Commercial real estate specialists Linda Gibbs and Tim Sharpe have turned more than a few large deals on behalf of CBRE/Hubbell Commercial, but it was a cold call from a member of their team that resulted in the sale of a Cedar Rapids apartment complex that landed them the "transaction of the year" award during the recent Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association annual conference.
Gibbs and Sharpe manage the CBRE Private Capital Group practice for the state of Iowa, specializing in the acquisition and disposition of investment properties.
They use a variety of tools to match investors with properties, but in the case of the sale of Windsor on the River, they relied on a sales technique that is often derided by contemporary marketing gurus.
Ryan Jensen, a member of their team, was aware of the property and called the owner to find out whether there was any interest in selling the 424-unit class A complex.
Sure, was the reply. But there was a hitch. The owner didn't want the property advertised on the open market.
Gibbs and Sharpe have the names of 150,000 potential investors at their command. After a few phone calls, they located a California real estate investment trust that was interested in making a deal.
Cold calling might not be the norm, "but every now and then it works out fine," Sharpe said. Given the team's access to thousands of investors, a better term for the sales method might by "lukewarm calling."
The list of investors available to Gibbs and Sharpe can be categorized by the types of properties they prefer, as well as the areas of the country where they are most interested in spending their money.
Iowa and the Midwest are prime targets for investors from the coasts because the area offers better profit margins. Properties can be bought for less money, creating the opportunity for better returns.
In addition, Greater Des Moines offers a sense of security to investors because of its relatively healthy economy with low unemployment and fairly robust hiring.
"This market is boring, and that's a good thing, given the volatility in other markets," Shape said.
Gibbs said 95 percent of their transactions are with out-of-state investors.
Multifamily is all the rage right now, with medical office and net-lease properties popular as well. The office market is "tough," Gibbs said, and there is spotty demand for strip shopping centers. For example, a center near Jordan Creek Town Center sold for $11.9 million in 2006 to a New York investor. The property eventually went back to the lender. Gibbs and Sharpe sold it for $4.7 million in cash.
Sharpe expects better times ahead, with a caution.
"Moving forward, things are looking good, but there is still a lot of uncertainty with the economy, elections, health care, interest rates," he said. "Once it becomes clear on how things are going to work, things are going to move forward in a pace that is going to be measurable."