(Save the dates: RealShare Apartments East comes to the Hyatt Regency in Miami, FL, on February 26, and RealShare Los Angeles comes to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, CA, on March 27.)
LOS ANGELES-Aliso Viejo, CA-based FivePoint Communities has managed such master-planned communities as Newhall/Valencia in Los Angeles County, the Great Park neighborhoods—formerly known as the El Toro Marine Basein Irvine, CA—Hunters Point/Candlestick Park and Treasure Island in San Francisco. GlobeSt.com’s Carrie Rossenfeld chatted with the firm’s president and CEO Emile Haddad about managing master-planned communities in the last few weeks before RealShare Los Angeles here, during which he will participate on a panel titled “Industry Leaders: C-Suite Roundtable.”
GlobeSt.com: What are some trends you notice emerging in master-planned community development these days?
Emile Haddad: You really have to look at who the home buyer is going to be for the coming decade. We think that buyer is going to be from Generation Y, theaging Baby-Boomers as well as immigrants. All three are looking for mixed-use environments—they want to be able to walk to a café or restaurant and connect with others—so we’re going to see more of the mixing of use rather than the segregating of use. Also, wellness is very important, and people are much more into hiking, walking, biking and really going out and enjoying the outdoors than those who bought homes in the previous generation of master-planned communities. The old ones—designed 30 years ago—were for a different buyer, the Baby-Boomers who were moving up and creating families. They had different priorities then.
GlobeSt.com: What are your greatest challenges in managing these types of communities?
EH: The biggestchallenge we have is the continuous changing of the entitlement rules. Communities take a long time to get approved. So you start the process and play by the rules, and then the rules change on you. An investor in master-planned communities has to have a long perspective on the investment. Also, it becomes challenging when you don’t have any certainty because of the competing environment for capital.
GlobeSt.com: How is the relationship changing between developers/owners and management companies as operational efficiencies grow in importance?
EH: I think the capital-market players who are involved in these types of deals will say that in the last four to five years in market share, it’s important to have the right sponsorship and the right management. It appears to be simpler than it is, but it’s a lot more complicated. The capital markets are much more focused on having the right type of management running these types of things.
GlobeSt.com: What do you enjoy most about management?
EH: The number-one thing that is rewarding in our business is that at the end of the day we get to see the product turn into communities that are vibrant, where people work, play and connect and go to school. There’s an emotional side to the product—there are a lot of elements. It’s also nice to be involved in something that’s on the cutting-edge of the industry. We’re always looking ahead to where the trends are because of how long it takes to build a master-planned community. What types of homes, entertainment and communities are people going to be looking for?
GlobeSt.com: How are buyers’ requests and expectations evolving as the real estate cycle changes?
EH: Buyers are looking for value, and that comes in different ways: value in the home they buy, in terms of the community they want to be part of—social as well as educational in perspective—and if they buy into the community, they want to make sure it’s in a good school district. They’re looking for a lifestyle today. It’s more than just looking for a home that’s a standalone. The consumer has come to expect quality and service at a much higher standard than previously. Every other industry—like the auto industry—has raised the bar on quality and service, so the consumer is expecting the same type of quality and service when they make their investment in buying a home.
GlobeSt.com: What do you find surprising about managing master-planned communities?
EH: In certain markets, we knew that we were going to see foreign buyers, but I was surprised as to the high percentage of foreign buyers that we have been witnessing in certain communities. In Irvine, for example, the buyers are coming from Asia—mainly Chinese and Korean—and we have seen in Miami the influence of the South American buyer. A lot of people thought the condo market in Miami would take a long time to get absorbed, but it actually absorbed very quickly because of that South American buyer influence. We expected foreign buyers, but not such a high percentage of them.
What surprising things are you noticing about today’s master-planned communities? Tell us in the box below.