BECU spoke with commercial mortgage broker, property developer and Everett native Matt Bolin. Matt, a 20-year BECU member, gave us insight on today’s real estate market, financing commercial properties, and doing it all with his dog at his side.
BECU: You wear a lot of hats – broker, developer, property manager – how do you do everything?
Matt: Well, it's not just me. I work with my two brothers on building and managing properties.
BECU: Has it always been a family-owned business?
Matt: It's in my blood – my family has been building and developing since the 40s in Snohomish County. My great-uncle was a bus driver, and my grandfather was a Sears-Roebuck furniture salesman; they started one house at a time.
BECU: So you continue their business?
Matt: We actually started our own. But we grew up around it, and eventually started developing ourselves.
BECU: Do you still work as a broker?
Matt: It used to be my main line of business. I've probably financed hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of real estate over the years. However, I'm not as active as I used to be. I just brokered the financing for an apartment building in Shoreline that's under construction. Soon as it's finished, we'll restructure to BECU. Literally today, I'm meeting an appraiser for a shopping center that we will take to BECU for financing.
BECU: We appreciate the business! Why would you recommend BECU for financing?
Matt: I referred them because of the great service: Just like my Snohomish county roots, I'm dealing with real people. I originally joined and got a car loan and since then I've had home loans, Visa, multiple business accounts and now apartment financing. I dealt with them for years as a broker on the commercial side. Nowadays, BECU does the financing: I roll up my sleeves and get to work.
BECU: Nice! So your work is now mainly spent with your properties?
Matt: I'll still do a handful of clients, but now I like the variety in watching things come together, whether it's structuring finance or doing the deal – seeing the accomplishment is what really got me back in construction. The tangible progress you can see. You feel like you're adding or preserving value.
BECU: How do you add or preserve value?
Matt: Our apartment building on Capitol Hill, for one. We own the Ben Lemond building, built in 1910.
BECU: 1910! Is it haunted?
Matt: (laughs) I hope not! There have been ghost rumors in the past, but none confirmed. It's a really cool, old brick building that we're having fun restoring and bringing back to life. We've refinished hardwood floors, new cabinets, fixtures, and updated electrical and plumbing, while trying to keep its 1910 character. The idea is to keep the original character but add modern fixtures.
BECU: Sounds lovely! Do you work with specialty builders?
Matt: We actually do the work ourselves; we have our set of sub-contractors. Everyone likes to go down there and work on it, as it breaks the routine (we build new Northwestern/craftsman homes in Snohomish County). It ends up being a nice variety.
BECU: You build craftsman homes in Snohomish County?
Matt: We build semi-custom, 1,500 square feet two-story homes, as well as custom homes.
BECU: Seattle to Everett is quite a jump.
Matt: I'm based in Everett; I grew up in Everett. When I thought I was out, they pulled me back in! I have a lot of ties to the community, and a lot of old friends. I've lived other places, but always find myself back at my old roots.
BECU: You have a dog named Milo. Does Milo conduct business with you?
Matt: He goes everywhere with me. Mighty Milo: He's a schnauzer. He and I each won the rescue dog lottery – we rescued each other.
BECU: Do you (and Milo) manage the properties as well?
Matt: Milo supervises! My brother handles the day-to-day management. But we all chip in. Today I'm going out to do a little landscaping our landscaper missed. We're real hands on – no job is too big or too small for us. We were all raised with that attitude.
BECU: That's a good attitude in any business. What advice would you give to others starting in your field?
Matt: I've worn so many hats – it goes back to being willing to do it all. Don't be afraid to tackle any task. I've done the gamut of jobs and continue to; put in hard work and respect those who work hard, no matter their job, and things will hopefully fall into place.