of abstract art and those who say, well I could have painted that. I am not going to convince that person of the value I bring to the equation so it is not worth my time. On the other side I need to realize that what is going to keep a client and ensure my success is going to be earning their trust and instilling the relationship with the knowledge that I will only ever act in their best interest, that I will work tirelessly to find solutions to their problems, and that I will be there for them when they need advice or guidance and that whatever money I earn in the equation, what I return to them goes far beyond any dollar value.

I would never let a robot or my Roomba babysit my kids because I want someone there who is and will be accountable, who I can call or who will call me if the need arises. I want to know that someone I trust is looking out for and caring for them.

There is a tremendous value to human contact and accountability and that is something that cannot be easily replaced. I view and vet all properties as though I am considering them for myself and advise my clients as such. It is very true that you don’t know what you don’t know and if someone has not had that experience or has had a previously poor experience it can be very hard to work against that preconceived notion. We all have unique qualities and traits that we bring to the equation, whether it is our specific knowledge about a market area or esoteric information about tax incentives, or simply our advice and sense of humor (humor being one of the most difficult things to program in to an artificial being).

The machines are on the rise but they have yet to replace real human interactions, a smile and handshake, intuition, the nuances of negotiation and the assessment of decisions based on parameters that go far beyond ones and zeroes.

Mike Mito
RE/MAX Commercial Brokers, Inc.
3331 Severn Ave. Suite 200
Metairie, LA 70002
(504) 838-0001

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017

Many people have heard of drive by lawsuits but don't know much about the term other than the words "extortion" or "blackmail." People hear the stories through friends or on the news, shake their heads and walk away. I will admit, I was one of those people until a transaction I was a part of got caught up in one. Now I am an advocate for reform.

The definition of drive by lawsuit as described by Forbes Magazine in December of 2017 is this: "drive-by lawsuits involve allegedly injured plaintiffs who never actually attempt to patronize a business, but simply drive business to business collecting addresses and notating minor and technical violations of the law. With these pieces of data in hand, they then file hundreds of lawsuits utilizing the same or similar language, and in most cases, merely change the name and address on a boilerplate complaint. Business owners, in most cases small, family-owned enterprises, must choose between paying a shakedown settlement or spending several times that amount to fight it in court."

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress in 1990 and was later amended in 2009. It was the nation's first comprehensive civil rights law focused on addressing the needs of disabled Americans. There are several different parts to the ADA, but the part that gets the most attention from dive by lawsuits is Title III.

Title III deals with public accommodations, i.e., making facilities and websites accessible to those with disabilities. Title III has provided significant benefits to individual with disabilities, and the law is obviously well-intended. However, it has been taken advantage of by many people looking to profit off of hard working business owners. Luckily, a bipartisan solution was passed in February 2018 to help business owners with this problem: the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017.

This bill requires the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice to develop a program to educate state and local governments and property owners on strategies for promoting access to public accommodations for persons with disabilities. The program may include training for professionals to provide guidance of remediation for potential violations of the ADA of 1990.

The bill prohibits civil actions based on the failure to remove an architectural barrier to access into an existing public accommodation unless: (1) the aggrieved person has provided to the owners or operators a written notice specific enough to identify the barrier, and (2) the owners or operators fail to provide the person with a written description outlining improvements that will be made to improve the barrier, or they fail to remove the barrier or to make substantial progress after providing such a description. The aggrieved person's notice must specify the circumstances under which public accommodation access was denied.

The Judicial Conference of the United States must develop a model program to promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve such claims. The model program should include an expedited method for determining relevant facts related to such barriers, as well as steps to resolve accessibility issues before litigation.

HR 620 provides a time period to fix the alleged violation or make substantial progress to resolve it. If the property owner fails, the plaintiff has the right to pursue action that the ADA provides. This legislation addresses an unintended consequence of the ADA that has been allowed to flourish over time, tarnishing an otherwise landmark, life-changing law.

The ADA is one of the most important civil rights laws of our time and I believe HR 620 will have positive changes made to assist the disabled community and benefit society as a whole.

Matt Eaton, CCIM
RE/MAX Commercial Brokers, Inc.
(504) 838-0001

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New Orleans Celebrates Its Tricentennial and Relationship with China

To celebrate the New Orleans tricentennial anniversary and the Chinese New Year, we were honored to have the Hubei Peking Opera perform here in New Orleans at Harrah's Theatre last month. Sponsored by the Houston Chinese Consulate and the New Orleans Tricentennial Committee (and co-sponsored by the Asian Chamber of Louisiana, Harrah's Casino and Hotel and event chair Lucy Chun), it was a very successful event. The event was for the cultural exchange between China and the city of New Orleans, as well as to promote tourism and friendship between the two locales.

Over the years, the city started the Pilot Immigration Investigator Program and today we have the EBS Investment Program for investors with the goal of obtaining green cards; 85% of these investors are from China.

The most recent Chinese investment in our great state is Yuhuang Chemical, which is building a $1.8 billion chemical plant in St. James Parish (you can read more about this in our last blog post) - this has resulted in the creation of many direct and indirect jobs. Wanhua Chemical is also looking for a site to build a $1.12 billion chemical plant.

These are just a few examples of Chinese investments in Louisiana to help further create commerce and economic development. Over the next 50 years, I predict more and more Chinese investors coming to New Orleans to settle down with their families. I love the city of New Orleans and cannot wait to see what the rest of its tricentennial year brings us.

Lucy Chun specializes in shopping centers, restaurants, multi family, land, hotels and motels. She has been very successful in different sectors of real estate. She is an expert in public relations and client representation.

Lucy can be reached at or at (504) 606-7788.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Big News for the Big Easy

I recently attended a presentation by Dr. Loren C. Scott to the GNO, Inc. Investor Group on the proposed industrial expansion of oil prices impacting the New Orleans region.

An amazing industrial boom is coming our way - and one that's highly concentrated geographically. From Baton Rouge to New Orleans alone, $53.2 billion is expected to come in - that's 50x better than in other southeastern states!

Of the $170.4 billion of state of Louisiana projects predicted by the GRIMA survey, the New Orleans MSA expects to see $37.3 billion, with $11 billion already underway and $26.3 billion at the FEED stage. Yuhuang Chemical leads the pack with $1.85 billion worth of industrial construction either completed or underway. Other big spenders include Monsanto ($975 mm), Entergy ($869 mm), Dyno Noble ($850 mm) and more. There's a lot of potential industrial construction on the line as well - Formosa Plastics ($9.4 billion), Venture Global LNG ($8.5 billion), IGP Methanol ($3.6 billion), etc.

In 2020, IGP Methanol will open a $3.6 billion 4-plant methanol facility at Myrtle Grove in Plaquemines Parish, which will bring over 300 jobs to the area. Venture Global LNG's project at the Port of Plaquemines will bring in 220+ jobs with an average wage of $80,000; the Port of New Orleans is hoping for a similar project in St. Bernard as well.

In New Orleans, DXC Technology's new digital transformation center plans to hire 300 IT & business enterprise professionals in 2018, ramping up to 2,000 over the next five years. Chevron is also expanding operations in Covington, and will employ about 550 by the end of 2018, a figure higher than ever before.

I am excited to see all of this development as more industry equals more jobs, and more jobs equals a stronger economy. Bring on 2018!

Richard Juge, CCIM, SIOR
Owner | Broker
RE/MAX Commercial Brokers, Inc.
(504) 838-0001

Friday, February 2, 2018

Starting Your Own Business: How to Get Ahead of the Game

You’ve been putting in the hours developing a business plan for your fledgling business, and now you’re ready to make your next move - to find a location to sell your product. Making this step out into the business market can be flooded with obstacles, and you want to get ahead of the game. What are the things you need to know before leasing a building and making sure your new business will be a success?

Location is everything! Finding the right location is the key to making your business thrive - there are plenty of properties on the market but not everything is right for you. Make sure you know your demographics for your business. This will help you narrow down which part of town you want to be in. A commercial agent has access to multiple platforms to help you with this process.

Zoning - will this site work? So you found a location that you think may work but the previous tenants business differed vastly from your concept. What does this mean? You’re going to want to get ahead of zoning before entering a lease. Take a trip to your local zoning board. You may find that there can be some major hurdles here that could end up being a burden on your pocketbook. The zoning department should be able to give you more guidance should a change of use be necessary.

Who’s going to pay for that? In commercial real estate, most buildings that have had previous tenants will have a little more wear and tear on them than brand new construction. Problems arise - the HVAC system is out of date, the electrical in the building needs work, the interior layout of the building needs to be demolished. Who is responsible for that? Before entering a lease, negotiate these terms with the landlord. There can be a lot of hidden costs in leasing a space and you don’t want to be the one holding the bill at the end. Bringing in outside help of a contractor can help you grasp what kind of costs you will be looking at; this will help as a negotiating tool when working with the landlord.  

Insurance? Permits? Depending on the business, use of the building, or landlord requirements, there can be a lot of work to do regarding obtaining the proper insurance and permits. Make sure you shop around! Your business will be responsible for liability insurance and possibly more. Do your due diligence on researching insurance policies and make sure you find the right one. Building permits may be required depending on what kind of work needs to be done. Know that this takes time and may push back an anticipated opening date.

All this being said, the most important thing you can do is work with a commercial realtor. They will give you guidance and will work with you to get you the best deal on your new location. Locate an agent who has a niche for your business model and let them do the heavy lifting for you regarding your new lease.

With this valuable information you'll have a head start on getting your new business off the ground. Know that there will always be unseen obstacles to overcome and keep pushing forward. The world looks forward to seeing you succeed in 2018!

Cameron Lombardo is a commercial realtor at RE/MAX Commercial Brokers, Inc. in Metairie, LA. He has an expertise in retail and office leasing and sales. Contact him today about any real estate needs you may have!

Follow him on Facebook @CameronLombardoRealtor