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Small Developers Rely on Core Values for Growth

A historic seven-year surge has lavished focus on multifamily’s big, scaled enterprises as they’ve resculpted the for-rent landscape. That’s as it should be; they’re the ones with access to capital, land positions, talent pools, and tech infrastructure. That’s where most of the drama’s been, as these multiregional public and private companies jockey for dominance across America’s fastest-growing local economies.

Still, as market momentum starts to shift, we’re curious about whether smaller operators—the ones full of the entrepreneurial fire that prompted them to start up against some stiff odds—have what it takes to scale up. Common among these firms, we note the critical importance of a range of skill sets that enable even less well-resourced players to spring opportunistically on cue.

Yet, apart from the business and technical proficiencies we came across as we looked under the hoods of three small to medium-sized firms—Pensam Capital, Avesta, and Trion Properties—we also struck upon something else in their DNA. Each—a classic entrepreneurial outfit composed of two parts bootstraps determination and agility and one part financial shrewdness—operates with nimbleness as an essential strategic ingredient, enabling each to outmaneuver larger, more powerful competitors.

What sets them apart from their peers, perhaps, is neither a business model, nor a vision, nor a strategy. Rather, it’s an embedded purpose that supplies energy, urgency, and the drive to win. Here’s how.

Trion Properties
Max Sharkansky and Mitch Paskover first met when they were 10 years old, growing up as close family friends in the Los Angeles environs. As they grew older, the two decided to attend college at Loyola Marymount University and the University of Southern California (USC), respectively. After graduating in 2001 and 2000, they both chose to pursue careers in multifamily real estate. Sharkansky went into the brokerage side of the business at Marcus & Millichap, and Paskover tackled loan origination and structuring joint-venture equity at HFF.

In 2005, the duo decided to start their own business together as principals, doing smaller deals in the greater San Fernando Valley area. The name they picked for the firm—Trion—stood for the thread of friendship and parity in their plan, as it literally blends the school nicknames of the USC Trojans and the Loyola Marymount Lions. By 2006, the venture had grown large enough that the two men left their jobs to start pursuing deals.

“For us, it was a great time,” Paskover says. “We saw the opportunities the principal side of the industry had to offer, so we made the decision to leave brokerage and work together in syndicating our own deals.”

So Sharkansky and Paskover sold off properties quickly. Given what happened in 2008 and 2009, that was great timing. “We got lucky,” says Paskover. “We didn’t take big hits.” When the market turned, they tapped their banking contacts and began buying notes on apartments. “It gave us an edge when the whole market turned and [we were] buying notes,” Paskover says. Trion bought approximately 20 notes in California by 2010.

Ultimately, Trion didn’t end up taking over any properties. “Most of those notes worked out,” Paskover says. “We were buying at a discount because borrowers had issues paying their loans, but almost all of our notes paid off. We tried to work with the owners and didn’t force foreclosure.”

Trion turned to conventional acquisitions in 2012 and since has bought 1,488 apartment units and 217,142 square feet of retail. Its niche is as a value-add multifamily investor focused on Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego, and Portland, Ore. The firm recently closed on a 146-unit, $36.6 million deal in San Leandro in the East Bay area. Trion’s sweet spot is ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s vintage deals, priced north of $8 million.

The core values underlying that business model, whose aim is to one day compete on the level of a Carmel Partners or TruAmerica Multifamily, are about trust and transparency, says Paskover. “We want to run an operation where people not only come to work prepared, but come prepared to have fun. If we enjoy and trust one another, we’ll work more successfully.”

Trion Properties Acquires San Leandro Apartment Property for $36.6MM

SAN LEANDRO, California (April 6, 2017) – Trion Properties, a private equity real estate firm with a niche focus on value-add multifamily investments, along with its joint-venture partner DVO Real Estate, a New York-based private real estate investment firm, has acquired Bel Brook and Hideaway Apartments, a 146-unit value-add multifamily property in the San Leandro submarket of the East Bay, for $36.6 million.

This is Trion Properties’ fourth Bay Area acquisition in less than 15 months, bringing its existing Bay Area multifamily portfolio to a total of 262 units, according to Max Sharkansky, Managing Partner at Trion Properties.

“San Leandro is thriving and experiencing tremendous revitalization, making it poised for long-term growth and investment potential,” says Sharkansky. “Located in the heart of the dynamic East Bay, this property is within walking distance to a BART station and a mile away from the San Leandro Technology Campus, a 750,000 square-foot mixed-use development which will bring an estimated 1,800 tech jobs to the area. The enormous job growth throughout this region is driving demand for quality housing located in close proximity to transit options and major employers.”

Sharkansky notes that the entire East Bay is undergoing rapid growth as major tech giants and employers expand their presence in this region. Uber will relocate its corporate headquarters to Oakland, while Tesla has brought thousands of high paying jobs to Fremont.

In addition to the region’s technology sector growth, San Leandro is home to three of the Bay Area’s largest craft breweries, a thriving downtown district with a host of retail and restaurant amenities, and the San Leandro Monarch Beach, a 40-acre mixed-use development anticipated to break ground this year.

“We are bullish on the East Bay and have a proven track record in this market,” continues Sharkansky, who notes that Trion recently acquired two value-add multifamily assets in Hayward and San Leandro last year.

“This property is located only a block away from our Metro348 property on the same street. Metro348 boasts a strong and diverse mix of tenants, many of whom work in the technology and healthcare industries, including employers such as Uber, Kaiser, and GE Health. Based on our enormous success in repositioning our existing Metro348 asset, the Bel Brook and Hideaway Apartments presents a unique opportunity for us to execute a similar value-add investment strategy and capitalize on the tremendous growth of this region, enabling us to generate strong cash flow and risk-adjusted returns to our investors.”

Sharkansky notes that it is rare to source a multifamily asset of this quality and vintage in a supply-constrained market such as the East Bay, where demand for quality housing continues to outpace supply. The property’s close proximity to Trion’s other East Bay assets will allow the firm to amass economies of scale and strengthen its operational efficiencies, according to Sharkansky.

Built in 1967 and 94 percent occupied at acquisition, this well-maintained community has strong in-place cash flow with tremendous upside potential, allowing Trion to strategically upgrade the property in order to bring rents up to market and increase net operating income.

The firm plans to modernize the property through strategic interior and exterior renovations to create a best-in-class San Leandro community. Interior renovations include the installation of new vinyl wood plank flooring, stainless steel kitchen appliances, modern cabinetry, high-end finishes, and bathroom upgrades.
In addition to these interior upgrades, Trion will completely rebrand the property through exterior improvements, including the installation of new signage, as well as significant upgrades to the leasing office, pool, fitness center, and recreational center.

“Our vertically integrated property management platform will enable us to reposition this community and provide competitive amenities that improve quality of life, allowing us to create a better end product for our residents,” confirms Sharkansky. “Ultimately, this acquisition is well aligned with our strategy of targeting well-located assets with strong value-add potential, then investing in strategic renovations to enhance asset quality and drive long-term value.”

The apartment community is located at 77-85 Estabrook Street in San Leandro, California. Trion Properties and joint-venture equity partner DVO Real Estate acquired this property from the John Sullivan family. Acquisition financing was arranged by Continental Partners through NXT Capital. John Leyvas Jr. and Brad Lehman of Newmark, Cornish and Carey represented both the buyer and the seller in this transaction.

Hunting The Wild Value-Add In Portland

Trion Properties managing principal Max Sharkansky tells us value-add multifamily deals still exist in greater Portland. Maybe not as low-hanging fruit, but they're still on the tree.

LA-based Trion recently acquired Hidden Villas, a 61-unit apartment property in Beaverton, for about $7M from a private owner. By repositioning and rebranding the property through various renovations, Trion plans to bring rents up to market rate.

"Hidden Villas presented a strong opportunity for us to acquire a value-add multifamily asset well below replacement cost, with strong upside potential," Max says. "Rents at this property are about 12% to 36% below market value, allowing us to capture rent growth upon lease turnover." Max, right, is snapped with his wife and managing partner Mitch Paskover and his wife.

Max says Beaverton has emerged and established itself as the sports apparel capital of the nation—Nike's world HQ isn't far away—and is a growing tech hub in the Pacific Northwest (the "Silicon Forest"). Those are two factors that make Hidden Villas a strong investment opportunity for Trion, he says.

The deal marks the firm’s fourth acquisition in the area and comes on the heels of another investment in the Portland metro, Tigardville Apartments, a distressed, 36-unit garden-style asset in Tigard.

Trion to Launch Fund With $100M in Buying Power

Trion Properties, the Los Angeles-based multi-family investment firm, is moving into the real estate fund business.

The company, headed by Max Sharkansky and Mitch Paskover, plans to raise a $30 million equity fund with $100 million in buying power to invest in multi-family assets in L.A., the Bay Area, San Diego and Portland, CoStar reported.

That means that, rather than raising money through syndication one deal at a time, the firm will be asking investors to trust that it will find them the right deals. It also gives Trion the ability to pull the trigger on a transaction at a moment’s notice.

“Our firm has a deep pipeline of opportunities that we’ve already identified, and the shift to a private equity fund will allow us to take full advantage of these opportunities as they arise, increasing activity in our target markets,” Sharkansky told CoStar.

Trion, whose current portfolio includes 720 units across those four aforementioned markets, says its edge is in its narrow focus on undermanaged multi-family properties.

“Because we’re so focused, we bring a deeper expertise in this product type and geography than our competitors,” Paskover said. “By targeting urban infill projects, we’re limiting the downside and ensuring that our assets can weather economic storms.”

The company recently nabbed the Avalon, a 47-unit building in the heart of Koreatown, for $7.54 million, or $329 per square foot. The seller was Vista Investment Group from Santa Monica.

Interview With Mitch Paskover

Did Trion Properties have a successful 2015?

Trion Properties had an extremely successful 2015—it was Trion’s highest volume acquisition year. Newly delivered renovated projects far exceeded our expectations, and we entered two new markets that we are very excited about—Portland and the East Bay (Bay Area). Additionally, we’ve spent the last couple of years solidifying our strategy.

There is a huge rental affordability crisis currently going on in the urban centers of the US. Not only has supply not been able to keep up with the demand from the millennial generation, but also with high levels of construction costs, the new supply is solely focused on catering to the top tier of renters.

Trion sees a huge opportunity here. Our strategy is to acquire underperforming boutique assets in gentrifying submarkets and renovate them to a high quality that is usually not exhibited in non-institutional assets. The effect is that residents at our properties typically pay a higher rent than other ‘mom and pop’ properties but at a huge discount to newer construction.

For example, The Eleanor, a 41-unit 1920’s building located in Westlake/Macarthur Park, a neighborhood that sits between Koreatown and Downtown Los Angeles, is getting the highest rents per square foot for an asset of its vintage in the submarket. However, even more importantly, the tenants who live in the community love their homes. The property has a five-star review rating on both Yelp and

We look forward to delivering excellent communities to our residents and in turn, generating continued stellar returns to our investors in 2016.

What is Trion Properties target market when purchasing properties?

Our target markets for acquisitions are gentrifying neighbourhoods throughout the West Coast, primarily Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, and Portland.

We target assets that have potential immediately, but are located in areas that we believe will continue to grow into better neighborhoods. In 2015, most of what we acquired was located in neighbourhoods that historically have been lower income but have shown signs of rejuvenation. Whether it is the addition of public transportation or major employers, popular restaurants, nightlife, or coffee shops moving into the neighborhood, we are always looking for the next neighborhood to demonstrate signs of growth.

What markets have you already conquered? And what markets do you plan to enter in the future?

As previously mentioned, we own in West Coast markets, our home base of Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area and Portland, Oregon. During the recession, we purchased assets in Sacramento that have done well for us, but we are exiting those assets this year.

We do not have plans to expand into other markets at this time. We have specifically chosen these markets that we believe are best prepared if there were another recession. Our current target markets are areas where job growth has far exceeded new supply, areas that have access to many high paying jobs and well-educated young renters.

What factors are driving tenants to the surrounding submarkets of the Bay Area?

The Bay Area has seen record job growth and an influx of renters—and not enough supply to keep up with unprecedented demand. However, the growth is not only in San Francisco or Silicon Valley anymore. Residents and companies alike have moved to the East Bay in search of affordability, access to public transportation and its central location. Companies such as Uber and Tesla are bringing high paying jobs to areas such as Oakland and Fremont, while the Apple and Googles of the world are snatching up the high-end office space of the Silicon Valley.

Why are the Hayward and San Leandro regions so popular or attractive for acquisitions?

Hayward is often referred to as the ‘Heart of the Bay’ because of the city’s central location in Alameda County—15 miles south of Oakland, 16 miles west of San Mateo, 25 miles southeast of San Francisco and 26 miles north of San Jose. The property’s central location makes it a short commute to many employment opportunities in the bustling Bay Area at a fraction of the rent of neighboring cities. Hayward has great access to the interstate 880, State Route 238, and State Route 92, which continues west as the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The city of Hayward just invested over $100 Million into the ‘Hayward Loop’ to cut down commute times and beautify Hayward’s Downtown.

San Leandro offers immediate access to BART stations, the Oakland International Airport, and the San Leandro Technology Campus, a 500,000 square-foot campus of connected office space adjacent to the BART station. The San Leandro Technology Campus, known as the ‘future of business and industry’, will bring an estimated 1,800 high quality jobs to San Leandro, thereby driving exponential economic growth in the next few years.

With strong competition in the US, what makes Trion Properties more attractive than its competitors?

Our vertically integrated property management/project management platform has allowed us to fine tune our repositioning skills, creating a better end product for our residents. We are always thoughtful on how to best cater to our residents, whether it be providing technological improvements such as smart locks, nest thermostats, or Uber concessions or arcade games in the common areas.

Additionally, we have good relationships with the brokerage community. Brokers that source us a deal will always get the deal back on the back end. We protect brokers on acquisition opportunities that they bring to us and will pay a fee when necessary. We understand the value that brokers bring to our business and we do everything to convey that, helping us to continue to build our pipeline.

Do you have any other acquisitions in the pipeline for 2016?

As of now, Trion Properties, along with an experienced development partner, has a ground up development deal under contract. The asset will be in the Culver City/Lower Westside location. This deal has an amazing location in close proximity to the growing ‘Silicon Beach’ startup culture, where hundreds of startups are beginning to headquarter their businesses. We are also continually looking to add to our portfolio.

47-unit Koreatown Rental Goes for $329 a Foot

L.A.’s Koreatown continues to attract multifamily investors willing to shell out top dollar for income producing properties.

Trion Properties, a private equity investment group based out of West Hollywood, has nabbed the Avalon, a 47-unit building in the heart of the evolving neighborhood, for $7.54 million, or $329 per square foot. The seller was Vista Investment Group from Santa Monica.

The deal marks a record price for a brick property in the neighborhood, according to CoStar.

“This transaction exemplified the strength of current market conditions and investors’ confidence in the multifamily market in Koreatown,” said Janet Neman, senior managing director at Charles Dunn Company, who brokered the deal along with colleague Bryan Glenn. “We received a lot of interest and seven offers on this asset. It is rare to find a vintage art-deco property that is exempt from rent control with a value-add component.”

The transaction is a good indicator of how much prices for Koreatown properties have risen even in the past few months, thanks in part to a tightening rental market. As recently as September, TRG Investments and Century City’s Cresta Properties bought a similar property, at 808 S. Hobart Blvd., for $8.4 million, or just $230 a square foot.

Other recent Koreatown deals include the $13.4 million sale of the Ancelle Apartments complex on Gramercy Drive to Champion Real Estate Company in November.

The median rental price for an apartment in Koreatown was $2,601 by the end of last year, a 7.6 percent annual uptick, according to a report by Zillow.

The Trion property, at 324 S. Catalina Street, is comprised of 20 studio apartments, 26 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit.

The company plans to completely renovate the property, upgrading the lobby and common areas and refacing the building’s façade.

“The buyer plans on bringing rents to market rates as they become available,” Glenn said.

How an ex-Investment Sales Broker Built a $100M Portfolio

My partner, Mitch Paskover, and I had been friends since we were teenagers and during college both decided to go into the real estate business, Mitch into finance and I went into investment sales at Marcus & Millichap. We both knew from the outset that being intermediaries wasn’t going to be our careers, but rather a means to an end. By 2005, we were among a group of twenty somethings who were strong producers in their firms, and being too young for marriage and a mortgage, we had capital on hand to buy our first two value-add multifamily properties in LA. Our business plan of renovate, reposition, lease-up and sell was a success and outperformed even our “best-case” projections. In less than one year we decided to leave our firms and start Trion Properties. We continued buying through the cycle and were fortunate enough to time the peak fortuitously by selling our small portfolio and shifting our acquisition strategy from targeting mismanaged assets from passive owners to targeting distressed assets from lenders and servicers. The sale gave us the flexibility and the capital to execute on the strategy throughout the downturn.

Since the recovery, we have built a portfolio of assets located in urban-infill markets throughout California and Oregon with a value-add strategy executed through our vertically integrated management structure.

What are some of the unexpected challenges you’ve encountered running your own shop? How have you creatively overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges is learning how to become an effective executive while growing your skills as a real estate investor. The vast majority of real estate investors striking out on their own are not thinking about leasing office space in a central or strategic location, what type of accounting software to use, or who should be their first senior level hires. Unfortunately, there are no magic bullets but my best advice would be to establish a relationship with a mentor who can guide you through the start-up process, and hopefully many years thereafter. You can save yourself a lot of time, money and anguish – and possibly stay out of bankruptcy, by asking someone the answers to a few of those questions.

What has you the most excited about the real estate industry today?

I recently published an eBook detailing what 20 real estate operators wish they knew when starting their firms, which is chalk-full of great tips for aspiring real estate entrepreneurs. One of the contributors was Max Sharkansky of Trion Properties, an owner/operator based out of LA. I met up with Max a few weeks back in NYC and was incredibly impressed with his approach to investing, the company culture he’s created at Trion, and the portfolio he’s built since starting the firm in 2005.

I was inspired by Max and wanted to share the Trion story, some of the toughest challenges he’s faced, what has him excited, and advice he’d have for those just starting their career.

Enter Max:

Tell us about the Trion story. Why did you decide to go off on your own?

We are incredibly excited about the changing habits of consumers (renters) and our ability to maximize the value of our assets by capturing that market. The amenities that appeal to our primarily millennial tenant base are significantly different than the amenities that appealed to Gen X’ers when we started in the business 15 years ago. The demand lies in more interactive and functional amenities such as Nest Thermostats, common area recreational space, dog runs, and bike sharing; a stark difference from the past where the value was created through improving finishes such as upgrading kitchen countertops from formica to granite and berber carpets. I recently visited one of our properties in West LA and one of the tenants ran up to me to tell me how excited he was about the Nest Thermostat and that was the amenity that sealed the deal for his lease. It’s a thermostat that costs two hundred bucks!! If I would have told a multifamily investor 15 years ago, that a thermostat would be the difference between a prospective tenant deciding to lease versus continuing to search, I am confident that I would have been laughed out of the room.

What advice would you give to a college kid just beginning his real estate career? What about a young professional aiming to go off on his own?

This is a challenging question because it depends on the personality profile of the individual. For someone who is comfortable with sales and has a tolerance of risk for the majority of their income earned through commission, I would strongly recommend taking the intermediary route. In retrospect, I would repeat my career path because I was able to earn more than the average twenty-something while learning the investment side of the business through my senior associates and clients. I cannot imagine that working for even the largest, highest-paying institutions would have had the same earning capacity or given me the access to investment opportunities as a career as an investment sales broker at a top firm. I don’t know how we would have been able to buy our first few acquisitions without the skill of sourcing favorable, off-market opportunities.

For someone who does not have the stomach for volatile earnings and requires a more stable salary, I would recommend starting your career on the investment side of the business with a middle market firm. You will learn significantly more about the business of real estate working with a middle market investor because you are exposed to all aspects of the business irrespective of your position. For example, if you are working in acquisitions, you will be working very closely with not only others within your team but with other teams such as operations and finance, unlike an institution where you will be a much smaller piece of the puzzle with significantly less exposure.

Trion Offloads Two Sacramento Communities for $25M

Los Angeles-based Trion Properties has completed the disposition of two Sacramento multifamily assets. The private equity real estate firm has sold the Sierra Village and Regalia Crest for a combined $25.5 million. Trion had acquired the two assets in 2013 and 2014 for a total consideration of $14.2 million, highlighting the current rise of Sacramento multifamily properties.

Sierra Village apartments is located at 5146 Jackson St. in Sacramento’s North Highlands submarket. The community was sold to Oracle Properties Development in a deal worth $9.3 million. The transaction was arranged by CBRE representative Marc Ross. Built in 1986, the 185-unit garden-style property was significantly improved in terms of net operating income, which has doubled under Trion’s stint as owner. The unit mix consists of one- and two-bedroom apartments that claim average rents of $878.

Located at 3536 Watt Ave., the 128-unit Regalia Crest was acquired by a Bay Area-based buyer for $10 million, in a deal arranged by ARA Newmark‘s Nate Oleson. Trion originally purchased the property for $4.9 million in April 2013. Capital improvements included new flooring, kitchen appliances and new paint. The amenity package includes two swimming pools, spa, laundry facilities and a parking facility that can hold up to 188 vehicles.

The Sacramento multifamily market is on a hot streak as low inventory expansion has translated to rapid rent appreciation. The metro currently tops Yardi Matrix’ latest surveys in terms of rent growth.

Trion Properties Debuts Investment Fund

Trion Properties has launched its first investment fund vehicle. Bisnow caught up with managing partners and co-founders Max Sharkansky and Mitch Paskover to get the details.

The fund will have a target of $30M in equity to reach $100M in buying power.

The 10-year-old private equity firm will invest in acquiring and renovating multifamily properties in LA as well as San Diego, Portland, OR, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Portland and the Bay Area are targeted because they are high-growth markets, Mitch and Max (pictured above with their wives on a ski trip) say.

The pair says Trion Properties manages its own multifamily portfolio in-house as opposed to being asset managers who oversee the operations of another property management company.
Focusing on value-add multifamily properties in key geographic areas contributes to their success, they tell us.

Trion plans to use crowdfunding for its debut fund, partnering with RealCrowd for the initial launch. The fund will seek out accredited high-net-worth investors.

There are plans for an institutional fund in the future.

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