A Daily News Article about Leco Realty -By Madeline Faber

Leco Realty credits Success to Hands-On approach

Over the past 33 years, Bert Less has weathered many financial storms with his property management company Leco Realty Inc.

“The rental business is risky, and you need to know what you’re getting,” he said. “You need to know there’s going to be good times, but there will be some bad times as well.” He’s presently welcoming an uptick in the market, but his dedication to hands-on management hasn’t changed.

The first thing Less learned in his real estate career was to remain flexible with economic factors. With a degree in real estate from then-Memphis State University, Less found himself entering a housing market with astronomically high interest rates. Instead of entering sales, Less worked for his uncle’s insurance agency.

Bert Less is president of Leco Realty, which manages over 1,500 multifamily and commercial units in the Memphis area, with holdings focused in southeast Memphis and Hickory Hill.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“My uncle gave me an opportunity to start a management company by calling his clients that he was writing insurance for on different rentals and see if we could couple that with property management,” Less said. “We just built from there.”

In 1988, four years into his uncle’s tutelage, Leco Realty was incorporated.

Less now manages 1,200 rental houses and six multifamily buildings across the Memphis area, with holdings focused in southeast Memphis and the Hickory Hill, Berclair and University of Memphis areas.

The backbone of Leco Realty is third-party property management, and Less is always looking to grow his business through investor sales.

“We do turn-key,” he said. “In other words, we find them the property, we handle the negotiations of that, we do the remodeling for them, and then we manage it. We’re not just going to hit your for a commission and say good luck. We’re going to see you all the way through. That’s the most rewarding – to really make some money for an investor.”

Leco Realty’s recent investors hail from Miami, San Francisco, New York and Boston, and some clients have been with Less for nearly 30 years.

He attributes those repeat business successes to his hands-on management style and “33 years of dirt-under-the-fingernail experience.”

Last year, Leco Realty moved from its Union Avenue office to a freestanding building at 3707 Macon Road, but Less is hardly at his desk.

“I’m out in my car every morning for hours,” he said. “I don’t care how many computers or websites you have, you still have to get out and go look at properties, call tenants, check on maintenance guys and make sure the painter is doing what he’s supposed to do. You just flat-out cannot sit in your office and manage properties and be successful.”

“You just flat-out cannot sit in your office and manage properties and be successful.”

–Bert Less
Leco Realty Inc.

September 2008 was Leco’s greatest challenge, but his business emerged from the Great Recession relatively unscathed.

“I recognized what was coming,” he said. “It wasn’t just that one month; it was going to be a pretty long haul until the economy turned around and people got their jobs back. We did not really suffer. There were a lot of companies that went under, and we held it together. That was a rough time.”

Less did everything he could to gain some stability from meeting with troubled tenants to better understand their situation to offering specials on lowered rents.

“Rentals in general are so economically driven,” he said. “If unemployment goes up, rentals suffer as well. When good times come and rates are down, we lose some of our tenants to home buying, but our hope is that we can replace them with others.”

Present economic factors are looking favorable for Leco. Less has been able to raise his prices across his portfolio, but not as much as the 10 to 15 percent increases he’s seen in other neighborhoods.

Chandler Reports reported that construction is down 53 percent from last year with only 55 new home permits filed for June, so inventory is tightening. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Memphis’ unemployment rate has been on the decline since 2009, and that has also been a boon to Leco’s business.

“I’m in touch with all the aspects of the business,” he said. “We try to stick to what we’re good at.”

 

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Founded in 1988 by Bert A. less, Leco Realty has a staff of seven full time employees and a full complement of crafts and maintenance vendors. Still a family owned operation, the company manages over 1,500 units in the Memphis metropolitan area. Read More

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