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LOS ANGELES-The second annual RealShare Net Lease West conference, held yesterday at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel, revealed an increasingly competitive arena for net lease and tenant-in-common investors. During the “Town Hall Meeting: State of the Net-Lease Market” panelists agreed that institutional and foreign investors, among others, are helping drive up prices.The competitive marketplace is causing many players to rethink their investment strategies. Locally based investment firm BentleyForbes is among those real estate companies evolving with the market, according to the firm’s president and CEO David Cobb.”To compete successfully, we’ve had to get out of the way of the TICs,” Cobb said during the Town Hall Meeting. “We were 100% net lease buyers two years ago. Now, 20% of our deals are net lease.” Cobb said his firm has made a shift into the multi-tenant arena to stay active.For Jeffrey Fleischer, SVP with Spirit Finance Corp., the net lease market still holds an allure. Credit is king, according to Fleischer, and his firm is “doing 80% of our business in single-tenant deals.”Adding to the net lease discussion, Tony Thompson, chairman and CEO of Triple Net Properties, said the industry is becoming more sophisticated and to expect more consolidation among firms.Thompson sat down with Real Estate Media editor-in-chief Michael G. Desiato during the “Inside the Real Estate Mind” segment of the one-day conference. More than 150 real estate professionals attended the event, which was produced by Real Estate Media, publisher of Real Estate Forum, GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Southern California.During the one-hour discussion, Thompson said there are many new investment players joining the net lease market. “We’re selling almost $800 million worth of property, mostly to institutions, pension funds and foreign investors,” Thompson said.Thompson commented on an SEC investigation of the firm. “It’s been a very expensive and unpleasant period, but it forced us to focus on the business at hand and we’ve been able to go through every single piece of the company and find out who’s responsible for each piece and what works and what doesn’t,” added Thompson.Perhaps the boldest comments concerning the net lease industry occurred during the “Developers’ Forum: Outlook for New Net-Lease Product” panel. In that session, Brandon Birtcher, president of Orange County-based Birtcher Development and Investments, said, “I look at net lease property as an institutional play.” Birtcher added that the doctors, dentists, the mom-and-pops and other “1031s shouldn’t dabble in net lease property.” Raymond Lowe, managing director at Wells Fargo Real Estate Merchant Banking, responded “I don’t see them as ‘real estate investors’. It just happens to be the best alternative for them to place their money.”

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