The energy level in the conference room on the 16th floor of 8 Penn Center was so high that, if harnessed, it might have kept the El running for a week.
At the table were the players in GoldOller Real Estate Investments, save chief operating officer Jake Hollinger, who was live from Florida on a big screen.
Presiding was founder and CEO Richard S. Oller, who with partner/president Jeffrey Goldstein leads a Philadelphia-based multifaceted operation of property management, sales, and investment services, valued at $1.5 billion-plus after just a few years in the making.
First among its many facets is GoldOller's growing rental portfolio in the mid-Atlantic, South, and Midwest. Then there's the Condo Shop, which "emerged from the dust to four offices and 70 employees," Oller said.
TCS Management L.L.C. is "the largest scattered-site property-management firm in the region, with 1,700 units."
Last, but not least, is Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, which in 21/2 years has brokered $400 million in sales in a highly competitive market, Oller said - "coming out of nowhere to be the talk of the town."
"What makes everyone here so good?" he asked. "True passion and tremendous expertise."
Oller, a 1976 Temple graduate and lawyer, has been acquiring real estate and managing property for years.
His first firm, the Wentworth Group (now FirstService Residential), had a portfolio of 100,000 residential units before Oller sold it in 2002.
As Multifamily Management Services, GoldOller's "sister firm," headquartered in New York, Oller and Goldstein - a Drexel grad known for his hands-on approach - have been involved in more than one billion square feet of real estate projects.
The latest, and what appears to be most successful, period of an ever-evolving business model got underway in 2009 with Oller and Goldstein's acquisition of 50 unsold condos and commercial spaces at the Aria at 15th and Locust Streets for $6 million.
The Wentworth Group had been managing the Aria for U.S. Equities Realty L.L.C. of Chicago, a court-appointed receiver.
"Since 2008, we've acquired 14,000 apartment units in 17 states and manage all of them," said Oller, who is working on two more deals: one for 800 units in Atlanta, the other for 400 apartments in Daytona, Fla. The portfolio is valued at more than $1 billion, Oller said.
"The target has been secondary and tertiary markets, like Indianapolis and Fort Wayne," said Hollinger, a Harvard graduate who directs new investments for the GoldOller portfolio and oversees management investments.
Finding these markets, and winning deals there, requires a "macroeconomic perspective of the United States," he said.
GoldOller also sells local properties to out-of-region buyers.
"The fact that residential real estate is a growing business in Philadelphia is in itself good news," noted Kevin Gillen, chief economist for Meyers Research and senior research fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation. "But the fact this sector is now attracting both business and capital from out of town is even better news, and a sign of how much this city has evolved in a positive direction."
GoldOller's total portfolio has an occupancy rate of 97 percent, with "3.5 percent rent growth in our markets," Hollinger said. "Yields have been double-digit since day one," and tenant-retention rates of 55 percent "exceed submarket averages."
The key: "Buy right," looking at 100 properties before you settle on one, he said. Then create "a life experience for residents with all sorts of activities and curb-appeal clubhouses."
When GoldOller bought the final phase of the Cityview project from Crescent Heights, Oller said, it redeveloped the ground floor as commercial space and the mezzanine into the Enclaves at Cityview, premium condo units in the Art Museum area.
"As we completed the Cityview commercial space, including a new entrance on Hamilton Street, we created a small office at the entrance," he said.
That was the original office for the Condo Shop, a brokerage designed to take advantage of the resale potential created by the 600 recently purchased Cityview condos.
Oller's son Benjamin and Gaurav Gambhir are the principals in the Condo Shop, which "cherry-picked real estate agents to create a team" to get a foothold in the city's condo market, Gambhir said.
TCS Homes, a division of the Condo Shop, aims to be one of the city's biggest leasing agents, Gambhir said. A website, RentPhilly.com, has been launched to accomplish that.
Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, with 11 agents and four support staff, includes Rittenhouse Capital Advisors, "which places debt and equity for our deals," said Ken Wellar. He and Corey Lonberger are managing partners.
"We've closed on 35 to 40 deals, primarily middle-market space from 10 to 500 units, valued at close to $400 million," Wellar said. GoldOller is national, Rittenhouse regional, and the two "don't transact business together."
GoldOller and its components have grown rapidly because entrepreneurship and independent thought and action are encouraged, Hollinger said.
"Richard gives us more than enough rope to hang ourselves, and I mean that in a positive way," he said. "We are encouraged and inspired to reinvent the process."