Commercial Real Estate Blog by Madison

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Real Estate Trends

Water, Water Everywhere… The Complex Issues of Tidelands

By: Michael Donini, Esq., Senior Commercial Counsel, Madison Title Agency

Global warming, melting polar ice caps and super storms are just a few of the news bylines that we hear about on a daily basis. Tidal waters are especially complex. The general rule is that all lands below the mean high tide line are subject to ownership by the state, which holds them in trust for the people of the state. Since tidelands are held by the state, this can represent a challenge in a real estate transaction which involves tidelands. An unaddressed tidelands claim will be a cloud on the property owner’s title.

A wise practitioner would be prudent to recognize the impact of water and water rights on real estate and take the necessary steps to address those issues. Continue reading

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What are the Obligations of an Insured who Files a Title Insurance Claim?

By: Debra Smith, Esq., Associate General Counsel, Madison Title Agency

A recent Connecticut case, Chicago Title Ins. Co. v. Bristol Heights Associates, LLC, 142 Conn. App. 390, 70 A.3d 74 (Conn. App. 2013), cert. den. 309 Conn. 309, 68 A.3d 662 (Conn. June 20, 2013), underscores the importance of understanding your title policy when you file a claim with your title company. In this case, Bristol Heights Associates, LLC (“Bristol”) filed a claim for unpaid taxes covering a period prior to the date it acquired title to the property. These taxes were missed by the title company. The individual that sold the property to Bristol became a member of Bristol at the time of the conveyance. There were questions as to whether seller’s knowledge of the taxes could be imputed to Bristol, since the seller became a member of Bristol. Continue reading

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Shopping Malls Get a Facelift and Find Savings by Accelerating Depreciation

By: Eli Loebenberg, CPA, CEO, Madison SPECS

Popular media is full of gloom and doom predictions regarding the death of the shopping mall, citing the fact that 400 shopping malls in the US have been repositioned or closed in the past decade, and no new shopping malls have been completed since 2009. However, the shifting landscape of retail markets does not signal the death of the shopping mall. Rather, the traditional shopping mall is experiencing an evolution as investors and developers work to meet the changing needs of the next generation of shoppers.

There are many influences which are changing the shape and direction of the traditional American shopping mall. Competition among regular retailers is stiffer than ever, as online shopping and new delivery channels erode sales for “brick-and-mortar” stores. As a result, many department store anchors have disappeared due to bankruptcies and consolidations. And, consequently, the focus of the shopping mall industry has shifted. The success of today’s shopping mall depends on the quality and character of its public environment, as much if not more than the quality of its shopping. The mall has become a gathering place, a location where people interact comfortably and spend time with others. In essence, its become the social hub for physically connecting and interacting with others.

While new construction has stalled, developers are rehabilitating and repositioning existing mall sites across the country. Renovating an aging mall is a tremendous investment. Thankfully, the IRS does give direction in the classification and examination of improvement costs, in order to recover costs through depreciation of tangible property. Continue reading

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The Importance of Protecting Leasehold Ownership Interests

By: Keren Peters Atkinson, Chief Marketing Officer, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

There are several types of ownership interest in real estate. While the most common is fee simple interest, leasehold interest is also seen often in certain situations and states and with certain types of property. Each type of ownership interest has its benefits and purposes. However, one thing they share in common is a need to protect the purchaser’s investment in the property. Here is why it’s important to protect an investment, regardless of whether the ownership is fee simple or leasehold.

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Creative Lease Agreements: Original Ways Property Owners Deal with Vacancies

By: Danny Wechsler, Regional Business Director, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

Despite signs of a recovering economy, employers are hesitant to increase office space in this job market. The current vacancy rate in commercial office space is reflecting this reality. According to a recent report released by real estate data firm Reis, Inc., the office vacancy rate for the second quarter of 2014 was at 16.8%, just a slight decrease from the post recession rate of 17.6% in 2010.

As a result, landlords and managers of commercial office space are seeking and finding creative avenues to fill vacancies. For example, current market conditions are allowing start-ups and small businesses to rent space in commercial office buildings, where they previously would not have gotten a lease. While landlords may prefer an established tenant with long-term stability, in today’s market, they often don’t have a choice and are forced to be less choosy.

But there are other steps a landlord can take to preserve his investment while filling vacancies. Continue reading

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The Primary Difference between a Prescriptive Easement and Adverse Possession is the Intent

By: Terence Guerriere, Esq., Senior Vice President, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

Have you ever pulled up to a shopping center to run a quick errand, and discovered that there is nowhere to park? Rather than give up on the idea of sesame chicken, did you park your car in the connecting shopping center next door, and then walked over to pick up your Chinese takeout? If so, you took advantage of a prescriptive easement.

It is very commonplace in suburban America to find parking lots that run into each other, effectively allowing a driver to move from one shopping center to another without needing to use the nearby road.
What is less common is the understanding of the difference between prescriptive easements and adverse possession. Continue reading

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Hot Definitions – Trending Words Every Real Estate Professional Should Know

By: Lainie Goldberg, Director of Education

As societies evolve, language and word usage changes to reflect new trends and the reality of our ever-changing world. Did anyone know what carbon footprint or best practices meant before the 1990s? Did the terms crowd funding or tweeting even exist a decade ago? New words and phrases often help to define a generation, a society, or a movement. Staying current of the new lingo and phrases in real estate helps professionals stay up-to-date.

The Trusted Advisor brings you three new terms to add to your real estate vocabulary portfolio. Use them now in day-to-day conversation, or stow them away for your next meeting with a new client or business prospect. Knowledge and usage of these new words and phrases will grow your real estate expertise and keep you on the cutting-edge of industry jargon. Continue reading

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Increase Commercial Real Estate ROI by Aggressively Managing Costs

How Many Property Managers Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb? Three Ways to Increase the ROI of Commercial Real Estate by Aggressively Managing Costs
By: Daniel Kasten, CPA, Chief Financial Officer, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

In reviewing the line items for a commercial property, costs are divided into two categories: non-controllable and controllable. Non-controllable costs are those items which usually remain fixed, such as, taxes, insurances or utilities. Short of an appeal, real estate taxes remain at a fixed percentage. If you shop around, you can try to lower your insurance rates, while utilities are billed by the standard fees.

Most controllable costs can be adjusted to some degree. One category of controllable costs which is sometimes overlooked is payroll. Labor is the one category with the highest costs and the highest benefits. Whether the owner manages the property himself or uses a property management company, there are a number of variables which can affect the bottom line within the category of payroll and HR.

The greatest deterrent to saving money in property management is passivity. Hands-off managers who are satisfied with the status quo will not investigate their current methods and systems to look for ways to trim costs.

It is worthwhile to conduct a comprehensive review of the controllable costs of salaries and benefits. A savvy property owner should analyze the expenses accumulated under payroll, in order discover ways to cut costs or gain value from the money invested in HR. A knowledgeable property owner or manager who wants to trim payroll expenses can try a few of these tips.
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Air for Sale: Transferring Excess Development Rights is Big Business

By: James Lee, Esq., Senior Commercial Counsel, Madison Title Agency

Real estate developers in New York City seeking to construct a brand new building or to expand on their existing building confront zoning constraints on the size of the buildings that may be built on a particular piece of land. Faced with this zoning limitation, these real estate developers sometimes turn to the adjoining landowners for excess development rights to maximize what they can build on their site. The transfer of excess development rights have allowed NYC developers to build towering residences with enhanced views.

The sale and purchase of these developments rights have become a very big business, particularly in Manhattan. Thanks to a recent feeding frenzy, prices have skyrocketed for these development rights. In the theater district in Manhattan, development rights have sold for $409 per square foot and every indication points to the price of development rights increasing even higher. Continue reading

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Potential Pitfalls in DIY Deals in Real Estate

By Elliot Zaks, Principal, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services

Do-it-yourself projects may be a worthy endeavor for a handy homeowner refinishing a deck or a green thumbed gardener installing a herbaceous border. However, in the complex world of real estate transactions, DIY measures may backfire. Buyers seeking to cut costs with DIY methods can miss out on some vital resources.

The residential home market is experiencing a shift in attitudes. Rising interest rates and stiff credit requirements are causing a slow down in residential mortgage lending, as buyers struggle to get home loans. Rather than submit to the strict rules of the banks and creditors, many home buyers are turning to all cash deals. While cash buyers have the advantage of evading lender’s regulations, they should be careful not to forego essential industry safeguards. Continue reading

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