Jessica Richer began her real estate career in 2001 at The United Group of Companies, Inc. She recalls being hired by Walter Uccellini, a private real estate developer in Troy, to find sites for him, get them under contract and through the municipal approval process so he could develop senior housing.
Today, Richer is a licensed real estate associate broker in RealtyUSA’s Commercial Investment Division.
Her experience now includes all aspects of land development, representation of landlords and tenants for leasing of retail, office and warehouse space and selling of real estate property such as mixed-use buildings, multifamily apartment buildings and all types of commercial real estate.
Richer took time out of her busy schedule to field questions about the local real estate environment; how has the Capital District rebounded from the recession, what influence has Tech Valley and the newly announced Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady had on surrounding property values, and what developing trends has she witnessed recently?
Spotlight: RealtyUSA is a dominate force in commercial realty here in the Capital District. Is there something in particular in your company’s culture that helps you stand out above your competition?
Richer: RealtyUSA is well known for its company culture that allows us to stand out above the rest because of our core values which drive every business decision that we make, both day to day and long term. These core values include: acting with truth and integrity, clients being our first priority, pursuit of excellence, improving lives and positive work environment.
At RealtyUSA we have a core group of seasoned commercial realtors. The benefit of collaborating with professionals who have a breadth and depth of the industry is a great asset that is shared collectively. RealtyUSA provides us with cutting edge tools that allow us to gain information about the market and to utilize that knowledge in a way to enhance the real estate services we provide in selling and leasing properties.
RealtyUSA is the number one independently owned real estate company in Upstate New York and is ranked in the Top 10 nationally based on closed transaction sides. With over 65 offices and nearly 2,000 agents, RealtyUSA closed $3.4 billion in sales last year which equated to nearly 22,000 transactions statewide.
Spotlight: Real Estate took a big hit a few years ago, and the overall perception is that it has made a recovery. Have you seen any trends emerge from the financial crisis that has benefited your clients?
Richer: Commercial Real Estate in the last few years has seen a positive increase in activity and completed transactions. One contributing factor has been an increase in financing from the lending institutions. Private sector office leasing in The Capital District encountered an increase in vacancy in the last few years due to the State moving state agency employees back into the State owned real estate buildings in down town Albany. There have been more industrial warehouse sales in the past 12 months. I have a large industrial warehouse listing for lease and the majority of the calls on this property are individuals seeking to purchase the property versus lease it.
Spotlight: Local governments are pushing for economic revitalization, so commercial real estate in this area is certainly a potential investment vehicle again. What kind of business ventures do you see cropping up as result of a growing Tech Valley, or the recent announcement of the casino in Schenectady?
Richer: Everyone expected that we would see a big need for flex warehouse space in the area near Globalfoundaires but that has not happened to the extent it was anticipated. In the last year, flex warehouse activity around Exit 10 has finally taken off. Until now that has not happened. The retail establishments in mixed use projects in Malta have been very slow to lease out. The residential components have been filled quickly. It will be interesting to see the development and response for commercial product as a result of the proposed casino. It is too early to tell. The type of real estate newly listed since the announcement of the casino has primarily been a mix of office and warehouse product that was currently or previously on the market and is being relisted at a higher price point.
Spotlight: Is “Location, Location, Location” still the best advice to potential commercial property investors, or is there something else to consider?
Richer: Location is key. It always has been and it always will be. There are other aspects which influence the decision to invest and those include: highest and best use of the property, the financial ramifications such as if it is a triple Net leased property (all expenses are borne by the tenant) or a sale lease back (the building is sold to an investor and the seller becomes a tenant by leasing back all or a portion of the space), and how the acquisition fits into the investors’ short term and long term financial needs.
Spotlight: Do you help clients find rental property for office space?
Richer: Yes! – I help clients in need of office, retail or warehouse space to lease. I have helped people in need of office space from as little as 300 square feet to over 22,000 square feet. Office space is interesting because the tenant needs to look at the commuting distances for their employees, the desire to have a work environment that is conducive to individual as well as group interactions, accessibility to public transportation, parking and access to physical activities such as gyms, as well as food services and availability to child day care facilities. In addition, the management of the property and the costs for rent and other tenant expenses are important factors in the final site selection.
Spotlight: Owning property helps build capital for investment, but also creates a lot of overhead. Are there benefits to renting over owning?
Richer: Yes and when we meet with investors we help them to determine the financial impacts of owning versus leasing. There are also situations where an owner may want to sell their property and lease back a portion of it so that they can reinvest the capital back into their business.
Spotlight: What about the Capital District that makes this a place worth living, working in?
Richer: The Capital District offers a great platform for people who want to live and work in an environment where there is a diversity of occupations, businesses and affordable living alternatives. There are a plethora of social and cultural venues, excellent restaurants and a terrific selection of communities with good school systems. There is a real quality of life here in the Capital District. It is a wonderful place to work, live and raise a family. Compared to other areas in the United States, housing and living expenses are relatively more affordable in the Capital District.
Spotlight: Is there anything else you’d like to add that I did not touch upon in my questions to you?
Richer: In the Capital District we are very fortunate to have the Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Brokers, Inc. (CIREB).
In January 2015, I was installed as the President of CIREB. CIREB is a professional trade association established in 1967 by a small group of forward thinking commercial realtors. Members of CIREB service New York State’s Capital District and its extended Tech Valley.