By: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read February 2020 — Orlando’s real-estate scene has witnessed major changes as people look more for destination experiences and after Amazon changed the rules of retail. While some regions within Orlando are running out of development land, Patrick Mahoney, principal, president and CEO of NAI Realvest, is convinced there is still room for growth.
How has real estate demand evolved in Orlando?
The changes in retail are the talk of the town. We work with Planet Fitness among several other retailers that are marketed as destinations. You still see the national value tendency with examples like HomeGoods and T.J.Maxx. Similar businesses are still coming in and leasing space. Forever 21’s bankruptcy filing had more to do with overleverage. It was more about debt rather than retail. There are certain malls, such as Fashion Square Mall, where a complete redo is scheduled. In these cases, the anchor tenants are likely not going to stay, to the benefit of a more multifamily, mixed-used project. The other extreme is the strip malls: small clothiers that focus primarily on making sure they are in the right location. Park Avenue and Winter Garden are good examples of that. An increasing number of these small boutique clothiers are going to have a small store presence but will start selling online.
What advice would you give small retailers to thrive in this market?
It boils down to a two-pronged approach. First, demographics. Remain aware of changes within the demographics around their location and adapt to those changes. Second, plan the required resources ahead of time to weather such changes and make the best use of the available land and redevelop the property.
What primary challenges is your business facing?
The first thing that comes to mind is competition. There is virtually no barrier to entry when it comes to obtaining a real estate license. The spectrum goes from a residential broker dipping its pen in commercial while working from home with no overhead, to groups like us with lots of overhead and a fully-staffed office, and finally the multibillion-dollar competitors that we compete with, such as CBRE. To maintain a sharp edge, we engage in a continuous improvement process, embracing new technology. We invest in the latest software and research tools. As members of NAI Global, we can compete with multibillion-dollar real estate companies on either a national or global stage. Because we are locally owned, we have greater local knowledge and flexibility in the marketplace than our large competitors do. We have the best of both worlds: being able to compete with either the big and small real estate firms.
Financing also remains an issue. Coming out of the last recession we learned who to approach, depending on the property type and what we are trying to accomplish. Increasingly, we are turning to private rather than bank debt. Banks usually are on the fence over lending on land.
Manpower is another challenge. I would consider Orlando a zero percent unemployment market. Whether it is salespeople, administrative help or maintenance engineers and property management, finding talent is difficult.
What is your outlook on commercial real estate in Orlando?
We remain quite bullish about the market, particularly Florida and Central Florida. We are positive that 2020 will be another solid year as there are no variables telling us otherwise. Recruiting is at the top of our list. Our operational focus will remain centered on delivering excellence for our clients, our brokers and property owners through continual improvements. We do not skimp on our resources and invest in the best software available to manage our properties, such as Yardi. We are implementing the tip of the iceberg. We will also continue to guarantee we are as financially secure as possible through solvent debt levels.
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