Read the full Originate Report October edition here.
Originate Report had the pleasure of speaking with Michael Schumacher, President of Enact Partners, to discuss the origins and future of his company, his experience in the lending industry, and lessons learned along the way. As former VP for a publicly traded REIT, Chairman of the Carlsbad Planning Commission, and City Council member prior to launching Enact Partners, Michael brings a unique perspective to the lending sector—one that has engendered a corporate culture premised on the collective goal of delivering the best customer experience possible. Whether that means delivering consistent returns or crafting creative financing solutions, Michael and his colleagues at Enact Partners are fully committed to a client-centered approach to lending.
“Experience is the teacher of all things.” –Julius Caesar
The Enact Partners story began when Michael Schumacher, the current Enact Partners President, decided to utilize his vast experience in land development to invest some of his assets in the real estate investment space. His initial success led to a few business contacts joining him in the venture. As their portfolio and investor pool grew, so did their collective experience. “Having the right people is the most valuable commodity a company can have,” explains Schumacher. “Our team has the insight to function not only as lenders but as consultants, advising clients on issues they may have initially overlooked in order to optimize future returns.”
Experience in the lending industry is inarguably the single most essential intangible predicator to a successful investment—and Enact Partners has it in droves. With over 50 years of combined experience in land use and real estate development, the Enact team has the unique ability to unpack the most complex of real estate transactions. The experts at Enact Partners have worked in both the public and private sectors, equipping them with invaluable insight into the land use approval process that they are in turn able to use to help their clients navigate the highly nuanced political and permitting timelines while saving substantial time and money along the way.
A perfect real-world example of implementing this knowledge played out in a recent project. Costly permitting fees from local authorities put a client way over-budget. This raised a red flag for Schumacher, who knew from his time working in the public sector that the excessive administrative costs were suspect. “I realized something was off based on my time in the development industry,” he recalls. “I flagged the issue and ran it past our land-use consultant. Turns out the client was over-paying for the permit to the tune of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. We helped the borrower negotiate with the local permitting authorities and got the project back on track.”
The Enact Team specializes in crafting customized funding solutions specifically tailored to meet all its respective borrowers’ needs—all in a fraction of the time it takes conventional banks to complete their unnecessarily long, tedious underwriting process. Whether it’s office, industrial, retail, historic rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, environmental mitigation, or residential development projects, the experts at Enact have proven they have the requisite insight and knowledge to successfully fund it. “Our background gives us the distinct edge over our competitors to bring creative financing solutions to a diverse range of sophisticated real estate deals,” says Schumacher. “We can anticipate potential issues before they arise and craft our lending strategy to accommodate multi-phased projects that require some out-of-the-box thinking.”
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” –Albert Einstein
Enact Partners’ proven capability to seamlessly adapt financing to accommodate fluctuating timelines and expenditures is a hallmark of their lending strategy. And despite their numerous successes, the Enact team has the humility to admit that even after all their years of industry experience, they still learn something new on every loan, and use those takeaways to inform and adjust their approach to deliver the optimal customer experience, something that Schumacher attributes a large degree of the success of Enact to: “Our team is in the practice of inspecting and reflecting after successes and failures. Then we update our practices based on those learnings.”
Enact Partners is a direct lender comprised of ‘main street’ investors—meaning they’re not dependent on institutional money like Wall Street entities. This structure grants Enact a significant degree of flexibility and agility when it comes to underwriting and disbursing loans. Schumacher explains, “The prevalence of institutional Wall Street money continues to grow in our industry, but we all have limitations and they’re no exception. As compared to main street investors like us, institutional money is more influenced by market volatility, interest rate fluctuations and geo-politics. This can create opportunities for lenders like Enact.” This was perfectly exemplified during the pandemic. “We saw a tremendous spike in loan requests during the height of COVID in 2020 and even into 2021,” says Schumacher. “Many of those calls came from borrowers and brokers that lost their institutional funding sources.”
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”—Walt Disney
The motto at Enact Partners is: “Let’s build something together,” with a strong emphasis on that final word together. Their focus is to ensure that every single action they take ultimately has a positive impact on their clients’ P&L and Balance sheets. That’s why the lender conducts a thorough analysis into existing market conditions, limitations, restrictions, and levers, to include taxes, cash flow, lease structure, legal formation, debt, and time frames. Details matter in the lending space, and Enact’s team ensures that every aspect of their clients’ project—no matter how miniscule—will not be overlooked. “We don’t make loans on properties we wouldn’t be comfortable taking back ourselves,” explains Schumacher. “Oftentimes, we’ll catch an issue that a client didn’t consider. We are usually able to address it together and then we’ll move on with the process better positioned for success than we were initially.”
Mutual success is the end state for each deal that Enact underwrites. The financial experts at Enact are fully involved in every transaction, committing fully to give their clients the guidance and tools they need to evaluate and compare all their options and make more discerning real estate investment moves. This client-centered approach breeds long-lasting relationships. “The majority of our clients are repeat customers,” says Schumacher. “They do most of our advertising for us. Once their business contacts hear about their experience, they want to learn more about what Enact has to offer.”
“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”—Salvador Dali
Enact is more than just a lender. They have also built the EP Guardian Fund, a private mortgage fund that provides business purpose loans that are secured by commercial real estate, non-owner occupied residential, land, and similar investment properties. The Fund’s overarching objective is capital preservation, with the goal of delivering investors a reasonable risk-adjusted return. The Fund offers accredited investors the opportunity to invest in loans secured by real estate without the responsibility and stress of managing real estate assets. Loans are diversified in terms of asset class and geography. Returns are paid monthly, and they are non-correlated to the stock market.
On the lending side of the house, Enact Partners has garnered a reputation as a premier land and construction lender—and rightfully so given its demonstrated success in this niche of the market. But potential clients would be remiss to think that this is the full extent of Enact’s capabilities. The lender is also active in the office, industrial, retail, and residential sectors as well and has just as much experience and insight when it comes to producing results for its borrowers in these markets. What’s more, Enact Partners is also currently embarking on an initiative to expand its offerings in ID, OR, WA, WY, UT, and CO in order to bring its dynamic services to a larger geographic base.
From humble beginnings to lending millions of dollars annually, one thing is clear: the future is bright for Enact Partners.