Justin Terveen

CRE Opinion

Helping Nonprofits Help Themselves

Solender/Hall's Eliza Solender talks about how Real Estate 101 helps nonprofits navigate complicated issues.

When we created Solender/Hall, Inc. in 1991, our expressed purpose was to assist nonprofits with their real estate needs based on my experience serving on a variety of nonprofit boards, including The Family Place, Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, and the Museum of Natural History (now the Perot Museum).

Each time one of those organizations had a real estate issue, we had challenges with the brokers and other real estate service providers who were trying to assist us or with the owners of the properties we wanted to lease, buy or sell to.

We decided the nonprofit community needed a commercial real estate company that understood its unique needs. With that purpose in mind, we developed a focus on the nonprofit industry and helping them buy, sell, lease, and manage their real estate.

It is very complicated for us because, while we specialize in the client category, we don’t specialize in one area of real estate. Most real estate professionals specialize.

Nonprofits have a variety of needs and business lines. Our client projects could be office leasing or purchase, warehouse/industrial, retail, apartments, land, etc. And, the projects are for a wide variety of uses: schools, medical clinics, theaters, counseling centers, shelters, multi-family residential, general office use, etc.

Eliza Solender’s Real Estate 101 class is now in its 10th year.

To share expertise gained over the years, I helped The Real Estate Council develop a curriculum and lead a course called Real Estate 101 for Nonprofits; a five-part course presented free of charge that educates nonprofit leaders about the most complex real estate issues that their organizations face.

The course is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

In the last decade, more than 250 non-profit leaders and board members have participated in the course to learn how to make educated real estate decisions and improve their services and programs.

The classes are designed to help each nonprofit executive see the big picture in any real estate transaction and become a savvy consumer of real estate professional services. The first module covers planning, board dynamics, determining the advantages of owning vs. leasing, and some of the bumps unique to nonprofits that may occur in any real estate transaction.

The classes build on each other from there. For the next four classes, we bring in experts in a panel format:

  • The 2nd class covers title, leases, contracts, appraisal, environment, and property condition assessment.
  • The 3rd class is on zoning and gifts of real estate.
  • The 4th is on architecture and construction for leasing or purchase.
  • The 5th class pulls it all together, focusing on where to find the money to geta nonprofit real estate project completed.
Eliza Solender

It is very exciting and gratifying for the TREC staff and me to see how the participants have used the knowledge gained from the classes and applied it to a variety of projects.

Participants have attended from such organizations as St. Phillips School and Community Center, Texans Can, Prism Health North Texas, North Texas Food Bank, Resource Center, Dental Health Arlington, Kessler School, Children’s Health System of Texas, Girl Scouts of North Texas, and Metrocare Services.

When you add all the participants in the Real Estate 101 class, the impact is huge.

The Kessler School’s Board Chairman Cooper Koch told me: “The scariest part of real estate, especially for someone who doesn’t work in the industry, is all the things you don’t know. TREC’s Real Estate 101 curriculum provides a strong foundation for any organization’s leaders to feel more comfortable with the complex process of buying or leasing space to support their mission. Each of the expert speakers, who generously share their knowledge, directly contributes to making our city’s nonprofits stronger and more successful.”

Kevin Boyd, director of real estate and facility management for Metrocare Services, added: “Part of the strategy we developed after participating in the course was analyzing our space utilization and leases. For me, the greatest benefit was the discussions led by various subject matter experts — zoning, appraisals, architecture, legal, title work. The information each of them shared was invaluable, and I’ve referenced it many times.”

The best candidates are organizations that know they must make a real estate decision within the next two to three years. If they have a lease expiring within that period, they must take the class as soon as possible.

Also, if they have outgrown a property that they own or lease, they should take the class.

Many of our participants are trying to determine if they should lease, own, sell or develop, or maybe a combination of these: many lease and own real estate. The class can be a lifesaver for these organizations in understanding the process.

An excellent overview of the class with further examples can be found by listening to The Real Estate Council’s podcast about the course provided (click here).

The next class should begin in late summer 2020.

If you know of a nonprofit that could benefit from this course, please have them reach out to me or visit https://recouncil.com/trec-foundation/real-estate-101/.

Eliza Solender is president of Solender/Hall, Inc. and serves on the board of directors of Origin Bancorp and as the Lead Advisory Director for Lost Oak Winery.

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