Watts Happenings News and Blog

The Faces Behind Commercial Real Estate Growth and the Revitalization of Downtown Birmingham

Web Admin - Friday, September 08, 2017
Over the last few years, Birmingham has experienced a renaissance and redevelopment of downtown in large part due to commercial real estate growth. Commercial real estate, according the Birmingham Association of REALTORS®, contributes $465 billion a year to the U.S. GDP (Gross Domestic Products Index).

The economic impact of this commercial real estate growth, according to the Birmingham Business Alliance, was nearly $587 million in capital investments in Birmingham in 2016 resulting in 2,014 new jobs in the area. The commercial real estate industry stands ready to help businesses meet the needs they have- from retail space and office buildings to vacant land and warehouses.

The Birmingham Association of REALTORS® recently shined the spotlight on six members of the Birmingham Commercial Realtors Council who are doing their part to make Birmingham shine. These powerhouse members garner national and international attention for the Magic City.

For the rest of the article and their description of Chip's and Watts Realty's part in the revitalization effort, check out this link... https://bhamnow.com/index.php/2017/09/01/the-faces-behind-commercial-real-estate-growth-and-the-revitalization-of-downtown-birmingham/

Southside: Shaping The Future

Web Admin - Tuesday, August 08, 2017
Brent Godwin of the Birmingham Business Journal recently interviewed Chip about newly announced projects and some currently active projects slated for the Southside community of downtown Birmingham. The following is an excerpt. To read the entire article click on the link below.  

One of these announced projects is the Vesta development at 2173 Highland Ave South by Harbert Realty and Cortland Partners.  Slated to break ground later this month, Vesta will be a 17-story high rise and a 5-story mid-rise that will consist of roughly 318 upscale apartments, including roughly 6,500 square feet of retail space along with a number of amenities.

"There is definitely an uptick in interest in properties in Southside; however, this is not new... it just happens that the deals are just now closing," says Chip Watts of Watts Realty. "Several developers see Southside as an opportunity for infill projects - if the properties can be purchased at a decent price point. Several deals have been attempted, but only a very few have been successful."

In addition to Vesta, an expected redevelopment of the Southtown public housing site located on University Blvd and butts-up right next to the Lakeview district, has helped spark investors and real estate developers interest to begin buying Southside properties this year.

"It is anticipated that these two projects (Vesta and Southtown) will be catalyst projects that will allow infill projects to flourish," Watts previously told the BBJ. "I believe that developers are just now laying the groundwork for these infill projects to occur."

For the full article, click the link below.  Please be aware that you must be a subscriber to the BBJ in order to view this article.

Chip Talks with REV Birmingham's CEO David Fleming

Web Admin - Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Last week Chip met with REV Birmingham's CEO David Fleming to talk about the continuing construction and growth of the Downtown/Parkside District.  Check out the link or watch the video.

A Zyp Bike tour of Birmingham's future (Part 2 of 2) from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A Letter From Camp

Michael Watts - Monday, July 10, 2017
As a lot of you familiar with Watts Realty Company know already, we are a big supporter of YMCA Camp Cosby.  Over the years a Watts has served on the Board for Camp Cosby as well as fundraising programs to send underprivileged kids to camp for a week.  As a thank you, we received a letter from Rylee (13) telling us all the fun and exciting things she has learned while at Camp Cosby. 

Thank you Rylee for the awesome letter and we will continue to work hard for kids to experience Camp Cosby, because through Camp Cosby we have learned a life motto that we carry with us everywhere and everything we do: "God is first, others are second, and I Am Third".

What Spring Means To A Small Family Real Estate Business.

Web Admin - Friday, May 05, 2017
That good exhausted feeling associated with 60+ hour work weeks. Every spring the hard work comes in more quantities compared to fall and winter.

Residential Property Management : Our Tenants move, sometimes scheduled and sometimes with a surprise. Life takes them to new jobs, new cities, to care for an aging loved one, buying a house, and/or new marriages with even the unfortunate divorces & deaths too. Spring also brings more Tenants to Birmingham for those same reasons. These past two years, some of our many 1 SFH Clients make calculated but very hard decisions to leave the world of being a Landlord to finally selling their investments (which they majority of the time occupied personally & couldn't sell due to the market at the time). These transitions happen in spring. Referrals for new management in and referrals to residential sale's agents out.

Commercial Leasing & Brokerage: Spring increases the real estate economy & related activities. Small businesses and corporations alike make moves; expanding & needing more space, and occasionally contracting sometimes which open up spaces.

Commercial Management: New & seasoned investors need managers, as well as current ones looking for a change in their manager. Luckily we've only seen new accounts this spring. 60+ added Tenants with a newly managed property added to our portfolio just this week. We love being of service to these new accounts as much as we love being of service to our 20-30-50+ year multi-generational owners.

We've been blessed so far this spring. A new $16M+ development opening this month (Flats on 4th). A new long term restaurant build out finishing up (iBrew in 5 Points). Renewal after renewal of current Tenants. Witnessing Chip's two big sales last year opening, one recently (TJ Tower) and one soon (2 Hilton branded hotels). Even the smaller leases starting new relationship (Road Runner Moving as an example). Just closed a sale on raw land that has been listed with us since the 1970s (Shades Valley High School on part of the parcel we sold long ago & now a new SFH neighborhood going up on 30+ acres....still have 29 commercial acres for sale from that original listing). Negotiations ongoing for almost every vacant space for leasing and brokerage. And $16+M in new commercial brokerage listings just in 3 months.

We have 4 new permanent staff just in the last year (two being family coming back into the family business). We have one 13 year staff returning from another state & 1 multi year staff returning from maternity leave. We are growing in # of commercial agents. Maybe an intern from UA starting soon. Our dedicated long term staff is pushing through the work load as well as the ups & downs associated with more work. Chip is gearing up for even more increased service to our industry via his roles in the associations to better our field. We all work like an amazing extended family. I know I've been tough on them & me while we work towards excellence.

Spring is in full bloom with wonderful exhaustion.  Let the momentum continue.

Flats On 4th makes Birmingham Business Journal's annual Deals of the Year list.

Web Admin - Monday, April 10, 2017
Watts Realty is honored to be able to accomplish this deal, and be named by BBJ in their annual Deals of the Year. The Watts family worked hard with all its partners to pull this one from vision to reality. Opening May 5th! We have been involved in Birmingham real estate for 111 years, and want to be investing in this city for another century. We wanted to build a property to reflect those values.

I hope our late grandfather would be proud. I'm sure he worked hard keeping Dad in check during the development of Arlington Business Center just as much as Dad has kept Chip & I in check during this project.

Once we close this project up, time to look for another one...(too soon?😅)

Clink link for BBJ's Deals of the Year

Chip Watts Picked As One of Top 25 Excutives of Influence by Birmingham Business Journal

Web Admin - Monday, March 13, 2017
Earlier this year, the Birmingham Business Journal highlighted Chip in one of their Executive Spotlights, which is linked in a previous post. 

Today, the BBJ unveiled their top 25 of Birmingham Executives of Influence, a special feature highlighting key leaders in a range of Birmingham industries who are shaping both their business and the Magic City's economy. Low and behold, they selected Chip as one those 25 people. We just want to thank Chip for his hard work, whether it's with IREM, NAR, BAR, the state of Alabama, or even just little ol' Watts Realty Company. When Birmingham succeeds, we all succeed. Thanks Chip!

Link to Article

44th Annual Commercial Real Estate Awards

Web Admin - Friday, February 24, 2017
Congrats to Hartwell Smith and David for being recognized at this years BCRC 44th Annual Commercial Real Estate Awards held at The Club on Thursday, February 23rd.  Click the link for more information.


BBJ's Executive Profile: Big deals are in this leader's blood

Web Admin - Friday, January 13, 2017

The Birmingham Business Journal just released their January Executive Profile featuring Watts Realty's very own Chip Watts. He talks about how Watts Realty helped shape the city of Birmingham everyone knows of today and how we hope to help shape it's future. 

Read the article here... http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/news/2017/01/12/executive-profile-big-deals-are-in-this-leaders.html It is a pay site, so if you would like a copy to read, just email Michael and he'll make sure to get you one.


Rental Properties and Craigslist Scams

Michael Watts - Monday, October 31, 2016

I was sifting through some property management news recently when I came across yet another report of an unsuspecting family that had found a home on Craigslist.com, paid money to someone out of country and moved all their personal belongings into the property, only to find out just days later that they were scammed out of their money and ultimately out of a place to live. 

The report, like many of its kind, read a little something like this:

The family was desperate to move out of their previous rental home situation.  They began the process of searching online, probably a Google search, to find a new place to live.  After about an hour or more of searching online listings they come across one that looks too good to pass up.  A nice home in an area they’re already familiar with, and the rent, well it is listed hundreds of dollars lower than other comparable homes in the same area. 

The listing says the owner just wants someone to take care of the property for a year or two while they work out of the country, and the owner wants to rent it as fast as possible.  That’s why the listed rental rate is so low.  Sounds legit.  Once they contacted the person on the listing, they were instructed to wire the deposit and first month’s rent to some “lawyer” out of state and all communications are done via text or email.  No keys are transferred, and is usually communicated through email that the new tenants can just change the locks after they move in. 

Once in the unit, it only took a couple of days before the real property manager came  knocking on the door to find out who moved into his property.  Police are usually involved and it never ends well for the people who thought they had legally rented the home.

This is a horrible thing to go through, and quite frankly is no longer the exception but the norm when it comes to rental properties listed with Craigslist.com.  It not only effects the poor souls that got scammed, but it also affects the property manager and their clients.  It is something that every property manager has to deal with in this new online world, including yours truly.

Once we decided to go fully online with our rental listings, we saw in increase in phone calls to our office asking about properties listed on Craigslist.com that matched one of our listings on other reputable listing sites such as Zillow.com. The only differences between the two listings is the rental rate and the contact information.  If it weren’t for the due diligence of these individuals, we would probably have never even known our listings were being copied and posted to Craigslist.  These rate at which these fraudulent listings are being listed don't seem to be slowing down and is the current reality of online rental listings.  And after so many of these reported scams, I decided to make some changes to all of our online rental listings across the board.

Because photos give legitimacy to online listings, one of the major changes we made was making sure that all photos were watermarked with our brand and company name.  But not just some small logo in the corner of the page; I’ve found through trial and error that placement and size of watermarks matter when scammers are pulling your photos from the World Wide Web.  Photos can be cropped and photo-shopped, so the idea is to make it as difficult as possible and time consuming to copy our listings.  By placing a logo grid across the entire photo, we’ve now made it harder than just pulling the photo and placing in the fraudulent.  Because the grid cannot be cropped out and is very difficult to alter even with computer software, every person who sees the photo can now see our branded logo anywhere in the picture. This in-turn leads them to our contact information and hopefully deters anyone from contacting the fraudulent person on Craigslist.

Because scammers tend to just copy and past descriptions from our original listings with out putting in the time to rewrite it, we have now started placing copyright information in the description area of all our online listings.  This provides anyone who may have found the fraudulent listing with conflicting contact information with the hopes that the potential renter will recognize the difference and do their due diligence to confirm the listing with our office.

These are just a couple of the things we have done at Watts Realty to make sure no one gets scammed here by a fraudulent Craigslist listing.  But just in-case, here are some tips to help avoid rental scams on Craigslist.com:

  • Do your due diligence when researching a rental property.  Google search the exact address to find any other information on the property.  If it’s truly legitimate, more than likely you'll find the correct information on sites like Zillow.com or your local state’s multiple listing service (MLS). If you come across multiple listings with different rental rates and contact information. Follow up and find out why the information is different. More than likely the Craigslist information is incorrect and possibly a scam.
  • Never wire money.
  • Meet the owner or manager in person. Scammers usually prefer to communicate via text or email.
  • Request proof of ownership or management.
  • If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often list rentals for a low price to lure victims.

If you take these things into consideration when searching for a rental property online, the chances of you getting scammed is very low.

Office Physical Address:
1527 3rd Avenue South, Suite 102
Birmingham, AL 35233

o: 205.251.1267
f: 205.252.7777