Demographics Are Conducive to Growth of MF
- Mar 10, 2010
By Anuradha Kher, Online News Editor
Christopher Feeley and Andrea Akel, two commercial real estate investment specialists, have formed Oculus Capital Group, an investment, merchant banking and advisory firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. The company will do equity investment in multifamily (apartments and student housing) and grocery anchored retail properties on behalf of high net worth and institutional investors; execution of investment banking and capital market solutions for properties or portfolios controlled by a select clientele; and advisory and consulting services to assist clients with loan workouts, recapitalizations, asset evaluation, strategic planning, and receivership.
Previously, Feeley was one of three managing principals (SVP and Managing Director) of NorthMarq Capital’s Washington, D.C. office and has acquired, managed, underwritten or was the lender on more than $5 billion of commercial real estate properties throughout his career.
He talks to MHN about why he and his partner, Akel, decided to launch the company at this time and why multifamily makes for an attractive investment.
MHN: Why is this a good time to start this company?
Feeley: Both my partner and I have been in the commercial real estate business for decades and I was a young pup when the last commercial real estate crisis hit in the 1980s. I noticed back then that people came in close to the bottom or right after the bottom knowing that the CRE and multifamily sectors had to rebound soon enough. At this time, I believe we are in the same cycle and it’s a great time to buy especially those properties that are overly leveraged. Financing is still available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at reasonable terms and it’s a good time to make some bets.
MHN: So have we now reached the bottom or are just after the bottom?
Feeley: There is no one who can predict the bottom and if there is such a person I would like to meet him/her. But if you can come in close to the bottom, returns can be pretty good.
MHN: Why have you decided to help investors in specifically the multifamily and grocery anchored retail properties?
Feeley: Some of our investors already have grocery anchored retail properties so they want to keep investing in that sector and they want to make their foray into the multifamily sector because they don’t have any investments in that side of CRE.
We believe the demographics are fairly conducive to the growth of multifamily. There is a significant number of students coming out of college in major markets and as the economy gets stronger, they will need a place to stay. In this age group, most people tend to be renters.
MHN: How much equity investment are we talking about?
Feeley: We have already raised $15 million and expect to raise about $50 to $100 million from high net worth individuals as well as institutional investors in the next few years. The goal is to achieve the target of $50 million in a year.
MHN: Who are the investors in Oculus Capital?
Feeley: The principal investors in Oculus Capital Group include members of Metro Commercial, a major leasing and investment sales brokerage firm based in Conshohocken, PA and Mount Laurel, NJ, and Newman Development Group, LLC, and Hughes Development Group, LLC, two commercial real estate firms with decades of experience in developing retail, office, industrial and residential projects throughout the U.S.
MHN: Have you closed any deals yet?
Feeley: Not yet, because we are literally a few weeks old, but we are close to closing a couple of possibilities. One is an apartment complex in the Raleigh-Durham market and another is a student housing project in Pennsylvania.
MHN: What region will the company focus on?
Feeley: Principally, we will look at all markets, right from the Philadelphia MSA to the Orlando MSA. We will be focused on the East Cost but might move into Texas later on.