FirstService Expands Into Commercial Property Association Management

Merit Property Management has acquired Mar West Real Estate, a major provider of commercial property association management services in the western United States, with operations in California, Arizona and Nevada.

John Strockis

Merit Property Management has acquired Mar West Real Estate, a major provider of commercial property association management services in the western United States, with operations in California, Arizona and Nevada, it was announced Monday. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Merit is an operating unit of FirstService Residential, which in turn is a subsidiary of FirstService Corp.,Toronto,  the parent company of Colliers International. The Mar West acquisition adds a total of 160 commercial property associations totaling more than 50 million square feet of office, industrial and medical properties.

Mar West is headquartered in Tustin, Calif., with additional offices in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Del Mar, Riverside and Burbank, Calif., and affiliate offices in Northern California and Texas. It was founded in 2003 by entrepreneurs Craig Stevens and April Buchner, who are still with the company.

Mar West and its affiliates manage more than 250 commercial offices, industrial and medical parks (planned unit development/condominium/master associations) and property management assignments, totaling about 3,500 separate buildings, parcels or units. The company also manages more than 50 million square feet of office and industrial space and thousands of acres of maintained common-area land within the business parks.

Mar West’s clients include about 100 commercial property developers and five OREO banks/lenders.

If the commercial property association management business seems a bit obscure or hazy to you, don’t feel bad. In an interview with Commercial Property Executive, Mar West CEO John Strockis called this “an industry in its infancy” and explained that Mar West is working to professionalize what is still often a mom-and-pop business.

“It’s under the radar. Nobody has heard of this industry,” said Strockis, who spent 24 years with CB Richard Ellis before joining Mar West.

He described the industry’s three main sides as commercial/master associations in settings such as industrial, office or medical office condominiums; mixed-use projects with multiple owners; and master planned developments.

Merit CEO Bob Cardoza told CPE that Merit has always had some commercial associations in its management portfolio, and that the Mar West acquisition will greatly expand that side of Merit’s business. That’s why the acquisition is a good fit, he said. “It’s not too far from what our core business is. It layers onto our business model ideally.”

Cardoza said there’s “enormous potential” for organic growth, especially on the West Coast, where commercial associations seem to be more prevalent than elsewhere in the United States. He also called commercial property association management “a well-kept secret in the [CRE] industry for a long time.”

Finally, Cardoza noted that the Mar West name will be kept active at least for the short term.