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Press, Real Estate
Lenders Follow Investors to Smaller Markets

Investors are returning to smaller cities such as Provo, Utah and Clarksville, Ind. in search of fresh opportunities and higher yields. And they are pulling lenders along with them.


Debt and equity financing available for deals in tertiary markets is far from free flowing. Yet there is a growing pool of lenders willing to do those deals.


“The market is opening up. It is not as open as financing in the core markets, but it is better than it was three years ago,” says Andrew Kirsh, co-managing partner and head of the real estate practice for Sklar Kirsh LLP, a Los-Angeles-based law firm. “There are a lot of options for a borrower and an operator.”


Capital sources pulled back from tertiary markets in the wake of the economic downturn. There was a good deal of concern in the lending community that the economy would not bounce back nearly as quickly in the markets that didn’t have a broad employment base and foreseeable growth. So lenders were essentially “redlining” the smaller areas, notes Jeff Hudson, CEO of George Elkins Mortgage Banking Co. in Los Angeles. “A number of lenders even said: ‘don’t bring us anything with an MSA less than 50,000 or 100,000 people,’” he adds.


Now many lenders are reversing those decisions as the economy improves and they are facing more competition in primary and secondary markets and a desire to capture higher yields. That is not to say that lenders are as eager to finance a property in Athens, Ga. as they are to finance a property in Newport Beach, Calif.


“They will look at their underwriting under different parameters and evaluate the trends with more depth. But at the end of the day, they will make loans,” says Hudson.

George Elkins has recently arranged financing on transactions in Clarksville, Ind.; Rapid City, S.D.; and Prescott, Ariz.


The pioneers


Lenders across the board, including banks, life companies, government agencies, CMBS and non-conventional lenders and funds, are all dipping their toes back into tertiary markets—at least to some degree. That being said, drill down into those different groups and the list of who is actually active in tertiary markets remains very selective. Some lenders are pulled into tertiary markets solely by relationships with existing borrowers. In the case of banks, for example, lending in tertiary markets is largely dominated by local and regional operators versus the nationals.


The majority of lenders have seen budgets increase in 2014, meaning they have more capital to place. CMBS lenders in particular seem to have an insatiable appetite to do new deals, largely because there is a more robust market of B piece buyers, notes Hudson. George Elkins recently helped to arrange $7 million in CMBS financing for a retail project in Tupelo, Miss. that includes tenants such as TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby and Office Max. Most CMBS lenders won’t go into extremely small markets, but they are becoming more aggressive and are willing to do deals in markets upwards of 50,000 people if there are strong credit tenants and a good predictability of cash flow, he says.


However, tertiary markets remain more challenging than primary or secondary cities. Lender options are limited and financing rates are higher compared to deals in core markets. Leverage in these tertiary markets is often more conservative than leverage in the core markets. Deals also are getting more scrutiny as lenders look to get comfortable with the risks they are taking.


Karlin Real Estate is going where the opportunities are and it just so happens that some of those opportunities are surfacing in smaller cities such as Jackson, Wyo. and Crown Point, Ind. “We recognize inherently that there is more risk in these secondary and tertiary markets where you may have less macro demand,” says Larry Grantham, a managing director at Karlin Real Estate in Los Angeles. But at this point in the cycle, Karlin is willing to trade the risk for the higher returns that the secondary and tertiary cities offer in an improving economy.


Karlin has invested over $1 billion in the past few years in both equity and debt, providing senior and mezzanine bridge debt to borrowers who are buying transitional assets.


“It is so competitive in these primary markets that investors like us and others are struggling with whether or not we are getting paid appropriately for the risk we are taking,” says Grantham. “That’s where you start to get a little more comfortable in some of these secondary and tertiary markets.”

Press, Real Estate
Whitley House in Hollywood converted to micro-apartments and sold.

In Hollywood, a 1920s hotel-turnedapartment-building called the Whitley House has been sold for nearly $15 million.


The six-story building at 1963 N. Cahuenga Blvd. has 100 apartments, most of which are considered “micro-units” because they are about 250 square feet in size. The Whitley House was sold by Vista Investment Group, which acquired it in a lender-facilitated sale in 2010.


The property had been in the early stages of a major renovation that stalled during the recent economic downturn and was in a general state of disrepair, the seller said.


The building’s location in the midst of Hollywood and its original design as a hotel made it a candidate to be turned into a micro-unit property, according to Vista President Jonathan Barach.


HOME PRICES: Southland market stagnant in February


“There certainly is a market for these micro-units in high-density cities like Manhattan, San Francisco and parts of L.A. like Hollywood and the Westside,” Barach said. “It allows renters access to well designed, well-located apartment buildings at a price point not otherwise available.”


Mico-units typically appeal to renters who are young singles or couples who that cannot afford the rent that larger units in the same area command.


“Vista created tremendous value in its ability to take a tired asset with great bones and modernize it for the needs of younger renters who are willing to give up space to be in the middle of the action,” said attorney Andrew Kirsh of Sklar Kirsh, who represents Vista Investment Group.


The off-market transaction was brokered by Darin Beebower of Madison Partners.


Vista said the buyer was a private investor.

Press, Real Estate
Sklar Kirsh advises buyer in $15.75 million Koreatown purchase

Sklar Kirsh LLP represented GKT-Wilshire-CA LLC in its $15.75 million purchase of The Shops at Mercury located at 3800 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles.


Los Angeles-based of counsel Albert C. Valencia led the Sklar Kirsh team, which included partner Mark C. Nicoletti, associate Michael J. Floryan and real estate specialist Tina A. Leggbellossi. The buyer, GKT-Wilshire-CA, is a subsidiary of Texas-based real estate and property owner USA Gateway Inc.


Three individuals worked together to operate as the seller in the deal. Moo Kwon, Myoung Kwon and Hee Shung Lee were advised by lawyers from different firms. Their broker was Eric P. Wohl of Hanley Investment Group.


The 23,191 square-foot property houses a Wells Fargo branch as well as retail shops including T-Mobile, and the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It’s located across the street from the Pellissier Building and Wiltern Theatre in the city’s Koreatown district.


The property sits below a 238-unit residential condominium complex.


-David Ruiz

Press, Real Estate
The Rise of Playa Vista

Bisnow’s Silicon Beach: The Rise of Playa Vista, drew a record 500 last week to hear two extraordinary panels discuss this burgeoning enclave. Amazingly they came in business suits, not bathing suits.


Lincoln Property hosted our event at its about-to-be revolutionized building, Latitude 34, in the heart of where Howard Hughes used to hang out. Built as a spec development in 2009, it’s undergoing a $10M makeover to become the latest statement for the creative workforce. Think individual entryways even to the upper floors, indoor/outdoor connections, patios, a warmer, more textured environment, and a green wall on the parking structure, according to Gensler’s Michael White. (They could make the green wall a green screen so employees can shoot YouTube videos there.)


Moderator Andrew Kirsh, one of the founding partners of law firm Sklar Kirsh, has been heavily involved repping clients in Playa Vista and throughout Silicon Beach, working with groups like Pacshore Partners.

Press, Real Estate
Sklar Kirsh on LA Times

A subsidiary of Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. has sold the Serrano Apartment Homes in West Covina to BAG Investments of Beverly Hills for $29.4 million.


Built in 1959, the Serrano has nine two-story garden-style buildings housing 195 two-bedroom, one-bath units. The complex, which is on a nine-acre site at 1513 W. San Bernardino Road, also includes two pools, basketball courts, a picnic area and laundry facility.


Lehman acquired the property in September 2012 through foreclosure proceedings, according to Andrew Kirsh, an attorney who helped represent Lehman in the transaction.


“Lenders who elected not to sell properties that they foreclosed on during the last recession are now benefitting from the spike in pricing over the last 12 to 18 months,” Kirsh said. “In some cases, they are able to sell their assets at or above their original loan balances.”


Real estate broker Marc Renard of Cushman & Wakefield represented both the buyer and seller in the transaction.

Press, Real Estate
107-Unit Apartment Portfolio in LA’s Koreatown Sells for $8.8 Mil

Private investors purchased a three-building, 107 unit multifamily portfolio located in the Koreatown submarket of Los Angeles for $8.8 mil ($82k/unit). The properties, sold by Vista Investment Group LLC, traded in a single transaction that involved the buyer assuming the existing first trust deeds of the properties and adding supplemental debt to the loan balance.


The three properties range in size from 27 to 40 units and are all located within one block of each other at 407, 530 and 531 South Kenmore Ave. The properties are brick colonial revival buildings built in the 1920s and offer a desirable unit mix across the portfolio (four bachelor, 82 studio and 21 one?bedroom apartment units).


The seller, who acquired the portfolio in late 2009, felt that the rebounding multi?family investment market presented an opportune time to divest of the assets. The new owner plans to invest significant capital into the unit interiors, the building’s mechanical systems, and the common areas to capture higher rents in the vastly improved Koreatown submarket.


Darin Beebower, a partner at Madison Partners, represented both the buyer, investment entities controlled by Philip Miller and Jeremy Miller, and the seller in the transaction. Beebower previously arranged another transaction between the same parties in 2012.


“This transaction required a tremendous amount of coordination between the parties and counsel as it involved an assumption of a Fannie Mae loan,” said attorney Andrew Kirsh, co-founding partner of Sklar Kirsh LLP, who advised the seller on the transaction. “This is a win-win deal for both parties as the buyer is getting three great properties in a tight market and Vista is seeing the benefit of four years of repositioning the assets.”

Press, Corporate
Sklar Kirsh brings on corporate attorney from Loeb & Loeb

Sklar Kirsh LLP has added corporate partner Jennifer L. Borow to its Century City office. Borow, who comes from Loeb & Loeb LLP, brings experience in the structuring and negotiation of complex transactions, the capitalization and governance of business entities, and the drafting of business contracts for clients’ businesses, real estate holdings and other investment assets. Borow’s hire is part of the boutique’s quick expansion since it opened earlier this year.

Sklar Kirsh Hires Loeb & Loeb Corporate Partner Borow

Corporate law attorney Jennifer L. Borow, previously a partner in the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb LLP, joined Sklar Kirsh LLP as a partner in the corporate law practice.


Borow, ailment who has 25 years of experience, focuses on counseling wealthy individuals and family offices on their closely held businesses, real estate holdings and other assets, the firm said.


She has experience in the acquisition and disposition of business assets; the formation, capitalization and governance of joint ventures, partnerships, limited liability companies and other business entities; and the structuring and negotiation of business contracts.


“After spending my entire career with large, institutional law firms, it is exciting to join a boutique law firm like Sklar Kirsh and be part of its success,” Borow said in a statement. “I know and have worked with many of the attorneys here, and have always been impressed with their commitment, energy and creative problem solving.”


Sklar Kirsh is a Los Angeles-based corporate and real estate transactional law firm founded in February by Jeffrey A. Sklar and Andrew T. Kirsh. The firm has 14 attorneys.

Press, Real Estate
Sklar Kirsh, Rentschler Tursi guide $9M loan

Sklar Kirsh LLP represented Karlin Real Estate Lending in its $9.2 million bridge loan to Centers Dynamic Inc. for the acquisition of the vacant 45, 650-square-foot Albertsons on Walnut Avenue in Ontario and debt refinance of space at Grove Plaza in the Inland Empire. Centers Dynamic had counsel from Rentschler Tursi LLP. Sklar Kirsh founding partner Andrew T. Kirsh and of counsel Mark C. Nicoletti represented Karlin. Judith J. Rentschler, a partner at San Mateo-based Rentschler Tursi, represented Centers Dynamic.

Sklar Kirsh Moves to 10,000 SF Office

LOS ANGELES-Corporate and real estate transactional law firm Sklar Kirsh LLC has signed a lease for a 10,000-square-foot office space at 1880 Century Park East, GlobeSt.com learns exclusively. The long-term lease is valued at more than $4 million, and is close to the firm’s former location at 1875 Century Park East.


“This was a very smooth lease transaction,” says Andrew T. Kirsh, Sklar Kirsh co-founding partner and real estate department chair. Kirsh negotiated the lease on behalf of his law firm. “I’ve handled many lease transactions for clients, and I was impressed with the in-house leasing team and their cooperation throughout the leasing process.”


Since launching in February of this year, the firm has grown to 11 attorneys, and needed a larger space to accommodate the growth. The new space, occupying half of the third floor, will also accommodate the firm’s estimated future growth, which includes hiring an additional four attorneys by mid-2014.


Held Properties owns the 15-story, class-A building, which currently has a 97% occupancy. “They did everything they could to address our needs. It is not surprising that their tenants are very satisfied in their buildings,” says Kirsh.


Held Properties’ high occupancy is no surprise. Century City is a hotbed for class-A office space, but does not offer many residential options. Earlier this year, California Landmark Group purchased the last undeveloped parcel of land for $13 million, which included an option to build 10, 5,000-square-foot homes. The homes will offer employees in the area residential options.

  • “When I started Pacific Intelligence I wanted it all - concierge service you can only get from a boutique, big firm attention to detail, and a relationship constantly adapted to my stage of the growth cycle. Sklar Kirsh is the ideal law firm for LA’s entrepreneurs.”

    — Jack Weiss, Principal, Pacific Intelligence & Cyber and former Los Angeles City Councilman

This testimonial does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.