Fast-growing Fortress hires Ben Myers as research chief

Real estate development company Fortress Real Developments has hired Ben Myers for the newly created post of Senior Vice President, Market Research and Analytics.
Myers, a real estate veteran with international research experience, is well known to Fortress. He has worked with the company for the past three years in a client-consultant relationship, providing research and advice while at market research firm Urbanation.
The new SVP expects his role to go well beyond consumer surveys. “I definitely want to be involved in the entire development process and lend some of my ideas to how we can improve that process,” he said. “Specifically in statistical based data mining-type areas, where we can improve on what we have done before.”
Just two days into his new role after joining Fortress, he sees an ambitious role for himself.  “I think I will have my hand in a lot of cookie jars at Fortress,” he said.
“Not only evaluating some of the new deals that come in but kind of making my assessment of the deals that we currently have going and how we can improve sales in the ones that are for-sale developments. We can improve on the suite mix, the amenities, the architecture, anything that has to do with the potential saleability of the project, I can certainly lend my expertise to that.”
Brings experience to the role
Myers should get up to speed quickly, given his role as Executive Vice-President at Urbanation, where he was in charge of tracking, analyzing, and reporting on Toronto's condominium market on a quarterly basis and to providing custom consulting services such as site-specific pricing studies.
“I was very much impressed by the passion of the CEO Jawad Rathore and the COO Vince Petrozza, their knowledge and intrigued by this fairly new product, the syndicate mortgage and investing the capital raised through it into development projects.”
Rathore also had some kind words for Myers. “With one of the country’s leading experts on market research in house, it will allow Fortress to move more quickly and efficiently to capitalize on the best opportunities in the Canadian market for us, for our partners and for all those participating in our business process.”
Myers noted that in 2011 there were 28,000 condo sales in the GTA and he estimates that between 15,000 to 18,000 were bought by investors looking for a quick flip or to hold them longer-term and rent them out.
“People are willing to put down a $75,000 to $100,000 down payment” and go through a lengthy period of waiting for construction. The slimmed-down Fortress process starts with a minimum investment of as little as $25,000 “and you don’t have to deal with all the other potential headaches of dealing with real estate,” he said.
“They have cornered the market with the syndicate mortgage. I just think it is a tremendous avenue to invest in real estate without getting your hands dirty like you would by owning a unit.”
Fortress growing fast
The Fortress business plan calls for it to work with established developers to bring projects to completion. It has 34 active projects in nine major Canadian cities, totaling more than $2 billion in built out value.
“Guys who have very long track records of completing projects, completing them on time and completing them to a level of quality,” he said. “The next step is bringing in bigger deals, bringing in more deals and bringing them in mixed markets.”
“Obviously Toronto is the key one, we are in Barrie (Ont.) we are looking at Winnipeg, we are in Regina, too.” Other critical markets include Calgary and Edmonton.
Fortress projects include residential low-rise, high-rise, commercial, industrial. Mixed use developments are a new area of interest for the company. “I know they are very bullish on mixed use which I would love to see more of in not only Toronto but some of the other markets that we are getting involved with.”
“I’m going out to Winnipeg next week to look at a potential deal, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Syndicate Solution
The Fortress Real Developments business model is based upon finding “large scale, blue chip development deals with established developers and builders possessing decades of experience,” explained Josh Will, the company’s Senior Vice-President of Marketing and Communications. Fortress partners with these developers and builders and secures financing for its joint developments through syndicate mortgages offered by licensed professionals and advisors.
When an individual invests in a syndicate mortgage they receive a charge against the land or building as collateral; not units or shares that fluctuate or change in value. This unique and transparent form of security offers investors the security of real estate investing with fixed terms, defined returns and set parameters.
“It is kind of for those types of investors who are looking for ongoing cash flow, people who are looking for income,” said Will.
Many of those investors are already familiar with the real estate sector though ownership of REIT units and offers one clear advantage, he noted.
“If you have the risk tolerance for the alternative asset class and you are looking for income, this is certainly an option to consider. Because you do get that very predictable cash flow, it is a steady interest rate, it is not like a dividend that REITs pay, it is very predictable on what you are going to get and when you are going to get it.”

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