2015 Is The Year For Commercial Leasing, Apparently

Retail Space AvailableAt least, it has been for me so far. I have been doing a lot of tenant representation so far this year … reviewing and negotiating commercial leases. For some reason my transactional work (loan closings, purchase/sale closings, etc.) has been lagging since the end of 2014, and I’m not sure whether it’s a trend for real estate in general or is specific to my clients and my practice. In any event, the commercial leasing work has helped take up the slack and I enjoy the work and the clients for whom I do it. Generally, it’s fast-paced work … once an LOI has been agreed to both parties want the lease negotiated and executed as soon as possible: the tenant, because they want to get in, get their tenant improvements installed and get revenue flowing in as quickly as possible, and the landlord, because they want the rent to start flowing in as quickly as possible. That sometimes puts stress on the attorney(s) involved because we’re called upon to do our our work in short order, often with the client or their broker in our ear continually asking (or repeatedly emailing) “have you gotten to that lease, yet?” That, in turn, requires an experienced practitioner who is skilled at focusing on the most important issues to his client and is discerning enough not to waste time haggling over terms that aren’t material or that, even if they are material, are very, very unlikely to be changed by the landlord even if objected to. I am glad to have several tenant clients with whom I’ve worked long enough, and for whom I have negotiated enough leases, that I know what is important to them. It is one of the (few, perhaps?) pleasures of this demanding profession to have long-standing clients who trust you and are appreciative of your work and with whom you are knowledgeable enough to know what is important to them and what is a waste of their time and money.  If you need an attorney like that, I know where you can find one!  BH

“I’m waiting for …” What? Why? Don’t wait! Do something!

I saw the post below online this morning and it reminded me of one of those “lessons learned.” As a young associate I once started a response to a senior attorney (who wanted an update on the status of an important matter) with “I’m waiting for ….” That’s far as I got! “Why? Why are you waiting? Pick up the phone and call him. Get it done. GO.”

Whoa. My first reaction was “What a jerk!” And, frankly, he was. THEN, however, I realized the reason I was waiting was because I was intimidated at the prospect of calling the attorney on the other side. I was stalling because of my own insecurity. And there was no reason for it! He’d made his point.

Lesson learned: Whenever you find yourself starting a sentence with “I’m waiting for …,” take a second and think about whether you should be waiting for anything at all or whether, instead, you should take control and make something happen! More often than not that is the better choice!

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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!

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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

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

Reps and Warranties in Orlando Real Estate Contracts

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What are Reps and warranties in real estate contracts

The “Reps and Warranties,” as they’re commonly referred to, are a more important part of a commercial real estate contract than most Buyers and Sellers realize. Many Buyers and Sellers regard the reps and warranties merely as part of the “boilerplate” legalese inserted by attorneys (a) to justify their fee, and (b) to complicate things for the sake of complicating things. That’s just not true. A large part of what your attorney should be doing for his or her client when drafting a contract (or reviewing a contract prepared by someone else) is to include provisions that protect the client from unnecessary risk and that benefit the client by putting him or her in a more advantageous position. The Reps and Warranties section is one place in the contract where the attorney can make these things happen.

First, some explanation on how reps and warranties differ and whether that even matters. A “representation” is a statement of present or past fact made to induce someone to enter into a contract. For example, “the Seller is not in default under any indenture, mortgage, deed of trust, loan agreement, or other agreement to which Seller is a party and which would have an adverse effect on any portion of the Property.” A “warranty” is a promise that a particular fact is true. For example, “the Property is and will continue to be, from the date hereof through the time of closing hereunder, free from all mechanics’ liens and any rights to mechanics’ liens.”

The difference between representations and warranties

Now, what’s the difference? Case law and legal articles about reps and warranties that are directed at attorneys do distinguish between the two, in a legal sense, because the remedies available for fraudulent misrepresentation versus a breach of a warranty differ significantly. If a representation is made that the representing party (usually the Seller) knows to be false that the receiving party (usually the Buyer), believing it to be true, relies upon to their detriment, a claim can be made for fraudulent misrepresentation and the damaged party may be able to sue to rescind the contract, obtain restitution and possibly even receive punitive damages. Pretty serious stuff. In our example above, if the Buyer incurs due diligence and other costs in reliance on the Seller’s statement before learning that the Seller is actually in default under their mortgage and the Seller’s lender is foreclosing on the property, the Buyer could potentially sue to recover their costs and terminate the contract. In our other example, however, if it is discovered that there is a mechanics’ lien on the property the Seller likely would just have to take whatever action necessary to remove the lien, such as paying the contractor in full. In other words, they would have to make the warranty true but would not necessarily be at risk of the Buyer terminating the contract or suing for damages.

From a practical perspective, however, I’m not sure this all matters a lot to Sellers and Buyers entering into a real estate contract. For one, the representations and warranties are usually lumped together as the “Representations and Warranties” rather than being specifically identified as one or the other, and sometimes they are even grouped together in a long list of items that may be identified as “Representations, Warranties, Covenants and Conditions.” It can be hard to decide what is what and, depending on how they are worded, many of the statements could be interpreted to be more than one thing – a representation, a warranty and maybe even a covenant. In other words, it may ultimately depend on a court’s ruling as to whether a particular statement is a rep or a warranty or whatever and to determine the appropriate remedy.

Risk allocation in real estate contracts

More importantly, as far as Buyers and Sellers are concerned, this is really all about (a) risk allocation (more so from the Seller’s perspective,) and (b) information gathering (more so from the Buyer’s perspective.) Typically, a sophisticated Seller will want to limit their risk by making as few representations and warranties as possible and, instead, forcing the Buyer to bear the burden of learning all they can about the property on their own. An extreme example of this would be an absolute, “as-is, where is” contract in which the Seller makes no representations or warranties about the property. On the other hand, a sophisticated Buyer will want to have as much assurance as possible that the Seller really does own the property and that the contract is enforceable against the Seller. The Buyer will also want to get a jump-start on their due diligence by gathering as much information as possible about the property from the Seller and limit their risk by availing themselves of certain remedies if they are misled or if the Seller fails to make good on their warranties.

Boilerplate reps and warranties

Most often, as in most things, the end-result is something in the middle. The Seller will make the reps and warranties it can truthfully and comfortably make within their own risk tolerance, while the Buyer will require certain basic representations that, if false, would be “deal-killers” from the their perspective and will also seek to gain as much information about the condition of the property as it can before expending funds on its own due diligence. Achieving this type of risk allocation while protecting the client, be it the Buyer or Seller, is one of the attorney’s primary roles in drafting the commercial real estate contract or reviewing any contract prepared by the other party. Don’t disregard the reps and warranties as mere “boilerplate.” There’s a lot more going on there than you may realize.

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.