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Putting REIT on path to rapid growth

Rochester Business Journal
March 21, 2014

A recent week for Amy Tait began with a trip to the Washington, D.C., area. The day started with business meetings and ended at a gala dinner with the nation’s top politicos in her role as a member of the board of governors of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.

That was followed by a visit to New York City, where she met with investment bankers. For the end of the workweek she was back in Rochester, playing host for a party for her firm’s employees and their spouses.

It was a whirlwind, but Tait would not have her schedule any other way.

“I don’t have a lot of tolerance for routine,” she says.

Tait, 55, is the chairman and CEO of Broadstone Real Estate LLC, a Rochester-based property management firm.

Broadstone has roughly 55 employees, including some 25 people who work at the Clinton Square headquarters. The rest are at property sites around the country.

Broadstone Real Estate includes Broadstone Net Lease Inc., a private real estate investment trust that focuses on acquiring and holding freestanding, single-tenant, net-leased properties. REITs are companies that own properties or hold mortgages, paying investors from the proceeds.

Broadstone Net Lease owns 203 properties in 29 states. There are some 750 accredited investors who have invested more than $350 million in the venture.

Since its inception, Broadstone’s share price has increased from $50 to $66 and dividends have grown from $3.50 to $4.48 a share. Medical buildings are the biggest portion of the portfolio. Other properties are industrial, restaurant and retail.

A newer side of the Broadstone company is Broadtree Homes LLC, which focuses on owning single-family homes for rent. Broadtree entered the market roughly a year ago and manages 100 homes in three states. In New York, its properties are in Rochester and its suburbs. The rest are in the Palm Beach, Fla., and Minneapolis markets.

Industry veteran
People who know Tait say she is the right person to lead the business.

She has more than 30 years of commercial real estate experience. During her tenure, she has worked in acquisitions, finance, capital markets, investor relations, legal, human resources and strategic planning.

Yet her career in real estate began somewhat unconventionally.

Tait attended Princeton University, where she studied civil engineering. Although it was her field of choice, she knew the discipline would not end up being her career. Instead, she pursued the engineering degree because she had heard it was good preparation for business.

She graduated in 1980 and later earned her MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business in 1985.

After Princeton, Tait spent a few years with Chemical Bank, a subsidiary of Chemical Financial Corp., in management training and commercial real estate lending in New York City and Wilmington, Del.

Three years later, she joined the family business, Home Leasing Corp. She had not planned on joining the business but found she enjoyed working on a commercial property purchase with her father, Norman Leenhouts.

The deal was never completed, but having the ability to move on a project quickly, versus dealing with lengthy delays associated with getting a bank project approved, appealed to Tait.

She has no regrets about her decision.

“In a family business, the lows can be low but the highs are very, very high,” Tait says.

Twin brothers Nelson and Norman Leenhouts started Home Leasing in 1967. The company went public in 1994 and changed its name to Home Properties Inc., which went on to become a multifamily real estate investment trust.

The Leenhouts brothers stepped down as chief executives of Home Properties in 2003. Home Properties then transitioned its affordable housing and commercial real estate operations back to the brothers.

Norman took control of the commercial business, forming Broadstone Real Estate in late 2005, while Nelson took control of affordable housing and formed Home Leasing LLC.

Tait had left Home Properties in 2001 to spend time with her two children, ages 11 and 9 at the time. She also took part in volunteer work and did some consulting.

She returned to Broadstone in 2006.

Tait’s father is not the only family member working there. Her husband, Robert Tait, is senior vice president of commercial property management and is leading the Broadtree Homes initiative.

The couple, who met at Princeton, celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary this year.

Tait says the two complement each other.

“He is great at bringing order to chaos,” she says.

Down to earth and personable, Tait acknowledges she has trouble with public speaking, but it is something she has tried to do more.

When asked about her leadership style, she refers to a recent speech by retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in which he talks about the difference between management and leadership.

“I’m a terrible manager; I rely on people to do their jobs,” Tait says. “But I think I’m a good leader because I can inspire others and give them the resources they need to reach their goals.”

Tait does not miss a beat when asked about business mentors.

For her, that would be her father, Norman Leenhouts. She describes the 78-year-old chief investment officer at Broadstone as a person with an incredible amount of energy who likes to take on new challenges. She also spoke of his ethical business nature and goal of putting others first.

Tait is proud of the company culture and that Broadstone rewards its employees through profit sharing and bonuses.

“We really all act as a team,” she says.

Christopher Czarnecki, Broadstone’s chief financial officer, has worked with Tait for five years. He describes her as an exceptional business leader because of her intellect and willingness to challenge convention.

“She thinks through complex problems faster and more creatively than most, while challenging others that work with her to keep up and accept nothing less than the best possible outcome,” Czarnecki says.

Tait enjoys the variety of the job.

“It’s an adventure, trying new things that are intellectually stimulating,” she says.

Growth opportunities
On the job, she has a hard time passing up opportunities, which may come around at inconvenient times. One opportunity that has been a good fit is Broadtree Homes.

The single-family market is one Tait has been watching

for several years as the housing crisis has affected people who have lost their homes to foreclosure and made others leery of home ownership.

Broadtree Homes gives investors the opportunity to invest in the single-family rental market without having to be landlords.

Tait cites several statistics related to the industry, including that home ownership in the United States has dropped from 69 percent to 65 percent. That translates to roughly 5 million fewer home-owning families.

The reason for that drop depends in part on the location, she says. In the Rochester area, for example, people tend to rent for reasons such as a relocation or recent divorce. In Florida, however, foreclosures are driving the decline in home ownership.

Broadstone has gotten into what could become a market of more than $2 trillion market over the next several years.

“We are excited to be at the forefront,” Tait says.

At work, Tait’s focus is on making money for Broadstone’s shareholders. Access to capital is key to growing businesses such as Broadstone, she says.

A goal is to continue to scale up the business. Broadstone has some $800 million in assets, and there is no need for liquidity in the near term. 

Further helping Broadstone is the recent easing of a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation on private companies, which now allows them to raise equity more easily while staying private. The change was included in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012.

The JOBS Act immediately allowed Broadstone and similar private companies to increase the number of shareholders to 2,000. With that, Broadstone lowered its minimum investment from a half-million dollars to $250,000. The result has been some 300 new investors.

A section of the JOBS Act also directed the SEC to remove its prohibition on general solicitation or general advertising for certain securities offerings, provided that sales are limited to accredited investors and the issuer reasonably verifies that all purchasers of securities are accredited.

With that, Broadstone—which largely relied on word-of-mouth in the past to gain investors—revamped its website, providing more information on the business. The change is paying off, with the site generating some 5,000 hits monthly, Tait says.

James Watters, Rochester Institute of Technology’s senior vice president of finance and administration and treasurer, has known Tait for some 10 years socially and has been in a business relationship with her for the past eight years, serving as an independent director at Broadstone.

Watters says Tait is able to see—and act on—opportunities when they arise. That includes inaugurating Broadtree Homes, he says. Tait recognized the opportunities present in single-family home rentals and consolidation created by the change in home ownership characteristics resulting from the 2008-09 mortgage upheaval.

“As she sees these opportunities, she is able to envision the business response,” Watters says. “Amy operates with integrity and a strength of character to sustain her and those around her through the inevitable trials a new company will face.”

Not only was the creation of Broadtree Homes a savvy business decision, but it was a way to give back on Tait’s part, Watters says.

“She saw the business purpose but also saw the humanistic side,” he says. “She was very concerned about the plight of the average American family.”

Tait misses the amount of time she was able to dedicate to volunteer efforts when her children were young.

The real estate industry is largely male-dominated, Watters notes, but Tait has been able to hold her own.

“To reach the pinnacle she has, it takes vision and strength of character,” he says.

Alpaca farming
Tait and her husband live in Rochester. In 2008 they renovated Woodside, the former Rochester Historical Society headquarters on East Avenue.

They also own a 100-acre alpaca farm in Canandaigua, called Snowbell Farm. In addition to the alpacas, the farm is home to pygmy goats and honeybees.

The couple’s children, Alex, 23, and Margaret, 21, are focusing on their career goals.

Alex Tait, a Princeton graduate, is pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at the school. Margaret Tait attends Princeton and intends to pursue a career in commercial real estate.

Amy Tait’s love of real estate extends to her personal life. She enjoys traveling and buys properties around the globe as personal real estate investments.

“I’m always searching for good investments,” she says, adding that she does the necessary research on personal properties as well as Broadstone’s.

Tait has purchased vacation homes in Australia and Florida, which have since been resold. She is building a vacation home in the jungle of Costa Rica. It was a decision that was made partly for the investment opportunity and partly for the region’s beauty.

It also complements Tait’s active lifestyle.

“I love having projects,” she says.

Amy Tait
Position: Chairman and CEO, Broadstone Real Estate LLC
Age: 55
Education: B.S. in civil engineering, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., 1980; MBA, University of Rochester Simon School of Business, 1985
Family: Husband, Robert; son, Alex, 23; daughter, Margaret, 21
Residence: Rochester
Activities: Travel, real estate investments, Alpaca farm owner
Quote: “I don’t have a lot of tolerance for routine.”

3/21/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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