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For a property to stand the test of time, it is wise to construct it from the ground up. The same can be said for creating an innovative conduit that provides clients with efficient access to capital. The team at Constructive Loans knows this and has been working tirelessly to forge relationships with its partners since the group’s inception.
The leadership team at Constructive Loans has leveraged its decades of experience to diversify a curated selection of products. Paired with increasing market presence in a crowded space, the group has developed an industry-specific wholesale lending strategy that streamlines an otherwise convoluted process.
To better understand how Constructive Loans creates a culture of success, provides value for its clients, and has grown despite the challenges of COVID-19, Originate Report spoke with President Ben Fertig and Managing Director Alex Offutt.
Creating a Culture of Success
When thinking about the core elements of a successful organization, Fertig said its always best to prioritize efficiency over sheer size.
“Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to execution, and we are extremely efficient,” he said. “Efficiency by nature is impossible without a great team. From an employee relations perspective, I strive to focus on the empowerment of our employees. We want to showcase their ability and talent, and that combination works extremely well in our space.”
Fertig said you have to balance the flexibility of your clients’ needs with an institutional process; you can’t be too rigid.
“Our top priority is the success of our clients, and we look at every process within our walls from their success backward,” he said. “This means we look at the shape of our programs, pricing structure, talent acquisition strategy, and so many factors with laser focus. We ensure that we have sound investments in human capital and physical capital, like technology and internal systems. If we empower our employees, they can begin to look at everything through the lens of our success.”
However, when thinking about the industry, Fertig cautioned against using buzzwords to attract new business in lieu of proper investment in talent and a focus on creating a lasting impact in a crowded field.
“I think far too many people are using the word FinTech to describe their business,” he said. “In my opinion, this umbrella of a term is unsuccessfully used to try to shield those companies from having to produce operating results. Buzzwords don’t replace earnings.”
Offutt also cautioned against the buzzword-heavy language that seems to permeate segments of Silicon Valley, adding that there is no replacement – technological or otherwise – for hard work and dedication to clients.
“Investing in technology and digital infrastructure is something we take seriously,” he said. “Real estate, in the past, has had a reputation for being slow to adapt to changes in the technology landscape. While we invest in the technology that drives us forward, we put equal effort into the people behind that technology who will be servicing clients long after the platform of that moment has become obsolete.”
Striking a balance between utilizing the latest technology and investing in long-term relationship building, Fertig advised, can seem daunting if employing the wrong frame of mind.
“There are questions that no one has an answer for, and unknowns are always going to come up,” Fertig said. “Whether that’s rising interest rates, dynamic real estate prices, and even the types of properties that buyers are interested in. The mindset that we’ve established, and I think established successfully at Constructive, is one of staying nimble and adapting to change both good and bad.”
This sentiment is shared by Offutt, who added that staying on top of emerging trends – and realizing areas of underappreciation – are equally essential building blocks in the success equation.
Providing Value and Building Partnerships
“What we realized early in the company’s existence is that a large area or contingency of the market was underserved. The smaller and mid-sized lenders often had no choice but to utilize larger players to gain access to the capital,” he said. “This chain reaction hurts our clients that serve individual real estate investors, who play a vital role in the industry.”
Building trust with our client base is mutually beneficial, Offutt said, and has yielded consistent, positive returns for Constructive. But more important than a dollar figure, or the number of loans secured, is the litany of meaningful relationships the group has fostered.
“I’m the first to admit this, but there are many people who claim to treat partners like family. I truly mean this when I say that Constructive always has the best interest of the client at heart,” he said. “The relationships that we’ve forged have been invaluable, and crafting those connections is one of the reasons I look forward to work every day.”
Pivoting in the Face of Uncertainty
Offutt said that there is no better example of these partnerships being put to the test than the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faced with a rapidly changing market and ever-revolving shelter-in-place orders, both Fertig and Offutt said they were ‘amazed’ at the team’s ability to adapt and overcome.
“There were moments early on in the pandemic when it seemed like segments of the market were on a downward spiral, but I believe a negative mindset can be detrimental to a person’s personal and professional existence,” Fertig said. “Rather than focus on the negativity of the moment, of course, while keeping public health in mind, it is crucial to frame negative situations through the lens of pivoting.”
This mindset manifested itself in several ways, beginning with the assurance that clients would continuously be served. Offutt, who has been with Constructive since 2018, added that one element that drew him to the group was its action-oriented attitude.
“A team, frankly, is no stronger than the sum of its parts. If we have strong individuals on a team, then it goes without saying that the unit will function exceedingly well,” he said. “We take pride in developing and mentoring bright, new talent while also drawing upon the background of experienced people from across the space. If there is a segment of the market that seems stifled, then we look for ways to innovate.”
One such area of pivoting revolves around the types of loans funded by Constructive in the past year. Before the pandemic, a wide selection of BPL products was commonplace for the Constructive team; since May 2020, however, Offutt said more than 85 percent of their loans have been long-term DSCR Rental loans. This specific product has seen double-digit growth every month for the past year, he added.
“The growth that we have seen in the DSCR loan asset class has been remarkable,” he said. “Part of the reason, I think, that this area has seen organic growth is because these loans are more efficient to originate. The extenuating data points are more objective compared to other products that lie in the residential investor market.”
In addition to the shift towards DSCR Rental loans, Offutt said other changes in the market have gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. As most of the country sheltered in place, the increased time at home resulted in many people rethinking their living arrangements.
City dwellers, for instance, began to recalibrate smaller spaces and lack of greenery. People in rural settings, conversely, sought a change in scenery. Offutt said that no matter the circumstance, it is up to real estate professionals to track these changes and focus efforts on blossoming markets.
“When someone makes the choice to leave an urban center, or when the time at home reaches a boiling point, we are there,” he said. “You have to understand that with a situation like COVID-19, there is a massive shift in real estate, but there is also a fundamental, societal shift in how we choose to live. What we see now, especially with younger buyers who are choosing to rent over buy, is not a trend that will go away soon.”
Rising single-family home costs, paired with a national shortage of these properties, has emphasized multi-unit and rental properties. To Fertig, who weathered the storm of the 2008-9 financial crisis, this shift poses an opportunity through our client base to connect with a new generation of prospective real estate investors.
“There are misconceptions about lending, misconceptions that I think are beginning to dissolve with time. The current generation of real estate investors are more financially literate and have a grasp of the market that would have been more difficult to acquire before social media,” he said. “Some companies have underappreciated this, much to their detriment.”
Continuing a Pattern of Growth
Grappling with the ‘invisible hand of the market,’ Fertig admitted, is no easy task. Given the breadth and depth of the Constructive team’s experience, he added that every shift in the market is an opportunity for growth.
“There’s a reason our clients keep coming back to us,” Offutt said. “The reputation we have built has been earned, and on the same token hasn’t been built overnight. When we go to conferences or host events, we want to have the reputation that it’s the gold standard no matter what we do. The group that everyone wants to emulate. Even though this is a crowded field, we are standing out and continuing to innovate.”
These long-standing relationships, Fertig added, can be found on the local, regional, and national level; in addition to ensuring there are boots on the ground during every project, he said Constructive knows when to employ a hands-on approach – and when to leave some aspects of a project to different players in the equation.
When thinking about the future of Constructive Loans, Fertig said he is excited to see continued growth in new areas of the country, in addition to further investments in the tools that will make those expansions successful.
“Growth can be both a simple and deceptively complicated process, but with the team that we’ve got in place, we are making the right moves towards expanding our operations” he said. “2020 put everyone to the test, and as we successfully emerged, we continue to push forward.”
When thinking about possible growth areas, Offutt said the most exciting opportunity might be just around the corner.
“There are sectors that have yet to be explored, and with the infrastructure that we’ve built at Constructive, we are in a prime position to stay nimble and reach for those goals that may seem unattainable to some. We have that talent integrated into every level of the organization.”
To learn more about Constructive Loans, visit https://www.constructiveloans.com