Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Interview with Trimark Properties, Gainesville Real Estate Developer

(This is a sponsored post...)

Matthew Luedecke - Commerical Real Estate Manager at Trimark Properties

I’ve learned a lot about real estate investment in the last few years, but it’s always helpful to speak with other people who are working in the field. I recently sat down with Matthew Luedecke, Commercial Real Estate Manager at Trimark Properties, and spoke with him about his real estate career and how he got started in the business. He also shared some important advice that I thought would be helpful for my readers.

Thank you for doing this, Matthew.
Thank you! I’ve been looking forward to this interview for weeks.

Well, let’s jump right in. How did you get into the real estate business?
I started as a leasing agent in the multifamily division at Trimark Properties in Gainesville, Florida. I worked part-time while I was in college, primarily renting luxury apartments in Gainesville like Sabal Palms and Estates at Sorority Row to students attending the University of Florida. Working with students to find housing was fast paced, and at Trimark, I had the advantage of working directly with the development team and the marketing team, so I was exposed to multiple sides of the business. The owners took me under their wing and taught me about the financial side of the business as well. It was a great start for my career.

Do you think that leasing is a good way for someone to learn about the real estate development and investment?
I don’t think that it would be helpful for everyone, since most leasing offices aren’t set up the way that Trimark is. Most leasing agents work for a single apartment complex that is separate from the company’s corporate office. In that way, they are really limited. They aren’t trained on development or marketing, they don’t develop strong sales tools, they aren’t given a lot of training on the finance side. But at companies like Trimark, which works as both a real estate developer and property management company, you really get a robust training on all aspects of the industry, from conception and prospecting through design and building, into marketing and launch, through sales and renewal. You learn the investment side. I would certainly recommend others to try to work for a company like Trimark, if they can find a similar set up.

What was your favorite part of working in the apartment leasing side?
I really enjoyed leasing Trimark’s apartments near UF. Trimark owns 22 apartment complexes that are within 2 blocks of UF, and there’s a lot of demand for these apartments. They are very upscale, so I really liked the apartments themselves, and it was easy to lease them, since I really believed in the product. Obviously, it’s really easy to enjoy renting something that is top of class: best location, best amenities, best floorplans, biggest apartments. I also liked working with the development team for the apartments near UF Sorority Row. I worked at Trimark while they developed Solaria and Tuscana, and those apartment complexes were steps from UF Sorority Row and catered to students who wanted the absolute best. The apartments at Tuscana were inspired by the architecture and landscaping found in the Italian countryside, and the exterior of the apartment complex is really amazing. It certainly doesn’t feel like other apartment complexes near UF—it has a formal lawn, two large fountains, an entry arbor with grapes for making wine. It’s really in a class of it’s own. Inside, the apartments had luxury amenities like granite countertops in the kitchen, electric wine chillers, and oversized living rooms. These aren’t standard apartments in Gainesville at all!


How has your career grown over the years at Trimark?
I started working in the multifamily division, leasing student apartments and then working with Trimark’s off campus luxury dorms for UF students. Trimark owns two luxury dorms, Windsor Hall and Ivy House. The luxury dorms are very unique. They were the only private residence halls for University of Florida students, and they were located very close to UF classes and dining halls and Sorority Row. In many cases, Windsor Hall and Ivy House are located closer to UF classes than the traditional on-campus dorms like Beaty Hall and Broward Hall. After several years, I was promoted to Leasing Manager for that division. It was very exciting and fast paced, in part because we had so many rental units.
I understand that you left Trimark for a little while and then came back.
Yes, I left for around a year. Trimark reached out to me about an opening in their Gainesville Commercial Real Estate division, and they recruited me back from another real estate broker in Gainesville, where I was mainly working with condo sales and rental apartments. When Trimark recruited me back, it gave me the opportunity to work with business owners who were looking to relocate their companies. In that first year, I primarily worked with startups who wanted to rent office space near the Florida Innovation Hub and small companies looking for tech space in Innovation Square. Trimark was working on redeveloping a lot of the commercial buildings around the Innovation Square Hub, within the Innovation District. They had purchased several small office buildings near the Hub, and they were renovating them and building Class A office space near downtown, too. It was a busy time for the division.

What made you come back?
I had always had a great interest in commercial real estate. I was pursuing my license so that I could work as a commercial real estate broker, so it seemed like a perfect fit. I knew that Trimark Properties built the absolute nicest apartment in Gainesville, and they shared their vision for building the nicest office space in Gainesville FL. I liked their team. I knew that they had the capital to excel in the Gainesville real estate market.

It sounds like you doubled down in Gainesville.
I did. I really felt like my knowledge of the Gainesville rental market was something that made me stand out from other brokers and realtors. I knew all aspects of the real estate market in Gainesville, from dorms to apartments to office space to restaurant space. I understood the different benefits and tradeoffs for commercial space near Archer Road as opposed to commercial space near downtown Gainesville. I understood the foot traffic and drive by traffic. Also, because I worked in the Trimark multifamily side, I have gained experience not only with commercial tenants, but with the commercial tenants’ clients as well. I understand the end users that are targeted by the commercial businesses that we work with. I felt that my knowledge could really be an asset to clients and to Trimark Properties, when they recruited me back.

What tips would you give to someone who wanted to get into real estate investment, knowing what you know about student housing and commercial real estate?
Well, I can’t give away all of Trimark’s secrets. (chuckles) But I would certainly recommend that they work for a leading development company first, before they start investing, if they have a chance, and I would definitely recommend working with a company like Trimark, where they have leasing services and property management in the same building as their corporate office, so that you can get training on all aspects of the work. Personally, I felt that getting my foot in the door by renting apartments in Gainesville was really helpful, but I have to admit that I prefer the commercial aspect of my job now. I really enjoy working in commercial real estate. So I think that my best advice to people beginning their real estate careers would be to get experience in all areas—rentals, apartments, marketing, sales, commercial—and see what fits for you. If you can find a company that is willing to invest in you and teach you about all aspects, like I found in Trimark, that’s definitely going to yield some great returns for your personal real estate investments later.

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