How developers and lenders work with teams

by Andrew Morrell

How developers and lenders work with teams

Teams may be a relatively novel concept for many agents, but few in the rest of the industry ever work solo. Real estate developers have to take a team-based approach at each step of the way, from planning a project to marketing it to buyers. Meanwhile, mortgage lenders often require support from a team just to handle the administrative tasks required for every home loan they issue. And people in both fields regularly find themselves working with a team of agents or brokers, which comes with its own advantages and common issues.

“When we work with a team that’s representing the buyer, it allows us to respond much faster than if it were just a single agent who’s usually out in the field,” said Steve Dunnett, senior mortgage consultant for Blueleaf Lending. In his experience, working with an organized and experienced team makes it easier to get in touch with any questions that inevitably come up in the loan application and approval process.

However, this only works well if the team has clearly defined roles. Dunnett said he’s worked with teams in the past without a point person, or that just lacked cohesion. “There have been times where we’ll email an agent and they say, ‘I’m not the right person for that; you need to talk to so-and-so,’” he said. “It happens, but you want to make sure it doesn’t feel like that. At the end of the day it’s got to feel like you’re all on one team.”

Dunnett works as part of a team too — he has an administrative assistant as well as someone who specializes in loan processing — so he understands that sometimes wires can get crossed. He stressed that teams should always be clear about each member’s role so expectations can be set from the beginning.

“If someone tells us up front who is working on the contract, or who has the contact info for the HOA, for example, then we’re not bugging the wrong person,” Dunnett said.

The same goes for developers, who often work with third-party sales and marketing teams. Jordan Karlik, co-founder of JK Equities, said he always seeks out a sales team with expertise in the precise market where a particular project is taking place. JK Equities is based out of New York, but has coordinated investments to build or redevelop multiple properties in Chicago as well as other locations around the country.

“It would be impossible for us to operate in places like Chicago or Baltimore” without local sales teams, Karlik said. “They need to be on the ground and know what’s going on at a micro, submarket level.”

Some of the firm’s recent experience with teams here in Chicago has been with @properties (at 1000M in the South Loop) and ON Collaborative (for 1400 W. Monroe in the West Loop). Working with teams from these companies gives JK Equities the market knowledge they need, as well as the in-house marketing, PR and creative resources that those teams have access to.

“By outsourcing those functions, you do pay more, but you get results,” Karlik said, adding that the @properties and ON Collaborative teams they’re now working with in Chicago have been top-notch. In previous experiences with sales teams, Karlik said, any challenges he encountered were typical of other experiences working with independent contractors. His advice for any team working with a developer: “Underpromise and over-deliver.”

“Sales folks have a tendency to paint a very rosy picture,” Karlik said. “Developers are optimistic too, but it’s always easier to have a conversation that exceeds expectations. We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly — trust and communication is key in any aspect.”

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