Good News Keeps Coming …

good-newsWow. I think the (seemingly mythical) “turnaround” in the commercial real estate market is actually going to stick this time! After many years of up and down and sideways market conditions, GOOD news about the Orlando/Orange County/Central Florida commercial real estate market is being consistently observed and reported. For example, see this article entitled “9 things that may surprise you about Orange County real estate” by Anjali Fluker, writer for the Orlando Business Journal. Local market indicators are the best they’ve been in at least 5 years, new construction and new commercial activity is booming throughout the area (have you seen the construction (and traffic) on International Drive lately? It’s insane!) and deals are being made! Here in Winter Park things are very active along the 17-92/Lee Road/Denning Drive corridors, which I think is fantastic. I WILL be checking out the new Trader Joe’s on 17-92 as soon as it opens! On a larger scale, my clients who attended the recent ReCon/ICSC convention in Las Vegas came back with pleasantly optimistic reports. Sure, everyone in real estate has been burned enough the past several years that they remain at least slightly wary, but that’s good business judgment in all market conditions and is also healthy for the industry. Nobody I know wants another real estate “bubble” to blow up in our faces. But, despite all the false starts and cautionary tales of the past few years, we finally seem to be in the midst of a consistent, upwardly trending, pattern of recovery. Thankfully, it feels good to read the commercial real estate news again, in the OBJ Commercial Real Estate News and other publications.

Too Busy To Blog! But that’s no excuse …

writing-life-300x200Sorry for my absence, lately! I understand now what marketing professionals mean when they tell me that the key to a successful blog is consistency, as in consistently providing new, meaningful content on a regular basis. Trust me, it’s a really hard thing to do, especially if you demand to personally write all of your own material, as I do. If I don’t write it myself I just don’t “feel” it, it’s not “me”, and that’s not the type of blog I want mine to be.

Unfortunately, the result is that I sometimes fall into the predictable pattern of many bloggers, which goes like this: (1) I find myself not as busy as I’d like to be or I’m busy with pretty mundane or unprofitable work; (2) I write articles to fill in any time gaps I may have, hoping to build business and find meaningful, profitable work; (3) I get busier with good work and feel (almost always wrongly) that I don’t have time for anything else; (4) I neglect to write articles because I’m so busy; (5) Suddenly, I finish a project or wrap up a big closing and realize I’m once again not as busy as I’d like to be; and (6) It occurs to me that I haven’t written an article in a long time and I think “Hey, I really need to write an article.” But it is SO hard to get those wheels turning again once they’ve stopped.

Successful blogging is very much like exercise. To get the greatest benefit one must exercise consistently and regularly because once you slow down or stop, it is 10 times harder to get going again. Same with the blog. Once I’ve slowed down or stopped, getting started again is akin to starting all over again with the proverbial “blank sheet of paper” that just stares back at you while all the great ideas for articles you used to have seem to have just evaporated.

Well, I’m back now and away we go. I’ll try to do better. The good news is that as I write this I am actually pretty busy. The commercial real estate market is clearly heating up, if not to the “hot as the sun” levels of the bubble years 5 or 6 years ago, at least to a nice, steady simmer, and maybe even a gentle boil. New buildings and shopping centers are going up all around the Central Florida area, and I have been working on quite a few commercial leases, purchase and sale transactions, and loan closings, but of course could always do more! Just down the street (17-92 in Winter Park) the new Trader Joe’s is going up fast, as is the new ABC Fine Wine & Spirits across from Winter Park Village, and it looks fantastic. Other parts of the Metro-Orlando area appear to be just as busy. Clients of mine who are commercial tenants report that they are having a more difficult time finding available space and shopping center owners are actively shopping for new centers. All of this bodes well for Central Florida’s economy and I’m glad to see things picking up.

Remember, if you are involved in commercial real estate, buying, selling, leasing or financing, get an experienced commercial real estate attorney (I hope it’s me!) involved early in the transaction. If you’re leasing, have your lease reviewed before you sign it. If you’re buying, have your contract reviewed before you sign it. Hopefully, we’ll all be busy with meaningful, profitable work for a long time to come AND I’ll do a better job of adding new, interesting content to the blog at the same time. And exercising. Mustn’t forget to exercise.

Thanks for reading!

BH

Considering a sublease? LOOK BOTH WAYS!

Look_Both_Ways_asphalt

I recently assisted a client that is a commercial tenant with extra square footage by reviewing a proposed sublease of the extra space to a prospective subtenant. It was a good opportunity to once again think about the best way to structure such an arrangement and the risks involved, particularly for the tenant (my client) that will now be “sandwiched” between their landlord under their own master lease and their subtenant under their new sublease. Most importantly, it reminded me that in these situations the tenant must LOOK BOTH WAYS before stepping out into “Sublease Street” because now they are taking on risk in both directions, “left” as tenant under the master lease and “right” as sub-landlord under the new sublease.

In these situations, it is very important to review both the master lease, to ensure that subletting is permitted and, if permitted, under what circumstances and conditions, and the sublease, to ensure that the sublease meets all the conditions of the master lease and that it is an acceptable and enforceable lease in it’s own right as between the tenant and subtenant. Balancing the requirements of all the parties (landlord, tenant and subtenant) is complicated business!

look_both_waysI’ve seen subleases done two ways: One, as a stand-alone lease between tenant and subtenant that does not incorporate the master lease, or two, as a lease between tenant and subtenant that incorporates the master lease and thereby requires the subtenant to abide by all of the terms and conditions of the master lease. The proper structure in a commercial situation is usually method two, incorporating the master lease, because usually in a commercial situation the master lease imposes the obligation to do so, along with other conditions such as obtaining landlord’s prior consent. “Looking both ways” by reading both leases and making sure they are compatible (and, especially, that neither the sublease nor any of its terms results in a default by the tenant under the master lease) is the only way to know the proper way to move forward.

Because several parties with opposing needs are involved, subleasing can be tricky business, so looking both ways is critical for the tenant in the middle of the arrangement. Hire a highly qualified commercial real estate attorney (hey, maybe that’s me!) to draft or, at minimum, review the proposed documents and helping you LOOK BOTH WAYS.

As always, thanks for reading! BH

How Do You Define Confidence? Here’s One Way …

ConfidenceSaw this on the internet the other day and it rang true to me. For me, one way of defining confidence as an attorney is being able to respond to a client’s question by admitting, without any shame, “I don’t know … ” but being able to ‘confidently’ add “however, I can get that answer for you.” I recall an instance when, as a young associate at a large firm, I whined to my supervising partner, “You never explain anything to me. I feel like I’m always trying to figure everything out.” He looked at me, perplexed and a little annoyed, and said, “We’re ALL just trying to figure everything out.”

Lesson learned. NOBODY has all the answers.

When hiring an attorney don’t be dissuaded by one who says “I don’t know.” Instead, if he or she has the other characteristics you’re looking for … solid reputation, significant experience, strong work ethic, a personality you’re comfortable with … be encouraged by their willingness to be open and honest and rely on their determination to doggedly pursue the answer. Remember, the “law”, like the “internet”, is a massive thing. Nobody knows it all. BH

Two Words On “Attitude” …

Captain Jack Sparrow, channeling Charles R. Swindoll …

Captain Jack Sparrow - AttitudeThe longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.  Charles R. Swindoll

Confused By Documentary Stamp Tax and Intangibles Tax? Everyone Else Is, Too!

DocstampLast week I attended a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminar on Florida’s documentary stamp tax and non-recurring intangibles tax and I left feeling as though I knew less about about them than when I walked in. Now, of course, that’s not entirely true – a lot of good information was conveyed and I did learn things I didn’t know before. However, it did leave me keenly aware that Florida’s documentary stamp tax and intangibles tax are confusing even to the experts who study them closely.

I don’t really know why they’re so confused. The general rules are pretty simple: (1) any instrument that conveys any interest in real property for consideration is subject to Florida’s documentary stamp tax; and (2) any obligation to pay money that is secured by Florida real property is subject to Florida’s non-recurring intangibles tax.

With regard to documentary stamp tax, deeds, easements and options are just a few of the instruments that convey real property interests that are subject to the doc stamp tax so the list of instruments subject to tax is probably broader than most people realize. But, other than figuring out if a conveyance of a real property interest is occurring it’s all pretty simple.

Well, except that some conveyances are made for no consideration, such as gifts of property, transfers between spouses for estate planning purposes, transfers due to divorce, and so on. And sometimes even if you don’t think there’s any consideration the State has defined certain situations where consideration is “deemed” to have been given even if no money changes hands, so the definition of “consideration” can be confusing. But, really, other than figuring out if a conveyance of a real property interest is occurring and whether consideration is being given or is deemed to have been given, it’s all pretty simple.

Well, except that there’s also a long list of specific exemptions – situations where you would think tax would be due but the State says it’s not. And some of the exemptions aren’t very clear. But, really, other than figuring out if a conveyance of a real property interest is occurring and whether consideration is being given or is deemed to have been given and whether any random exemptions apply, it’s all pretty simple.

Oh, I forgot. Documentary stamp tax is also due on obligations to pay money (such as a promissory note) executed or delivered in the State of Florida. Executed OR delivered. In state. So a borrower and lender can take one step over the state line, sign a note, and no tax is due? Or take a boat out into international waters? True! As long as it is signed AND delivered outside of the State of Florida. So let’s just always do that, right, because we’ll save money, right? Not so fast. The tax is capped at $2,450 if it’s not secured by real estate so travelling out of state is generally not worth the trouble and expense because the cap makes it cheaper to just pay the tax in most cases. Why $2,450? The State is smart enough to have calculated the average cost that a person is willing to tolerate paying before going to all the effort to travel out of state with their banker just to execute and deliver a note. Pretty clever, huh?

[Update Feb. 13, 2014 – Question posed to me: What about an out of state lender with an out of state borrower who wants to sign a note while he’s here on vacation? With no other connection to the State of Florida except that he’s vacationing here. Tax is due because the note was executed in-state. Crazy!]

 Ok, I lied. I understand exactly why everyone is so confused. It’s because, sometimes, Florida’s documentary stamp tax makes no sense whatsoever!

At least Florida’s intangibles tax is pretty easy to understand. If you have an obligation to pay money secured by Florida real property the intangibles tax is due. Period. End of story. I think.

And so it goes. Just call your trusted commercial real estate attorney (hey, maybe that’s me!) if you have questions about Florida’s documentary stamp tax or non-recurring intangibles tax. It’s confusing enough that occasionally he or she (or I) may not have the answer immediately and might have to do a little research to get you the right answer, we might even have to call the Department of Revenue to figure it out, but it will be worth it (a) to save tax where tax can be saved, and (b) to avoid a Florida Department of Revenue inquiry if tax should be paid, but isn’t.

As always, thanks for reading. Please send your questions and comments and SHARE this article with others!

BH

Top 10 List of Tallest Buildings In Orlando

Orlando, Florida was once a sleepy, small central Florida city surrounded by orange groves and a few other things. When the Disney company moved part of its operations there, many other theme parks and associated industry followed, taking this once sleepy town to a thriving economic juggernaut for the Florida economy. Orlando has, in the years, grown significantly beyond strictly the tourism industry and is now home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the Southeast.

At 426 feet tall, the Vue at Lake Eola is the third largest skyscraper in the area and is located in downtown Orlando. Composed of penthouses and condominiums for residential, midtown living, the penthouses are on the top floors and feature access to the 36th floor and balcony.
Slightly, and only two feet, taller than the Vue is the Peabody Orlando. One of the premiere hotels in Orlando, this hotel boasts 1,641 rooms and 31 stories. Built in 1986 and renovated to fresher, newer standards of hotel occupancy and technologies in 2010, it now has a second expansion tower to accompany the original.

Rounding out the top three buildings and the largest building not only in Orlando but in central Florida is the SunTrust Center of the SunTrust Bank organization. Standing at an impressive 441 feet, it was built as the headquarters for SunTrust Banks in Florida.

The complete Top 10 List of Tallest Buildings In Orlando

  1. SunTrust Center, 441 ft, 30 fl, blt 1988
  2. The Peabody Orlando Expansion Tower, 428 ft, 31 fls, blt 2010
  3. The Vue at Lake Eola, 426 ft, 35 fls, blt 2007
  4. Orange County Courthouse, 416 ft, 24 fls, blt 1997
  5. Bank of America Center, 409 ft, 28 els, blt 1988
  6. SeaWorld SkyTower, 400 ft., Viewing Tower, blt 1973
  7. 55 West on the Esplanade, 377 ft., 32 fls., 2008
  8. Solaire at the Plaza, 359 ft., 30 flrs., blt 2006
  9. Dynetech Centre, 357 ft., 31 flrs, blt 2008
  10. Orlando International Airport Control Tower, 346 ft., Control Tower, blt 2002

 

Other notable tall buildings in Orlando are:

Citrus Center, 280 ft., 18 flrs, blt 1971
Premiere Trade Plaza Office Tower II, 17 flrs, blt 2006

Orlando Real Estate Market On The Rise

Orlando Commercial Real Estate Market Statistics Improving

 

Is now the right time to invest in commercial real estate in Orlando, Florida? The property market, both domestic and commercial, has been highly volatile since the start of the economic crisis. People are scared to invest in anything, particularly commercial properties. Considering the public has little money to spend, investing in commercial property seems incredibly risky, since a large proportion of newly starting businesses fail and go under very rapidly. However, it seems some good news is on the horizon.

After a precipitous decline in 2008 and a faltering recovery since then, the Florida housing market appears to have returned to a growth path this year.

Research economists aren’t sure if this is a true recovery,or rather a quick up tick in prices or part of just the first wave of a full blown recovery. So, it seems that the time to buy commercial properties in Orlando, Florida, is here.

Orlando Is Back in Businesses

A great example that proves the growth in the commercial real estate market in Orlando is found in the Lake Nona area. Whenever you attend this part of the city, you will notice that new businesses have been added and that the face of the area has changed yet again. This is a wonderful positive development .

The Orlando City Council on April 8 approved Lake Nona Land Co. LLC’s master plan for a 17-acre office park near the fast-growing biotech hub of Medical City. The estimated $85 million project includes 570,000 square feet of general office space in three buildings, a 150-room hotel and two 10,000-square-foot restaurants, along with 2,830 parking spaces in two parking structures and surface parking lots.

And that is just part of the good news, as restaurants and shopping centers are also being developed. Residential real estate has already been on the rise for some time now in Lake Nona, but the commercial side of things is now picking up.

Orlando, Florida Commercial Real Estate Statistics

For those who like and understand numbers, the following statistics should help you even further. Various statistics are being collated, with Jones Lang Lasalle  providing regular statistics on offices and industries, to name but a few. According to their research, which is always well received and highly truthful

Orlando’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped 10 basis points from July to August. At 8.5 percent, Orlando’s Metro unemployment rate dipped to a post-recession low and 190 basis points below its rate one year ago. Moreover, nonfarm payrolls expanded by a moderate pace of the 12 month period as employers added a total of 26,400 new jobs, amounting to a 2.8 percent expansion of nonfarm payrolls.

This is but a part of the positive news however. It seems that the rate of direct vacancies is down, the rate of vacancies is down and the leasing activity is up. Similar pictures are seen across the other areas monitored by Jones Lang and Lasall as well, showing a highly promising future for the young boy. The local economy is becoming stronger and stronger ant his is mainly found in the construction industry, making that a particularly interesting area of commerce and businesses.

A number of companies who held off on investing in commercial real estate in Orlando are now actively considering a number of properties. All the statistics and information tell us that you will be able to get a great deal on your piece of commercial land, whether you want to use it to build your own business, or whether you want to buy it with a business included and rent it out.