Companies in Greater Orlando have outsourced their legal, engineering and surveying work for decades when it comes to real estate development. Now land acquisition consultancy Blake-Wilder Strategies is two months in to staking its claim as the market's next competitive advantage.
Active in eight markets nationally including Tampa/St. Petersburg, the firm's two-man office for Greater Orlando went live in early June with Max Perlman, former land development manager locally for CalAtlantic Homes, and Brian Small, ex-lot acquisition and development manager at Drees Homes in Jacksonville.
Blake-Wilder is the only national firm specializing in land acquisition outsourcing, and in each market has signed exclusively with one national homebuilder. In Orlando that's Lennar.
The company is also working for private equity firms, hedge funds, franchises and retailers, all businesses that depend on real estate, but can't claim it as their core competency.
"In a market like Orlando with 22 homebuilders it's winner-take-all, and you've got to find a competitive advantage," said Perlman, director of land acquisition with Blake-Wilder. "There's a systemic change ahead to how these companies will operate moving forward, I believe, and that's a realization that if you want to be the top dog in your market you have to have the top land guy."
Homebuilders across Greater Orlando know all too well the growing challenge in recent years to attract and retain the best talent for land acquisition and development.
Perlman contends that true bird-dog land acquisition specialists are hampered while working within a homebuilder by a myriad of other daily tasks.
With Lennar, for example, Perlman and Small have the benefit of daily access to the Orlando division's executive team and financials to know their client's needs on a granular scale. They're also free enough from the corporate chain to, says Small, pursue land "at all hours of the day and night."
In just over the past month, Small and Perlman have executed contracts on more than 850 single-family lots for Lennar.
In addition to sourcing land deals for those clients, the company provides institutional-level underwriting and fundamental analysis, and typically have the ability to act autonomously and make offers on assets.
Where Blake-Wilder's Orlando team can try to pave a new path is commercial real estate, specifically serving as site selection contractors for retail groups targeting market entry.
"A retail chain of dental offices can't become real estate experts overnight. They need strategic advice," Perlman said.
"We have a 41-step process and mapping system, and are documenting every property in the market for a database of active listings in every city (Blake-Wilder) is in," added Small, vice president of land. "We're a collective body that houses a ton of data. So if a CRE retail group wants help entering a market, we can send them a report of 100 properties with thorough context on all."