As the recession inexorably grinds itself out, the team at San Diego-based Wermers Cos. sees opportunity as they recollect their own multifamily genesis. Founded in 1957 by James J. Wermers and successful as a regional builder for nearly a quarter of a century, it wasn’t until real estate tanked in the late ’80s that the then-general contractor discovered its raison d’être.
“Our modern-day rise to try to become a multifamily superpower really began around 1991 in a real estate cycle very similar to today’s,” recalls Jeff Bunker, who in 2004 became the first non-Wermers president of the company. “Back then, developers were losing deals; deals were canceled; deals were on hold. In many cases, the banks were getting stuck with half-done projects, and we saw an opportunity then to step in.”
Bunker sees much similarity between the early ’90s and the current construction economy, and likewise just as much opportunity. To that end, Wermers launched its Troubled Asset Division in January and hopes to bring a decade’s worth of development experience back to the table.
Bunker is cognizant of the proliferation of distressed asset recovery units across the developer, brokerage, and lending space. “Sure, there’s plenty of people out there doing schedules to complete, cost estimates to complete, receivership services, property transfers, but it’s to our advantage to be able to do it all and at the end of the day step in as a general contractor, put on a hard hat, and finish the job.”