Auction.com's Paulsen

IRVINE, CA-For GlobeSt.com Thought Leader Auction.com, multifamily is still an important sector, as made apparent by its recent three-day event that resulted in $125 million in transactions. However, Eric Paulsen, the firm’s president, says apartments are on the the third-most popular product type it is selling so far this year, behind retail and office. He tells us why he thinks this is and overall trends he is seeing the commercial real estate auction arena.

GlobeSt.com: Is multifamily the hottest sector for auctions right now?

Eric Paulsen: Believe it or not, in 2012 we sold more apartments than any other product type, but so far in 2013, it is a different story. Apartments are actually third, coming in behind retail and office. Whether that’s because our clients are more weighted in other product types or because they are just now getting around to selling their other product, multifamily has been replaced as the largest volume asset class so far this year with us. I anticipate by year end that multifamily will be back up in the ranks, though, as yes, it is still a very desirable asset class and one that we achieve very good pricing on.

GlobeSt.com: Is there too much demand and has everything been bought up?

Paulsen: The ranking above is not a reflection of the apartment market. Year to date (March), we have traded $100 million of retail product, office of $75 million and then multifamily of $40 million. While that is a big differential, I don’t think it indicates a trend other than our sellers were more willing to part with their office and retail than they were multifamily. It’s a reflection that the sellers had more office and retail in their portfolios that were ready to be transacted earlier this year.

GlobeSt.com: Is there any consistency to the size of the apartment assets that you sell?

Paulsen: In this last multifamily specialty auction that we held, we sold a 496-unit complex, all the way down to a vacant duplex, which we took on as more of a favor for a client. Doing quick math, I would say the average size of the multifamily assets that we sold were around 150 units. The most consistent angle was that the majority of the assets were 80% leased or greater.

GlobeSt.com: Who are the main sellers and buyers out in the market right now?

Paulsen: At Auction.com, we have worked with a wide variety of sellers and buyers from individuals up to the largest institutions in the world, but historically the largest class of sellers we have been working with are the distressed financial institutions. While we have solidified our success with the distressed financial institutions, more and more this year we have seen “regular” or “recurring” institutional class real estate firms utilize our platform to help them sell their real estate. More people are coming to recognize that an auction is a great way to sell real estate in a very democratic, transparent process that can achieve great pricing. As far as Buyers, it is across the board. With our marketing reach, we are able to bring local, regional, national and international buyers together to bid and the beauty of our process is that it opens up the ability to pursue real estate to anyone from anywhere. We are seeing more Sellers bringing higher quality assets to the auction and buyers are showing up to buy them.

GlobeSt.com: So more of those are coming to your platform?

Paulsen: Yes. But let me clarify something. We could bring to auction a 100% leased at-market rent, beautiful, class A, well located facility, but pundits will view it as distressed if the ownership is a financial institution. Or we could bring to auction a condemned restaurant on a Superfund site, but the seller is a well-heeled, institution. Both are “distressed,” but represent entirely different underwriting scenarios. To date, we are bringing to the market, through auction, more high-quality real estate from non-distressed institutions indicating to me that auctions are gaining greater market acceptance and validating that our process works.