Real estate maven Maxwell Drever often chooses to invest in affordable housing in areas that aren't so welcoming to new and-let's be blunt-wealthy, big-city developers who wear suits, suspenders and bowties. Moreover, residents of these housing developments aren't particularly hospitable to outsiders, or new residents who might complain about certain criminal activities taking place on the grounds.
"We get a lot of gangs that we have to deal with," says Drever, a white-haired, white-mustached gent who dresses in the above said attire.
Despite the moustache and the fact that his daily regimen involves swimming in the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay to stay in formidable shape, Drever, 71, doesn't see himself fitting the mold of the vigilante character that actor Charles Bronson played in the Death Wish films. Drever's solution to gang and criminal infestation of a housing project is far more elegant than pulling out a gun: He calls the cops. He doesn't file complaints; he offers policemen a place to live.
"We always do this in areas that are a little bit problematic. We put police in two of the front units. We give them [free rent], or have them pay reduced rent," Drever explains. "They park their squad cars out front. ... You want to drive by a squad car all the time? It's not good karma [for criminals]." He says the criminals quickly move out.
Cleaning up crime is just one element Tiburon, Calif.-based Drever Capital Management, his investment arm, incorporates into its strategy. DCM has a pretty straightforward and simple business plan: It acquires distressed multifamily properties in submarket areas of major cities and fixes them up. Returns have been as much as 400% on some properties. But what DCM really looks for is consistent, longer-term premium returns.
Some of Drever's biggest investors are life insurance companies. And life insurance companies are interested in quantifiable returns, he says. "They are not interested in risk. They would rather invest for 10 years at 9% than three years and get a 20% return," Drever says. "It's because of safety. They need to cover their annuities."
Ever mindful of their investor base, Drever refurbishes properties with long-term cash flow in mind. The company largely accomplishes this by what it calls "dreverizing," which is another part of its triple-bottom-line approach. (DCM advertises that it's "doing well by doing good.") Dreverizing involves revitalizing communities and fostering pride in rental ownership.
"It's surprising how much longer you can get out of an apartment-the owner and the next owner and the next one will take care of it-if your street scene really looks great; people want to live there," Drever says. "There is so much less wear and tear on apartments if people stay."
Apartment turnover eats into profits. Every time a new tenant comes in there is new maintenance and additional costs, whether it be because of lost rental time or administrative fees.
"People don't realize just how expensive turnover is," Drever says. "Some of the turnover in the apartments we've bought was over 100% because people would leave and go next door where they could get a free TV and a couple of months' rent. We found out that by fixing [the apartments] up and making them look nice from the street that even if the guy next door's occupancy was 60%, we'd be full.