In response to what company president and CEO Don Hendricks says are new realities in the lending space, Phoenix, Ariz.-based multifamily apartment broker Hendricks and Partners reorganized its personnel roster this month, laying off approximately 19 people in the corporate office, while adding additional valuation and underwriting professionals in new offices.
"Yes, we let some people go, but we have opened five offices in the last 90 days and picked up 20 net new professionals," Hendricks says. "In this new era of lending, you need more financial underwriters, more valuation, and less marketing. This is a reallocation of our resources. We are still debt-free; we have a ton of cash; and at the end of the day, we are bigger."
With capital and debt markets virtually frozen, apartment and portfolio sales in the latter half of 2008 have been few and far between, and multifamily apartment brokerages in particular have been susceptible to the lack of deal flow. In October, New York City-based Cushman and Wakefield cut 200 of its 6,500 positions nationwide, including all of its Chicago-based multifamily brokers.
Not all multifamily brokers have suffered the same setbacks, but most can understand why the layoffs are being made. "The problem is that the deal volume is off at least 70 percent," explains Kitty Wallace, senior vice president for Irvine, Calif.-based brokerage firm Sperry Van Ness. "And it's not just Chicago and Phoenix and Los Angeles. Across the country, volume is off and people are getting smarter and tighter and looking to run their businesses differently. No one wants to say that they are the company doing layoffs because they want to seem prepared to handle the business, but the reality is that the business has left."
Still, Sperry Van Ness, which is continuing to expand its teams in Southern California and Phoenix, Ariz., has managed to grow in light of the tighter marketplace. The firm has added 30 new advisors in those markets over the past three months.
Hendricks, meanwhile, says that there have been "massive layoffs" across the entirety of its commercial brokerage space but that the firm remains well positioned in the market. On Nov. 4, the company had a two-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal listing almost 100 properties the company is currently marketing for sale.