Ethan Conrad likes to compare his business to a “real-world Monopoly game.” Well, the prolific Sacramento acquirer of commercial real estate just keeps passing “Go.”
So far this year, Conrad has made 10 buys, the latest being this week’s purchase of a former AMF bowling alley on Florin Road that he expects to lease to a gym operator.
Other recent deals range from the former Lucky Derby Casino on Greenback Lane to a warehouse near the planned regional outlet mall along Highway 99 in Elk Grove.
“Just in terms of deals, we’ve probably done three to four times as many this year as any other buyer,” said Conrad, a youthful 49-year-old who started buying real estate in 1995 and never stopped.
His company, Ethan Conrad Properties, now owns about 4.4 million square feet of commercial property in about 180 buildings scattered throughout the region. The total value: More than $500 million, by Conrad’s estimation.
Among his more notable holdings: The former Breuners building near Madison Avenue and I-80, six office buildings on Tech Center Drive off Highway 50 and Bradshaw Road, and the Nimbus Winery complex in Rancho Cordova.
What’s most remarkable is that Conrad keeps finding deals despite an economic recovery that’s brought big institutional buyers to the local market and elevated prices. One explanation: He seeks out “value added” properties – those with high vacancies, below-market rents or deferred maintenance that scare off other buyers.
He also targets deals at lower price points than those appealing to big outside investors. In Monopoly parlance, he’s looking to buy the Baltic Avenues of the region instead of the Park Places.
For example, his 10 acquisitions so far this year had an average sales price of $1.4 million. “The institutional guys don’t look at those (kinds of deals). They don’t hit their radar,” he said.
How long will the buying spree continue?
That’s unclear. A few years ago, Conrad was predicting that a buyers’ market for commercial properties would be over by now.
“It’s surprising,” he said, “that it has lasted as long as it has.”