Richard Hurd was a rock’n’roller in his youth. For nearly four decades, he has maintained a steady groove in the real estate business
Friday, May 10, 2013 7:00 AM
HURDS in the news: Low-key developer Richard Hurd made news recently in a West Des Moines controversy over his plan to add a Dick’s Sporting Goods store across from the Jordan Creek Mall. Mall owners won’t give permission for Hurd to build a connector road across their property. However, the City of West Des Moines won’t approve a setback variance for a hotel Jordan Creek wants on its property unless it allows the connector street to be built. Here’s a look at the family business:
Richard Hurd is a low-key real estate professional and developer who is unlikely to back down against competitors with a bigger reputation.
He entered the real estate business in a simple fashion, buying, rebuilding and selling houses just to make ends meet and raise a family.
Today, his two sons Richie and Daniel share in the business as brokers and new generation social media masters. His daughter, Kristin, works on business development.
They work together in a West Des Moines building that could easily pass for just another industrial building on the southern jaunt of Fuller Road. Tidy, simple and plain, the building belies the thriving Hurd family business inside. It is a business that has lured to Greater Des Moines a range of retailers that have proven to be as steady and reliable as the Hurd real estate operation.
It is not flamboyant, but Hurd Real Estate Services Inc. has stood against swings in the economy by adopting a simple plan to pursue only real estate deals that fall within a certain comfort zone. Properties are acquired and developed primarily on a build-to-suit basis for tenants that provide dependable income.
The firm relies on its own capital, so it can react to investment opportunities. It does not buy with the need to sell in a hurry. The brokerage side of the operation is limited. There are no fees to deal with. The properties produce the capital.
“We really don’t run on the same fuel that others do,” said Richard Hurd, who launched the business in 1981 after getting his start in real estate a decade earlier by buying “old beat-up FHA and repo houses,” rehabbing them and putting them back on the market.
He has followed a philosophy of “improving the quality of what you are working on” ever since.
That part of his story intrigues son Richie, who joined the firm in 2008 after learning the ropes of the real estate business with Sperry Van Ness Corp. in Phoenix. Youngest son Daniel joined the firm in 2012.
“His story is like a Hollywood movie,” Richie said of his dad.
It also is a story that has left an impression with others in the Greater Des Moines real estate industry.
“He knows every facet of the industry extremely well and that’s why he can operate at such a high level,” said Bob Stewart, a commercial real estate veteran.
If nothing else, it is the story about the ability to grind it out, much as Richard did as a college student when he would play guitar five nights a week in rock bands to make ends meet. Oh yes, the boys play guitar, too, but they say dad overwhelms their talents.
Richard entered real estate at age 20, when he bought his first repossessed house in 1973. Eventually, he bought apartments and duplexes. When interest rates spiked in the late 1970s, he wound up selling virtually everything.
He learned a lesson. “You got to be a little careful as far as the amount of speculation projects that you do,” he said in a 2009 Business Record story.
Richard began buying commercial properties after forming his company in 1981. He kept the company going while working as manager of Iowa Commercial Realty, then joining what is now called CBRE/Hubbell Commercial, which he left in 2007.
Selling properties to prepare for other projects has been a common theme.
When the retail market was booming around 2005, Richard began selling off some of the shopping centers he had acquired, including Westown Shopping Center at Interstate 235 and 22nd Street in West Des Moines, which was purchased by a Los Angeles-based company for $15.625 million, according property records. He originally bought that property for $9.15 million in 2001.
The selloffs provided capital for investments, including the purchase of nearly 30 acres on the southwest corner of Jordan Creek Town Center, which is now the location of a Lowe’s home improvement store and, to the north, the future home of a Dick’s Sporting Goods.
It also prepared the company to survive the recession in a capital position to make additional acquisitions. Late last year, the company acquired nearly 40 acres of land at Hickman and Alice’s roads in Waukee, an area that is anticipated to boom with new projects in coming years.
Strong tenants helped the company through the recession.
“2008 was pretty dramatic for everybody,” Richard said. “We were trying to figure out where the financial floor was going to be. That type of event is going to send shockwaves through every business. It worked out to be fine, but the uncertainty was dramatic.”
On the other hand, occupancy rates at Hurd properties in Greater Des Moines remained at 100 percent through the recession and they stood at 98 percent in eight markets across the country where the company does business, including Phoenix and Las Vegas.
“Fortunately, through the years we have worked with a lot of good companies,” Richard said.
Those companies include Walgreens Co., Arby’s, Quick Trip, Kum & Go LC and others – all providing fundamental services.
Retailers who carried “discretionary spending products” have not fared so well, Richard said.
Growth is being sparked by having Richie and Daniel in the business, Richard said.
When Richie arrived in 2008, he went to work on the company website, marketing the company’s real estate portfolio and other duties such as acquisitions, financial analysis, banking relations, day-to-day property management and on-site construction management.
Daniel has expanded the company’s Internet presence to social media. You can track the company’s every move from its Twitter feed.
Still, some aspects of the business plan play like an old-time melody.
“We focus on what we feel we have a good understanding of,” Richard said. “If there is no comfort level, then we are not in the market.”
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