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Interviewer: Barry we’ve seen a marked increase in the sales of real estate portfolios. Is that something you see that’s set to continue?
Barry Gross: It is a trend I expect to continue. It started with bank’s looking to dispose of their distressed real estate assets and I think it’s now being driven by a number of things. First of all, foreign money coming in and focussing on large trophy assets has forced other historic investors and institutions out, they’ve got big money that they to spend, need to invest investors’ money. Similarly we’ve seen a growth in funds coming in, they’ve raised money over the past five/six years, they want to bulk up quickly, portfolio acquisitions allow them to bulk up quickly, manage their risk and deliver a return to their clients and investors quickly.
Interviewer: And obviously when you’re selling a portfolio the process of undergoing due diligence is very different.
Barry Gross: It is. You have to adopt a more tailored approach, apart from anything else the time and cost implications are seeking to carry out the same level of due diligence that you would carry out on a single property whereas a portfolio of a hundred properties, it is just prohibited, even if you could throw hundreds of people at it that’s going to cost you a lot of money and you have to ask the question, is it worth it, are you getting the value out of that work that you require.
Interviewer: And risk assessment is another area.
Barry Gross: Completely. The first thing you need to do on any due diligence piece of work is scope out what is the end product you require, what is it that you need, what is the purpose of the due diligence and I think all too often people embark on the due diligence without carrying out that very important exercise beforehand discussing with the client, what do you need to get out of this, what are your long term intentions in relation to this portfolio. Is it a quick acquire and then start selling off small bits, is it acquire asset management - depending on what the client wants to achieve that's the approach you then need to take in terms of your due diligence to get the results that you want, to understand their risks, to what information they might need out of that portfolio and tailor due diligence accordingly.
Interviewer: And of course post-deal, there’s the management.
Barry Gross: Again, understanding the client’s intentions – are they going to be carrying detailed asset management, is there any detailed asset management they expect to carry out – can affect the level of detail that you enter and where you need to look, what rocks do you need to look under when you’re carrying out your due diligence.
Interviewer: And I know you’re a big fan of technology, is that changing the way due diligence is going to be carried out?
Barry Gross: I think our technology arena is incredibly exciting. We hear a lot about artificial intelligence. The reality is we are years off computers taking over from the human being in terms of the due diligence, at the end of the day, you need experienced lawyers to decide what’s material and what’s not material. But already today there are tools available in technology which can assist in quite a large way a lot of the more administrative tasks, the data extraction task for example in relation to due diligence which can add huge value in terms of the analysis that can be done quickly, lending a lot of insight into a portfolio within a very short space of time.
Interviewer: Alright, Barry thank you very much.
Barry Gross: Thank you.
There has been a marked increase in real estate portfolio sales over the last few years.
Commercial Real Estate Partner Barry Gross looks at some of the reasons behind this trend including investment from overseas coming into the UK focussing on large trophy assets and the appetite of large foreign funds to acquire granular portfolios to help deliver returns.
Barry also looks at the due diligence required throughout this process and if technology will affect this type of work and add value in terms of real estate portfolios analysis and insight.