Harsch Investment Properties

Specialty: Private owner of commercial real estate, management
Management: Jordan Schnitzer
Founded: 1951
Headquarters: Portland
Employees: 300
Current projects: Renovating Celebration Center, a retail space in Federal Way; Plaza 520 in Bellevue; Fife Business Park


Rob Aigner, senior vice president and regional manager of the Seattle office of Harsch Investment Properties, said his most important job right now is keeping existing tenants happy, making sure they are operating as efficiently as possible and filling vacancies.

“That’s been our mission for the past year,” he said.

Harsch has a portfolio of 20 million square feet, filled by about 3,000 tenants. For the last two years, Aigner said the firm has mostly concentrated on existing customers and hasn’t been taking on new opportunities.

Aigner doesn’t see anything changing until after the 2012 presidential elections. The only bright spot is the improving technology market, he said.

“The change we’re all waiting for and we’re all anxious about is not going to occur until the year 2013 when we get the national election behind us,” he said. “I really see no change into 2012 either from a job or economic perspective. I just don’t see anything changing.”

Little growth

In 2012, Harsch will continue dealing with the business environment the same way it has for the past two years. There won’t be a lot of growth, Aigner said, and there won’t be a tremendous amount of acquisitions. If the firm does take on new opportunities, it would be in one of the six geographic areas around the country Harsch already works in.

It’s not looking at office, is potentially looking at retail and will be looking at industrial. It hasn’t decided yet whether to look at multifamily. Office, Aigner said, is overpriced today. He doesn’t see those prices coming down.

One trend Aigner thinks will continue is the institutional appetite for core properties. Today’s tenant market is very competitive. Tenants hire a broker, survey the marketplace and drive a hard bargain. Aigner said he’s making more concessions, with free rent and tenant improvements being pretty standard. Other tenant rents are staying flat. It’s different from the “halcyon days” four years ago where the landlord was king. It was more fun back then, Aigner said, but the industry was engaged in practices that weren’t sustainable in the long term.

More caution

The economy, Aigner said, has made everyone more conservative. Everyone thinks about risk and the long-term impact of decisions. “I think people are cautiously optimistic. They don’t have this unbridled enthusiasm about the future and because of that, people are just a little bit more cautious. A little bit more risk averse. So that opportunity that we would have stretched for four years ago because the future looked a lot brighter, maybe we don’t stretch for it today.”

He said the most important thing when dealing with volatile markets is remaining flexible and market savvy. Aigner is very optimistic about Seattle’s future and said the area is the envy of a lot of communities globally. The Seattle area is doing a lot of things right but people here typically don’t take credit, he said. “It’s a great place to be and we’ll continue to be that way.”

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