ORLANDO-Times are good these days in the Maitland offices of NAI Realvest Partners Inc. The 12-year-old real estate development company and brokerage will post final 2004 transactional volume of about $250 million, an 80% increase over the $140 million logged in 2003.

Realvest founder George D. Livingston projects 2005 will be even better. “The last three years have been really bad ones for the commercial real estate industry,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “In the Central Florida market and nationwide, the vacancy in office buildings is really high and [only] just now recovering.”

He says low interest rates are “the biggest difference between this recession and the last major recession in the 1980′s. In the 1980′s, the market fell off and interest rates skyrocketed, driving many commercial property owners into default and Chapter 11.” But this recession is different, he says. “Even with a low occupancy rate, most developers and landlords are able to hold onto their assets.”

The retail and residential sectors are “the engines driving the commercial real estate economy,” Livingston tells GlobeSt.com. For example, he says “you’ve got land zoned for office and industrial that’s not selling, and it’s starting to be zoned back to residential to meet the market demands.”

He says “all this adds up to a boom market for real estate brokers. From a broker’s point of view, 2004 is going to be one of the best years ever.” Livingston adds, “It’s substantially increased over 2003 and 2005 looks like it will be even better.”

Adding to Realvest’s volume this year was a $3-million, 24,530-sf office lease the company just closed at the 70,000-sf, 20-year-old One Protegrity Place at 260 Wekiva Springs Rd. in suburban Longwood. Realvest negotiated for the tenant, Lenders First Choice of Simi Valley, CA, a member of Mercury Cos. Inc., considered in the industry as the nation’s largest title agency.

Protegrity Holdings Inc., the landlord, declined to disclose additional lease terms. But area brokers familiar with the Wekiva Springs submarket tell GlobeSt.com Lenders is leasing the space for an estimated six years at an estimated gross rent of $20 per sf.

Tim Foutz, a broker in the Los Angeles office of NAI Capital Commercial, referred the deal to Realvest where brokers Livingston, Tom Kelley and Christie Alexander negotiated for the tenant. Protegrity Holdings represented itself.

The deal took 60 days to complete, from contract signing to closing. “It was quick,” Alexander, Realvest’s director of corporate services, tells GlobeSt.com. “The client came to Orlando for an initial property tour of multiple buildings in late August; narrowed the field to a short list of properties; negotiated the terms and signed the lease.” Lenders First Choice will be moving into its new space around Dec. 1.

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