Lender Profile: An Interview with Ben Jacobson

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Ben Jacobson honed his skills while modeling and executing deals for the national advisory Cohen Financial’s Equity Practice Group. The group’s sweet spot was in raising LP equity and corresponding debt, usually for ground-up developers across the state and nation. 
After three distinguished years with a rare ability to generate, model, and execute business, Ben recently moved to Trez Forman Capital, a $2 billion South Florida based lender specializing in bridge, acquisition, pre-development, and construction loans. 
Among a small and unique pool of lenders, Trez Forman will lend non-recourse on land and other asset types – typically perceived as too risky by most lenders – if the sponsor is capable and the deal makes sense. More of a real estate minded lender and investor than a bank, the firm is capable of understanding and executing agreements very quickly and has a significant amount of capital they are looking to place in 2017.
We sat down with Ben Jacobson to learn more about the art of lending.


CREXi: How much capital do you want to place this year? What is your ideal loan range?
BJ: We are looking to place at least $300MM in 2017. The ideal loan size is about $25-$30MM.
CREXi: Will your firm also invest equity into deals or go further up the capital stack on the debt side?
BJ: We are beginning to look at equity deals. Right now, we’ll go up to 80% LTC for the right deal. We recently quoted a non-recourse, $33MM ground-up multifamily deal in North Carolina at 80% LTC.
CREXi: What is your ideal loan scenario right now? What makes your ears perk up?  
BJ: We are doing a lot of non-recourse multifamily and condo construction. We see a gap in the market as the banks are pulling back. We are also very interested in lot development loans and plan on doing a substantial amount of that business in 2017.
CREXi: What is the most memorable deal you were a part of (or the first that comes to mind)?
BJ: My first deal at Trez-Forman, which was a land loan that will convert to a condo construction loan once the pre-sales are in place. This type of creative structure allowed the Developer to achieve all of his financing goals.
CREXi: What piece of advice do you always carry with you (or first that comes to mind)?
BJ: Always be kind.
CREXi: What is your favorite food city?
BJ: Savannah, GA. It is unlike any place I’ve been.
CREXi: What was the last great book you read (or first that comes to mind)?
BJ: The Private Franklin by Claude-Anne Lopez.
CREXi: You have a unique expertise in all-things Ben Franklin. What don’t most people know about him?
BJ: Most people don’t know that Benjamin Franklin was an avid swimmer and is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Another interesting fact is that Benjamin Franklin changed the last three words of Jefferson’s phrase, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable” to the now-famous “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
CREXi: What advice would you give a high-school version of yourself?
BJ: TRAVEL MORE!!! Life happens pretty fast after high-school. With college, jobs, getting married, and having kids, high-school is the perfect time to travel before all of that happens.
CREXi: Your firm will look at deals all over the country, what markets are you most bullish on?
BJ: Right now, we are most bullish on the southeast (Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas).
CREXi: What can your firm do that banks just can’t?
BJ: Speed. Most of our transactions close within thirty days.
CREXi: What career advice would you give to someone finishing undergrad and looking to pursue a career in real estate?
BJ: Start in debt or equity brokerage. I did, and it is a great way to learn all aspects of the business while building your contact base. It is a very fast-paced industry.
CREXi: You were recently married and are working on children; if forced to choose, would you want your child to be all-brains or all-guts?
BJ: If I had to choose, all-brains, I think.
CREXi: What one thing do you think brokers or sponsors need to do better when presenting potential deals for your firm to support?
BJ: Be more organized. The more organized the information is, the quicker we can react.
CREXi: If money was not an issue, what non-business career would you pursue?  
BJ: I would love to be the captain of a boat and cruise around the world.

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Eli Randall
Eli Randall

Chief Strategy Officer

Eli leads Strategy for CREXi after 15+ years of CRE and CRE finance experience. Previously, Eli was a Director of Capital Markets at Cohen Financial, launched Auction.com, and served as Director of Dispositions for Invitation Homes.

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