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MORRIS PLAINS, NJ-As the economic downturn continues to tighten its grip on the state and nation, real estate service companies are relaunching units specifically designed to aid owners and lenders with troubled properties. Two firms based in the Garden State–Weichert Commercial Brokerage Inc. and Levin Management Corp.–are doing just that.

Weichert’s Asset Recovery Division had previously operated as an affiliate, Metland Properties Group Inc., from 1992 to 1995, according to John G. Udell, president of locally based Weichert. “Some former clients and colleagues in the industry have asked if we are still providing that service,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “There is an obvious growing need for it. A lot of the members of Metland are still with Weichert. It made sense if there is a requirement that clients are requesting to fulfill it.”

On behalf of lending institutions, the division is currently working on a mixed-use project and a residential development “that did not move forward,” Udell says. He was unable to disclose more details on those assignments. Both are in New Jersey.

Services run the spectrum from advisory work and construction to the actual disposition of the property. “It’s a challenging time so if you don’t position the properties properly,” Udell says, “you will not get the buyers, that are looking to purchase, interested. We look to create market urgency. We try to stabilize the asset and get it recovered in a timely manner. Also important–especially in the New Jersey and Tri-State area where approvals are so difficult to obtain–you need to ensure those critical approvals do not expire.”

Weichert’s Asset Recovery Division is led by senior vice president Mark Calabro and has a core staff of six members. However, Udell points out that teams assigned to a particular property can grow depending on the geographic location and required tasks. “If we have an assignment in the Philadelphia or South Jersey region, we would reach upon our staff that covers that area,” he says.

Likewise, North Plainfield, NJ-based Levin Management Corp. is once again in the business of providing REO services for retail properties. The firm currently oversees a portfolio of some 80 properties totaling 12.5 million square feet.

“Each time there is a downturn in the retail real estate sector, there is a strong demand for Levin’s REO services,” says Matthew K. Harding, Levin’s president and COO in a statement. “Perhaps the loss of a major tenant devastated a property’s rent roll; a buyer borrowed more than a center’s current return can support; short-term financing came due in a market where underwriting criteria have changed; or an owner simply hit challenging times. Almost always, the fallout impacts the center–financially, physically or in the form of tenant relations–before it comes back into the lender’s hands.”

Levin’s first priorities are to assess the center’s physical, financial and marketing status in order to develop short and long-term plans. Levin’s skill set includes accounting and financial reporting; leasing and lease administration; property management and maintenance; marketing and market analysis; dispositions and construction management. “We also employ all of our resources to reduce operating expenses without compromising curb appeal,” Harding says.

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