You never know what you might find at the country store of the Minnesota Real Estate Exchangors. An office building in downtown St. Paul might be on the market. Maybe there’ll be a strip center in Edina, Minn., or a slice of land far from the center of downtown Minneapolis.
Of course, the country store run by the Exchangors is far from typical. But for the members of this group – which include real estate brokers, real estate salespeople, insurance salespeople, lenders and title insurers, among others – the country store is indispensable.
And who cares if the store is really only a wall with photos and descriptions of retail centers, warehouses, office buildings and apartment complexes scattered throughout the state? For the Exchangors, those pictures and paragraphs represent opportunity and the hope of a deal or a swap.
And these real estate deals, after all, represent the real heart and soul of the Minnesota Real Estate Exchangors.
For its members – there are about 100 today – the Exchangors, though, isn’t just about facilitating real estate swaps and purchases. It’s also about camaraderie, networking and the sound business ideas that rise to the surface when real estate professionals gather in a single room to discuss business.
“Over the years, this group has become a real problem-solving forum,” said John Fitzgerald, a member of the group and an independent real estate broker. “If you encountered a situation that was troubling to you or to your clients, you were able to go there and dissect the problem. You could dissect it and come up with solutions to it. We are in an economic climate today that mandates creativity. That is what the group has been noted for over the years.”
Trading and selling is king
At any meeting of the Minnesota Real Estate Exchangors, you’ll notice a wall dotted with photos and descriptions of properties. This is the group’s famed country store, and every piece of real estate hanging from the wall is available to attendees. Some are available for purchase, while others for rent or lease. And, most exciting of all, many are available for exchange. Group members just need something valuable to swap for these properties.
And, as president Lance Johnson says, swaps don’t always have to involve two pieces of real estate. Members have swapped cars and boats in the past for land and buildings.
Founded in 1962, the Minnesota Real Estate Exchangors today ranks as one of the oldest real estate exchange groups in the United States. Group members say their club is open to anyone with an interest in investing, owning, selling, exchanging or facilitating the sale or development of investment real estate, equities, notes and mortgages, capital equipment and collectible investment-grade personal property.
Meetings are held on the first and third Wednesdays of every month at the Edina Country Club in Edina, and run from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Meetings focus on the marketing of real estate investment opportunities, networking and education.
The true highlight of meetings, though, is that time when members get to sell their properties.
There’s a sense of excitement whenever club members try to convince their fellow real estate pros to purchase or trade for the real estate that they own or are listing. Group members will stand in front of attendees and list the positive attributes of the office building, apartment complex, land or other property that they own or are listing. A moderator will then take questions from the audience, questions usually designed to ferret out exactly what benefits investors can gain by making an offer on the property.
An audience member might ask about the quality of tenants in a retail strip center. Another might wonder how busy a hotel actually gets during off-weekends. Still another might ask what repairs are needed on an older office building.
“We have very lively meetings,” said Johnson, who, in addition to his duties as the group’s president is also the owner of real estate brokerage Lutsen Realty in Woodbury. “There is definitely no shortage of interest, and there is definitely no shortage of sharp questions.”
Trading and selling, though, aren’t the only activities at an Exchangors meeting. The first meeting of every month typically features a guest speaker. The group recently hosted a representative from a major asset company. At another recent meeting, a real estate lawyer spoke about how to buy, sell and hold real estate, and the legal niceties involved.
Those interested in the club can attend two meetings at the country club, 5100 Wooddale in Edina, as guests. If they want to attend a third meeting, though, they must formally sign up with the club and become a dues-paying member.
Members say that the club offers plenty of business-building opportunities, more than enough to cover the costs of membership. The chance to regularly network with some of the local real estate industry’s sharpest minds alone is worth the cost of joining, they say.
“I like people who are very intelligent and creative with diverse backgrounds,” Johnson said. “And we have that in this group. I have been able to do a lot of business thanks to the connections that I’ve made in this group.”
Fitzgerald has been a member of this group for more than 35 years. And in 1980, he even agreed to serve as its president.
He’s a fan, then, of the Minnesota Real Estate Exchangors, and encourages real estate professionals to attend meetings as guests so that they can see firsthand just how valuable membership in the group can be.
“This group is such a good resource for bouncing ideas off your peers,” Fitzgerald said. “To be able to brainstorm situations and to take advantage of networking opportunities is such a big benefit of this group. I have enjoyed a lot of good learning experiences in this group. It’s always good to massage an idea with other people who are intelligent, creative and skilled.”