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episode # 312

Becoming a Developer by Age 27 Through Taking Action, Growing your Network & Being Market Obsessed with Hans Fast

Today’s show features a real estate developer launching two projects along the Cambie Corridor in the very near future. A risky and challenging venture for anyone. Did we mention he is under 30? Fastmark’s Hans Fast sits down with Adam & Matt to discuss his rapid ascent through Vancouver’s expensive and tricky to navigate real estate market. We cover the deal finding process, where the opportunities lie & how to scale quickly. But more importantly we talk about how to take action & dream big. This one will inspire!

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Episode Summary


 

Who is Hans Fast?

I’m the founder and principal of Fastmark, which I founded two years ago. I was born and raised in Vancouver and live here with my wife and two kids. I’m 28 years old, so I’m on the fast track – pun intended. I think entrepreneurship is in my blood. Seeing my father work on his business inspired me to do the same as well.  I’m one of nine children; I have a twin brother and I’m the youngest of the boys. We are a big happy family and everyone lives here in Vancouver. Four of my brothers are in the building industry too so real estate really is in our blood. 

Why real estate?

Growing up with family members in architecture, engineering and construction, I had dabbled in those jobs before. I knew I wanted a piece of the pie and decided to give development a shot. I always liked the business side of the building industry. You have to be a jack of all trades in development, which suits my personality. 

How did you get the confidence to start your own Vancouver development company?

It’s day by day. Some days are scarier than other days. In my mind, it’s about the team. I rely upon the network I already had built up, I use good consultants and architects, I utilize my mentors’ advice, etc. It is a community of people who influence me and help me dissect everything. Every day I learn more and build my confidence. 

What do you like about real estate?

I love that it’s a hot topic in Vancouver, so everyone has an opinion about real estate. It influences all of our lives. I saw an opportunity to make an impact as a developer, which was enticing for me. 

You spent time in Germany, right?

Yes, my wife is German. We spent the first year of our marriage in Germany while she was finishing school. I worked for a construction company over there. We travelled around Europe and I was able to learn German while we lived there. 

What does a real estate deal look like? What is your process of acquiring a real estate deal? 

Equities and personal guarantees for financing are extremely important. I found some single lot properties on the Cambie Corridor where we could develop up to eight units. I did a GP/LP structure to raise equity to finance those projects. By the time subjects were removed, I had raised enough. 

What do you like about the Cambie Corridor? 

I live on the Cambie Corridor and work there. It was important for me to know the area well personally and from a zoning standpoint. There is a lot of activity going on and the amenities are so rich. There’s Queen Elizabeth Park and you’re right on the skytrain to take you downtown or to the airport. Cambie Corridor is the heart of Vancouver. 

What were your biggest hurdles with these development projects?

There have been a lot of learning curves. I used to work for some of the larger developers in town; I had a fantastic experience but there’s a lot of new things you deal with as an owner. I wear many hats at Fastmark, which means a lot of new things for me to do.  I wanted to start my own development company because the opportunity to be the owner and make decisions based on my own vision was so enticing. Having two kids, I liked the idea of having the flexibility to spend more time with them. There’s an opportunity to be more involved on the family side. 

What are your tips for young real estate professionals? 

Just get started somewhere. My first proforma was a piece of crap. If I had bought a property with that, I would have been bankrupt before I even started. But I started there so I could continue to build and tweak. You have to get started where you are. Before you pull the trigger and start spending money, have one or two people look it over. You can get very emotionally involved in a real estate deal so it helps to have someone else scrutinize the deal for you.  In development, it doesn’t cost anything to submit an offer. But do your due diligence before you put any money down. Having mentors is key.  Some people told me to start with a duplex but nothing excited me about a duplex. I was excited about multi-family. So sometimes you have to respectfully take advice with a grain of salt and tune out things that don’t line up with your passions. Other people told me to start in Langley but I wanted to be able to walk past my sites on a daily basis. 

Why get involved in real estate development? 

Development played to my strengths. Being in the building industry, I didn’t have the business fundamentals of real estate, so I had to go learn them. That led me to development. It made sense to continue in something that worked for my strengths. 

What is your investment philosophy?

It sounds simple, but I like to invest in things that I know about. I know there are returns to be made in the stock market or in bitcoin. But I’d rather spend that time researching land use properties or seeing what building costs are, because that’s what I know and what I’m excited about.  I’m fortunate that my day job and my investments align. I’m thankful for that. Development is a full time job, especially now that I’m out on my own. There are only so many hours in a day, and I have other priorities with the family, so it doesn’t make sense to dabble in anything else right now.

What is the goal for Fastmark?

As a small development company, financial partners and bank financing is the way to go for the foreseeable future. Building that network of financial partners who will work with me on projects is the main goal. There’s a lot of capital on the sidelines that is waiting to be deployed in Vancouver real estate. It’s up to me to find those properties and projects that people want to invest in. I’m planning to stick to the Cambie Corridor and maybe move into East Van. We want to stick with small projects. The first few projects will set the standard so I want to make sure they’re home runs. For the next few years, I foresee myself doing similar size boutique projects. In the long run, I’d like to do larger projects. 

We understand you’re using mass timber for your project, Beau. Why are you using mass timber for a residential real estate project? 

I get really excited about mass timber. My father’s company was known for mass timber projects in the commercial space and now mass timber is coming to the residential world.  I want to build a better townhouse. CLT (cross laminated timber) is essentially wood on steroids. It’s never been used before in Vancouver, as far as I know, but I think it will be very well-received. It’s a higher-end product that is better in fires and earthquakes, goes up quicker, suppresses more carbon, and provides a very cool interior aesthetic. I’m very excited to provide this for the market. There is a premium to using mass timber but we believe it’s worthwhile. There can be some savings when you use mass timber on a larger project, because it goes up quicker so you can save time on construction. But because Beau is a smaller project, we probably won’t capture those economies of scale. However, because Beau is that small, mass timber also won’t break the bank. We think it’s important to do it to create a better townhouse.  With our first project, Nora, being a stacked arrangement, the mass timber didn’t lend itself to that from a construction standpoint. But because Beau is a row home project, we could do it there. Nora is a conventional wood frame project at Willow and 26th. Beau is at Columbia and 26th.  

How will you educate potential buyers about mass timber and CLT? 

There’s a huge educational component needed in marketing CLT. We’ll have actual wood samples at the presentation centre for Beau and other educational materials available. Anyone who is interested in buying at Beau will probably do their own research. There’s lots of information online and we’ll be doing our best to explain what the buyer is getting with buying a CLT townhouse.  When you walk in your front entrance and you’re in your living space, instead of seeing a dropped drywall, you’ll see the mass timber. You’ll see a wood ceiling, which is the actual structure of the building. We’ve coordinated it so that all of your HVAC and plumbing will still run in a small drop ceiling, like you would see in a typical condo. And your pot lights can actually be recessed into the CLT. It will be a five ply wooden tab, which is about six inches thick. 

How are you working with the City of Vancouver? Is the City of Vancouver excited about the mass timber project? 

We have an exceptional structural engineering team with tons of experience using mass timber in the City of Vancouver. They take on the liability for the structural design. The city will see me but they’ll really see the consultant team I have behind me. I think the city will react positively to the mass timber. It does sequester more carbon than a concrete or stick frame building. 

What advice do you have for people who want to get into real estate but don’t have any connections? 

Just get out there. Some people view networking as a selfish or cheesy thing. But I think it’s crucial. I’ve met so many wonderful people who have given me fantastic advice. Lots of people like to chat about what they’re up to. It might feel awkward, but it will pay off in the long run. Don’t be scared to ask stupid questions.

Besides the Cambie Corridor, what other areas of Vancouver are you interested in?

I lived in East Van for a number of years, so I’m excited about that area. There’s a lot of room to grow in East Vancouver. There’s a lot of character there. Mount Pleasant, on the east side, also has a lot of room to grow. It’s a difficult place for developers as there’s some NIMBY-ism. But if you can make it work, it’s a fantastic place to do it. 

Find out more: https://www.fastmark.ca/, http://liveatnora.ca/, http://liveatbeau.ca/ 

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