The Real Deal New York

PHOTOS: Hodges Ward Elliott’s 2017 holiday party

Brokers and investors closed out the year at NYPL hoping for a stronger 2018
By Jhila Farzaneh and Will Parker | December 14, 2017 04:30PM

To happy holidays … and more deal volume in 2018.

The December celebration hosted by commercial brokerage Hodges Ward Elliott attracted hobnobbers from across the industry, including owners and developers such as Leslie Himmel, Taconic Investment Partners’ Charles Bendit, Alchemy Properties’ Ken Horn and Allianz Real Estate America’s Gary Phillips.

Even the waitstaff at the New York Public Library flagship on 42nd Street was in real estate: “I’m on the Ariel Cohen Team!” said one man carrying a slab of raw tuna hors d’oeuvres.

HWE’s Daniel Parker told The Real Deal that although 2017 “did see a volume drop” he feels 2018 “is going to be a lot stronger.” Tax reform could help, he said. “Anytime people are paying less taxes is going to be a benefit in the short term.”

Others were not so sure about the pending changes to the tax code. Bendit said he expected the market in 2018 to mirror 2017, and as for tax reform, he said it was “uncertain what the impact on the local economy will be.” The reforms, after all, may eliminate popular deductions for state and local taxes, which could land on New Yorkers’ bottom lines rather uncomfortably. Neil Teplica, managing partner at Tactus Capital, said that his game, the hotel business, was still looking good and headed for yet another strong year.

Cocktails and small plates were in full supply, but it didn’t distract many from talking shop. Lane Capital Partners’ Jeremy Baum, who buys troubled loans, said his business had “seen a pickup in distressed opportunities… Pre-development loans are maturing, guys need to refi,” as securing a full construction loan for new development continues to be challenging. And then there’s New York retail, which remains in rough shape. APF Properties’ Eric Weinberg said he was hopeful retail owners would come up with “creative ways” to fill struggling spaces, citing pop-up shops and customer experiences such as virtual reality as examples.

See more highlights from the 2017 holiday parties

“Debt, debt, debt” is what everyone wants to do in this market of high prices and high inventory, said Skyline Properties’ Robert Khodadadian. “Everybody is trying to finance.” Kaufman Organization’s Michael Kazmierski, who works on office acquisitions, said he’s confident “sellers’ expectations are going to drop” next year. In the meantime, he’s been structuring new ground-lease agreements with owners.

As for tax reform, Kazmierski didn’t see how the proposals will radically change the market. Had tax-deferred 1031 exchanges, an industry favorite, been slated for elimination, “that would have been a game-changer,” he said.

DH Property Holding’s Aaron Malitzky said tax reform was looking “great for the people who own a lot of real estate” like New York’s old-money families, but that he wasn’t sure that would be the case for those looking to build up new companies in the industry.

President Trump announced on Wednesday that he hopes to sign a tax bill, which could have broad reaching effects on both the residential and commercial markets, as a “big, beautiful Christmas present” by the end of next week.