Five Questions With: Kevin Casey

As vice president of sales for Sweeney Real Estate & Appraisal, Kevin Casey routinely works on significant commercial property sales throughout the state of Rhode Island, including the $2.87 million acquisition of a 30,000-square-foot office building in Cumberland occupied by CVS Health Corp. and a $1.73 million purchase of a 20,000-square-foot warehouse building in Warwick.

A lifelong Rhode Islander, working for nearly 12 years at Sweeney Real Estate & Appraisal, Casey specializes in industrial and office properties, often brokering deals for real estate investors leasing to commercial tenants.

PBN: What’s the office market looking like in Rhode Island right now, in terms of the activity you’re seeing with the sale of office properties, compared with recent years as COVID-19 disrupted the market?

CASEY: Sales are mostly happening for office properties on the investment side. Compared to the past, we are seeing many more users lease rather than purchase their office spaces. They are now more aware of how the use of office space could potentially flex.

Leasing for the last two years was short-term renewals, whereas now that folks have a better understanding of their immediate and future needs, they are signing more three- to five-year-term leases.

Some folks opted to move suburban, but either city center or outskirts, we are seeing more leasing than purchases for users of office space.

PBN: What have been some of the most recent, most significant challenges business owners have faced with real estate in this region? And what kind of solutions have you and your colleagues been offering them?

CASEY: Knowing the true value of their real estate has been important for business owners to monitor. For landlords, the rental rate values have been much more elastic than in the past; we have seen big fluctuation in office, retail and multifamily lease rate and terms.

For many renters, … [there are] cost benefits of owning versus leasing, especially now with the change in borrowing rates. I have personally worked with a lot of real estate investors, especially those seeking the value-add investments.

PBN: What kind of insight can you share about the latest trends among investors in industrial and office properties in Rhode Island? Are a lot of investment properties changing hands right now?

CASEY: It has been a good year for sellers and investors. Many of our clients were able to capitalize on the strong market conditions and sell at optimal prices. On the flip of the coin, many investors were able to utilize the low borrowing rates to meet those higher sale prices.

Even now, with interest rates climbing, depending on the opportunity, there are still awesome value-add sites out there. We recently transacted an office investment sale of a single user. We have another opportunity with an office condo building, which involves multiple tenants.

The continuance of 1,031 exchanges was helpful for those investors looking to defer capital gains tax, so there is still a lot of money out there to be spent on real estate investments.

PBN: Can you tell us about one of the most fulfilling property negotiations you’ve been involved with and why it was significant to you?

CASEY: One of the most challenging times in recent years was during the COVID era of 2019 through 2021. Challenges were not only keeping deals moving forward, but also coordinated efforts to inspect properties took on a new meaning. It was a team effort on all sides, buyers and sellers. Most were understanding, and extensions were granted that in “normal” times may not have been. Hats off to the entire community, as we all worked diligently to keep deals flowing.

PBN: What’s your advice to newly licensed real estate agents in the Rhode Island real estate scene about how they can become more productive?

CASEY: For anyone that is coming into the market, be prepared for the “learning curve.” This is what is going to make you a better representative long term. Learn from the mistakes you may not realize you are making because you don’t know what you don’t know. Find a mentor, if possible. Ask questions, even if you feel this is a foolish question, ask anyway. It might be the answer you need to keep the deal going.