Expanding a Successful Construction Company from the Culture Up – with Ira Singer
Speaker 1: You’ve been searching for the best way to generate passive income in your life, and heard that real estate is a great way to do it. But you’re tired of all the so-called gurus, who are all talk and no substance. Get ready to celebrate because Kevin Bupp has spent 14 years successfully making it happen.
This is the Real Estate Investing for Cash Flow podcast. Now, here’s Kevin Bupp.
Kevin Bupp: Hey, guys. Kevin Bupp here. I want to welcome you to another episode of the Real Estate Investing for Cash Flow podcast. Our mission is to help you build and maintain massive amounts of cash flow through income-producing real estate investments. Now, our guest for this week’s show is real estate investment and construction expert, Ira Singer. Ira has been a principal of Mosaic Construction since 2005 and currently leads new business development, estimating, construction production, project management, and the management of trade partner and vendor relationships for Mosaic Construction.
Kevin Bupp: Guys, now, without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest for today’s show, Ira Singer. Ira, how are you doing today my friend?
Ira Singer: Kevin, doing great. Thank you. Appreciate time on the phone and the introduction, so I’m looking forward to the conversation.
Kevin Bupp: Yeah. Looking forward to having you here. You bring a breath of knowledge and experience on the construction trade to this call, which is … Your expertise is one that we haven’t necessarily had on the show before. It’s interesting because we’re going to take it from a little bit of a different angle today. We interview many different investors that specialize in different types of asset types. We’ve had, I don’t know, probably 100 multifamily guys on the show over the years. We’ve had retail guys, office guys, student housing guys, senior housing guys on the show, and gals. I shouldn’t just say guys. Guys and gals that are in the investment side of the space.
Kevin Bupp: Well, those folks are basically your clients. They hire your team, your construction firm, which is on a national scale, to help them with their projects. Whether it be rent large scale renovation projects, new builds and probably everything in between. Real excited to take it from this perspective and dive into your business and what it is you guys do over there at Mosaic. But before we do, Ira, maybe if you could take a few minutes. I gave you a very brief introduction. Your background’s much more extensive than that. Take a few minutes and tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and really how you got started in this business.
Ira Singer: I’d be happy to. All of those different asset class owners are potential clients for Mosaic Construction. We’ve had a breadth of experience that didn’t start that way.
Ira Singer: I was in the window business, straight out of school in 1990. In 1993, I started my first window, siding, roofing company that was catering to homeowners. Was successful at that, had a partner in that. Learned trade by residential work. Going in and picking up clients one at a time. That led to some business introductions of real estate owners. A couple of years into business we were working on multifamily construction doing window replacements on a large scale basis, 300, 500, 600 windows, either vinyl or aluminum.
Ira Singer: That, of course, continued into interior renovation work because while we’re there, a trusted contractor, which is an important component of an investment in real estate, to have a trusted GC. They ask the question. They’re happy with our window work, so we got started on doing all kinds of different makeovers, and all kinds of different multifamily projects. Whether it was senior housing, and it was in units, or whether it was market rate apartments in with amenity spaces, or common area spaces. The senior housing market is all about safety and accessibility. There’s all kinds of different value adds and different projects that we’ve been involved in.
Property owners and tenants seeking office renovations want to improve the look, feel, and functionality of their buildings. After all, your office is a reflection of your business, and the right renovations can have a direct impact on your bottom line. The proper design-build company will apply the following keys to a successful office renovation:
Create a Clear Renovation Strategy
Renovations should be carefully planned in order to maximize the return on investment as well as the long-term success of the business. The first step is to lay out the estimated renovation budget. Include the expenses of development, required materials, new furnishings, work, and so on, as well as a reserve budget for any unexpected costs.
Renovation with minimal disruption is key, which is why you’ll need a solid communication plan. Inform current tenants on the work schedule so they’ll know how to best manage employees during the renovation. Teem recommends the following approach: ”Do you have vacant areas or swing spaces you can put them in? If not, you’ll need to find some. In terms of office renovation design, keep in mind the current number of employees, future growth, technology, functionality, how employees prefer to work, and office design trends.”
The idea of an office renovation is exciting for any business. It implies a new beginning, a renewed character, and a refreshed style.
Assess the Building’s Strengths
You may find that you can capitalize on the building’s existing features. An office with good bones can be preserved or fortified. At the same time, systems and features may require updating. According to Building Design + Construction, “If mechanical units, system controls, and lobby lighting have recently been replaced or updated, investigate the possibility of seeking an Energy Star rating, which signifies that the building’s energy consumption is below the standard for buildings of its type and size. This tells potential occupants or tenants they can expect generally lower utility expenses than in a conventional building.”
Improve Curb Appeal and Entrances
First impressions are everything, and they inspire property-owner and tenant confidence alike. Investing in landscaping, new exterior paint, updated concrete work, and entranceways creates value and a more inviting atmosphere. There should be continuity when entering the lobby or reception area of an office, as this space serves as the face of your property and should accurately depict a tenant’s company-brand and culture.
Plan for Sustainability
Create a plan for sustainability that considers space and energy-consumption and the lifecycle of materials. Examples include, energy-efficient HVAC units, durable furnishings and finishes, and creating multi-functional spaces. As buildings.com states, “Ideally designers renovating a workplace with sustainability in mind will aim to excel in all three of these areas, and in doing so will provide a functional workplace that will meet the needs of employees for years to come without any unnecessary reconfigurations.”
Research Financial Incentives
For contractors, it’s a good faith gesture and certainly good for business to discover and pass along any savings you can to your clients. Second generation buildings can have the benefit of being offered local tax or financial incentives. In addition, enterprise zones may offer concessions, infrastructure incentives, and reduced regulations.
The idea of an office renovation is exciting for any business. It implies a new beginning, a renewed character, and a refreshed style. A carefully planned approach is critical to the success of any office renovation. While it’s understandable to want to get the job done quickly, it’s important to allow the process to run its course. Building Design + Construction adds, “Don’t try to do everything at once. Consider a multi-step, phased redesign, rather than tackling the entire property at once. A phased plan provides flexibility in cash flow and financing and greater variety in lease agreements, which can reduce financial risk to the owner or developer.”
The multifamily housing market has been growing steadily in recent years. According to Housing Wire, sales increased by 44% in 2018, accounting for 31% of the total U.S. real estate investment sales. A primary factor is that apartment building owners and managers recognize that they can increase value by upgrading and renovating functionality and the overall aesthetic appeal of common areas, amenity spaces, and unit rooms.
Particularly in urban areas, Building Design and Construction says apartment sizes are shrinking while common areas are expanding. Tenants, especially Millennials, are willing to sacrifice living space for larger common areas that provide functional spaces for social activities and ad hoc work environments. Buildings are equipping common areas with more robust technology like USB ports, reliable WiFi connections, iCafes, and other web-access. Common areas are also being renovated with more durable furniture and flooring to handle increased usage.
The National Apartment Association’s Adding Value in the Age of Amenities Wars report notes that rooftop decks are the most valued outdoor amenity. In mid and high-rise buildings, rooftop decks and terraces are in high-demand with desired features like outdoor kitchens, grills, sound systems, big-screen televisions, and comfortable seating. The report also reveals that fitness centers rank at the top of the list for community-wide amenities. Fitness centers have evolved in only the past few years from workout rooms to including space for classes like yoga, resistance training, and wellness.
Multifamily housing sales increased by 44% in 2018, accounting for 31% of the total U.S. real estate investment sales.
Building owners are accommodating the needs of bike and pet-owners, as well. The high cost of parking spaces means more bike-usage, and multifamily owners have responded by providing bike stations for parking, storage, and in some cases, parts and repairs. Pet-owners represent a large demographic of residents, and they expect amenities such as grooming, sitting and walking services, parks, and sometimes spas. “Many apartment communities today are going above and beyond for their residents and pets by offering awesome accommodations,” according to Apartments.com.
Kitchens renovated for style and functionality are a value-add for multifamily living. Kitchens are trending toward incorporating mixed materials like wood, metal, stone, and glass. In larger units, multifunctional islands are used for dining, entertaining, and workspaces. Additionally, multi-use countertops feature butcher blocks, wireless charging areas, and food scales.
If the upward trends hold, and as municipalities continue to swell in population, multifamily housing construction must keep pace with demand. Building owners and managers will gain a competitive advantage and realize better return on their investment by creating the upgrades that attract prospective tenants.
Read more about How to Attract Tenants With Your Lobby Design.
As winter advances, hitting some areas with polar vortexes, it’s important to ensure that your building systems are producing the right amount of heated air. While space-heating is a large expense, building owners, facility operators, and managers can uphold occupant comfort and health while consuming energy efficiently.
Maintain Consistent Temperatures
Building temperature variations can cause health and financial issues. It’s uncomfortable for occupants to move back and forth between warm and cold spaces. Leaving a heated office for a cold restroom, for example, is unhealthy, and research shows that productivity drops when work space temperatures fall outside the thermal comfort zone of 69 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, temperature swings and uneven distribution of heat–caused by dividers, furniture, walls, and other obstructions–also waste energy and increases utility costs.
Use Programmable Thermostats
Using a programmable thermostat can conserve energy while keeping your building comfortably heated. You have the option to adjust the times you turn on the heating, following a pre-set schedule. You can program these thermostats to store and repeat multiple daily settings, which you can manually override without impacting the set schedule.
Insulate Heated Air
Heat will find the smallest places to escape. Therefore, to help retain your building’s heat and achieve better HVAC energy efficiency, it’s a best practice to trap in all the heated air. Add insulation to walls and windows, and wrap pipes, ducts, and outlets in insulation as well to preserve energy.
Targeting heat-loss with diagnostics is critical and economical. Utilizing infrared thermography identifies causes and sources of heat-loss, such as cold air leaking through windows or doors, walls and roofs, and gaps around building envelope openings, including pipe penetrations, and HVAC ductwork. Infrared thermography can also detect water leaks, moisture intrusion, and construction defects.
Energy efficiency does not have to come at the expense of occupant health, comfort, and productivity. Applying any of these tips will make a difference, but taken together, you can achieve optimal building performance regardless of weather conditions.
Step into a college dormitory in 2019, and it may seem more like the lobby of a downtown apartment with its modern lounge, higher-end furniture, and recreational space. Student housing today has a new look and feel. According to U.S. Department of Education, higher education enrollment is on the rise, which means there are more students attending college and requiring housing. The needs of today’s college students–greater comfort, privacy, technology, and sustainability–are influencing student-housing design.
College and universities are increasingly accommodating the privacy preferences of incoming students. Many of the communal elements of student housing are changing. With more emphasis on privacy, colleges and universities are decreasing the number of students to a room, as well as students sharing a bathroom. It’s more the rule than the exception for new residence halls to feature private bathrooms and the suite layout for more living space.
Modern Common Areas
With more privacy in student housing living quarters, common areas have transformed into modern, functional spaces. Student housing operators are moving toward maximizing common spaces to encourage student activity. For example, layouts feature lounges, study spaces, kitchens, and laundries that are equipped with comfortable furniture that can be easily re-configured or moved to accommodate different types of events. Green screens, pool and ping pong tables, maker spaces, innovation incubators, and faculty-in-residence present a stark difference from dorms of yesteryear.
Environmental sustainability is a significant factor for today’s college student, and he or she prefers student housing that promotes a greener approach. “Today’s students grew up with sustainable behavior as a norm,” says Jason Wills of the National Apartment Association. “They recycle, expect water and energy efficiency and are comfortable living in buildings that are designed to be sustainable.”
“Environmental responsibility is a priority, and contemporary students seek out eco-friendly living spaces.”
As a result, many residential areas are displaying their sustainable accomplishments and features, such water conservation, efficient appliances energy and sustainable certifications. They want to communicate environmental accountability to prospective residents.
Purpose-Built Student Housing
Purpose-built student housing is a customized program for students who choose to live off-campus, offering unique features like individual leases, study areas, fully furnished units, and roommate matching. These apartment communities are tailored to the needs of students with a hybrid of on and off-campus amenities such as: pools, hot tubs, outdoor living areas, computer labs, study rooms, and coffee shops.
Colleges and universities love to preserve traditions, but it’s clear that some, like student housing, are meant to change. As the social, technological, privacy, and studying behaviors of students develop, student housing operators are responding with more attractive facilities that meet their needs.
Winter is here.
Whether or not the North Carolina Blizzard of 2018 is a harbinger of snow storms throughout the country, you can never prepare your building enough for the season ahead. It starts with fully inspecting the building exteriors, including the roof, walls, and door and window frames, and paying special attention to other parts of the building, including:
Fortifying the Roof
Winter weather can wreak havoc on roofs, making building exteriors and interiors vulnerable to damage from leaks. Snow or ice accumulation, even as it melts, disrupts normal drainage paths, and blocked gutters can redirect it to parts of the building ill-equipped for drainage.
Blocked drains create further problems like concealing standing water which can cause a collapse if the water gets too deep. Adding slope to a roof can help drainage and prevent overload caused by the weight of snow and ice. Take precautionary measures by sealing the edges of high slope roofs to mitigate the risk of ice damming, and installing snow guards to prevent heavy snow layers from migrating to the gutters.
Keeping Lobby Entrances Clean
As the face of your building, it’s important to protect lobby entrances. The foot-traffic in lobbies creates wear and tear on its floors, especially when salt and sand used to treat pavement are tracked in. The answer is laying down safety mats and rugs with efficient spacing. Matting best practices advise 5 to 10 feet of coarse matting outside a building, 5 to 10 feet of matting directly inside the building and another 5 to 10 feet of matting directly behind it.
Protecting Your HVAC System
Your building’s HVAC system is pivotal to the comfort and safety of tenants and guests. In addition to maintaining temperature and air quality, an HVAC system serves as the first line of defense against inclement weather.
In an interview with Buildings, Kevin Miskewicz, Director of Commercial Product Planning at Mitsubishi Electric, notes that “Properly protecting your HVAC system from extreme weather conditions can improve its performance and lifespan. Investing in snow hoods, wind baffles and outdoor unit stands prevents snow and ice from getting inside the equipment and potentially causing damage.”
Thinking Through the Entire Process
Optimizing the conditions of roofs, lobby entrances, and HVAC systems are measures that will help protect exterior areas of buildings. More importantly, they will contribute to the safety of building occupants. To that end, here is a concluding safety tip:
Have a rock-solid snow removal plan. Leftover snow can freeze into ice, increasing the chances of slip-and-fall injuries. Snow drifts obstruct important signage and can conceal fire hydrants and handicap parking spaces.
First impressions are everything.
When prospective tenants enter a residential or commercial building, they walk through the lobby first, formulating opinions quickly. A unit or office may be beautiful, but the lobby serves as the face of your property and should accurately depict your company’s brand and culture.
Follow these best practices to attract tenants with your lobby design:
Create an Inviting and Clean Space
Every lobby should have a welcoming vibe that is felt from outside and inside its doors. Appealing to the senses, especially sight and smell, seems like stating the obvious but is often overlooked. Hiring the right maintenance, cleaning, and landscaping companies is key to upholding the image of your property. It starts with the outside. Similar to the curb appeal of a house, maintaining the building’s exterior with improvements to the green areas, for example, can enhance the appearance of your property. Keep sidewalks, walkways, and steps swept of debris as well. Inside, floors, surfaces, and walls should be spotless. In addition, designing the interior with indoor plants and art can create a more aesthetically pleasing environment for tenants.
Make Your Lobby an Extension of the Community
Knowing your neighborhood goes a long way with tenants. When you adapt your lobby to your neighborhood, be it an urban or suburban environment, you foster community, according to Building Design + Construction. they write,
“Create a brand and a place that amplifies the unique qualities of your neighborhood.”
A property located in an urban environment with a wide variety of entertainment, dining and socializing opportunities should feature a lobby that complements those easily accessible amenities, while providing options that will benefit the larger community and bring visitors, commerce and new interest to your building.
Host Lobby Events
People are attracted to a crowd, and when they see others gathering in a space, it piques their curiosity. Whether for an office or condo building, lobby events provide an opportunity for face-to-face interactions with current and prospective tenants. Kirk Layton, President & Founder of the Canadian-based Eservus Online Concierge Services, says this personal touch is much stronger than a building newsletter or tweet. “You only have a few seconds to grab people’s attention in the building lobby…after all, tenants in the lobby are always on their way to somewhere else – to work, to lunch or to a meeting – which makes it difficult to capture their attention,” he writes. “Lobby events are an indispensable part of a property manager’s tenant engagement strategy.”
The Bottom Line
The design of your lobby presents an ongoing opportunity to attract and retain tenants. In today’s ultra-competitive market, demonstrating that you care about tenant comfort and their needs through strategic design is a significant differentiator.
Four years ago, Mosaic Construction entered a new vertical in construction as we jumped feet first into the cannabis industry as a result of one of our loyal client asking for our help. Mosaic had previously built retail spaces and when we were approached to complete three design/build projects for their cannabis dispensaries in Illinois, we learned very quickly how fast the market was growing (pun intended!)
Cannabis Facility Construction was created to brand our efforts in the cannabis industry. We have grown to a nation-wide, industry leading design/build construction company. We have worked with design professionals to create unique spaces for our cannabis clients and have completed twelve Dispensary, Cultivation and/or Processing projects in six states totaling over 140,000 square feet. We have a loyal client base and have expanded our reach and talents within the cannabis industry to provide quality and highly functional facilities within this booming sector.
We are proud, sponsoring members of the National Cannabis Industry Association which represents nearly 2,000 member-businesses and tens-of-thousands of cannabis professionals. NCIA promotes the growth of a responsible and legitimate cannabis industry where they believe “Our industry is stronger, smarter, and more prosperous when we work together.” Recently, we attended the Midwest Quarterly Cannabis Caucus which is the premier B2B event series for making meaningful connections with the cannabis industry’s leading executives and policymakers while also getting the tools we need to advance the cannabis industry nationally. Recently, we spent a few days in Anaheim, CA at the California Cannabis Business Conference, the only industry association trade show preparing California cannabis businesses for success in the largest adult-use market in the world. The California Cannabis Business Conference unifies the Golden State and brought together seasoned industry leaders to convene on best business practices and operations.
Later next month, the Cannabis Facility Construction team will attend the MJBiz convention in Las Vegas. This event is the preeminent conference to drive business deals and forge valuable connections with cannabis professionals in business today. There will be over 20,000+ cannabis professionals and 1,000+ exhibitors attending. It is the networking event for anyone serious about networking in the cannabis industry.
To learn more about Cannabis Facility Construction, check out www.cannabisfacility.net.
“My favorite journey is looking out the window.”
Window replacement is one of the smartest improvements one can make to their home, condo or apartment building. Today’s products are designed to be maintenance-free, highly efficient in terms of insulating your home from winter’s cold and summer’s heat, easy to operate and clean as well as a way to beautify your home’s exterior and interior. Whether you prefer vinyl, wood or fiberglass products, all will provide you with an exceptional value and easy operation.
Below are some of the top reasons that windows are replaced:
The existing windows are not operating properly. This may mean that the double hung sashes or storm window sashes don’t open (or stay open). Broken lift systems are dangerous and don’t allow windows to properly operate. Casement windows can also have operational issues if the lock mechanisms don’t properly grab the hasp or the if roto operator is stripped. These are reasons to consider replacement.
Older windows (anything older than 25 years old) are not energy efficient. At a minimum, new windows should be thermal-pane technology (two pieces of glass hermetically sealed with a non-conductive spacer system). Low emissivity glass (Low ‘E’) and argon gas should be added to boost the R-value (or lower the U-value) of the glass unit. Additionally, new windows have wool or vinyl weatherstripping where the sashes meet the main frames which cuts down on drafts.
New windows are virtually maintenance-free and easy to clean. Midwest weather and the extreme cold and heat seasons are particularly hard on the exterior of older windows. Windows that have wood exteriors are more prone to rot over the years. A new window replacement will provide no maintenance at the exterior as most replacement windows are either vinyl or aluminum clad exteriors. Also, double hung windows tilt in to clean and casement windows fully swing open to provide ease of cleaning even if the windows are on the 2nd or 3rd Floors.
If you are looking for a smart, relatively inexpensive way to enhance the beauty of your home, a window replacement project can really modernize and beautify your home’s exterior (and interior too). New windows have design elements like internal muntins (grids), designer glass, pre-finished paint or stain options (if wood interior) and many exterior colors that can transform the look of your home. Projection windows like bay windows, bow windows or garden windows create space on the interior and create a great focal point on the exterior.
Mosaic Construction believes first impressions really matter and the exterior finishes have the greatest impact on curb appeal. We understand that the definition of a successful renovation is unique to each property owner. At Mosaic Construction, we partner with commercial and residential property owners to enhance and upgrade their exteriors. We have the expertise to complete renovations of nearly every scope and size.
What to Expect
• Consult – we will provide counsel to clarify your needs to construct the ideal plan.
• Construct – we will assist in choosing building products and options that will maximize your
property’s functionality, structure and overall aesthetic value.
• Transform – our process will ensure that your project will be on-time, on-budget and exceed your
Our Expertise Includes
• Window Replacement
• Door Replacement
• Composite & Vinyl Siding
• Gutters/Downspouts & Soffit/Fascia
• Deck & Porch Construction
• Masonry & Stone Construction
• Architectural Enhancements
Our Brand: We believe that everyone should enjoy the spaces where they work and live. We understand that the definition of beauty is unique to each owner. We create living and working environments that align with our clients’ wants and needs. Through our consultative approach, we focus on learning about our clients and their plans for their new spaces. Our goal is to make their vision into a reality. We promise that it will all come together to exceed client’s expectations and fulfill their vision!
What does “It All Comes Together” mean to some of the Mosaic team members?
“Every Mosaic Action must be implemented, executed, and working in unison for us to be successful and to be the company we want to be. It’s what makes us stand out from the crowd and establish ourselves.”
“It All Comes Together’ means combining all facets of the project into one efficient working machine. From design to construction to finish day, we work through every detail to make sure the project is completed flawlessly.”
“When we are focused on the Mosaic Actions, the result is ‘It All Comes Together’. We have happy team members, clients and trade partners.”
“Mosaic. Where we have many talents and much experience over many facets of construction; all integrated under once process driven enterprise.”
“The customer is more pleased with the work we did for them than they could have imagined.”
“At the completion of project, everyone is happy and satisfied with the journey.”
“It means everything from start to finish was completed on the job. We communicated who we are and what our company is capable of. We listened to the customer’s needs, we built a relationship with our client and understand exactly what they are looking for. We followed through on our commitments and ensured the work met their expectations. We followed up after the job was completed and made sure they still love the dream we created.”