Hint: He’s heading up $1B in local construction projects. When local developers, brokers or homebuilders want to get a tough residential real estate deal done, they often think of Jim Bagley.
“By the sheer force of personality, he gets inside of deals so everyone enjoys talking to him and dealing with him,” said John “Chip” Webb, principal of land development and real estate consulting firm Tramell Webb Partners Inc. in Orlando
And now, as managing director and asset manager for Boca Raton-based Encore Housing Opportunity Fund, Bagley is the man behind $1 billion worth of local projects, including single-family homes, apartments, commercial space and short-term rental homes. So if you’re looking for construction-related opportunities, he’d be a good guy to get to know.
In the past, it sometimes seemed as if Bagley changed jobs as often as some people change their hairstyles.
Between 2006 and 2009, he was a top local executive for national homebuilders PulteGroup Inc. (NYSE: PHM) and Meritage Homes Corp. (NYSE: MTH), as well as Orlando-based Park Square Homes.
But his first love in business is clawing his way out of a market downturn by buying properties tied up in foreclosures, short sales or bankruptcies.
“I started my career during the savings and loan debacle, so I’m very comfortable on the distressed real estate side,” said Bagley, who is managing the development of about 3,500 residential lots for Encore in the Orlando area. “My biggest drive was to become a private homebuilder and developer. But since 2006, there’s been no capital for private homebuilding. Now, we’re capitalized.”
Bagley led Encore in buying three residential developments in west Orange and Osceola counties, including one where Encore subsidiary City Homes LLC is building homes in Windermere. Additionally, he bought 42 distressed lots in west Orange County’s Independence development, where he plans to build single-family homes, as well as a 1,200-home resort community at the former Splendid China attraction in Osceola County.
His energy, enthusiasm and engaging personality combined with his vast industry knowledge make him someone people keep wanting to do deals with, regardless of the company currently on his business card.
“Bagley’s just fun. He’s fun to be around and fun to do business with,” said Webb, who has known Bagley for years and worked with Encore and its development partner, DeBartolo Development Co., on Summerport Village, a 196-acre mixed-use project in the works in Horizon West.
Bagley cut his teeth by starting a private development firm while going to law school in East Lansing, Mich. He bought distressed home lots, sometimes for $1,000 each, and then sold them to public builders as finished lots for $75,000-$100,000.
Eventually, he sold his assets and homebuilding operation to Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Pulte Homes, which hired him on as division president. “That was what I call my ‘entry-level’ job,” he said.
Pulte eventually sent Bagley south to run its Orlando operations during the housing boom. Two years later, he joined Park Square Homes to satisfy his desire to be back in the private homebuilding business, helping the firm survive when the market began its slide.
“He had knowledge of how to cut costs, take care of the right things at the right time and he has a lot of contacts,” said Park Square CEO Suresh Gupta. “We were able to curtail our losses a lot less than it could have been. He was a great contribution to Park Square.”
But when the market hit its worst and privately held homebuilders struggled to get funding, Bagley took an offer to join Meritage Homes of Florida Inc. During his short stint there, he helped the builder nearly double its local home count.
“He turns your company in a very positive direction,” said Brian Kittle, division vice president at Meritage Homes. “Some of the best land we have came at his direction. He knows every single player out there as far as land brokers, and has positive relationships with almost every one of them.”
Representatives from PulteGroup were unavailable for comment.
Soon after joining Meritage, Bagley missed the private developer side of the business again. That’s when he joined forces with Encore, which since its founding in 2010 raised $700 million in capital and invested in more than 30 projects in Florida, California and Texas.
“He’s probably more entrepreneurial than your typical builder’s division president,” Webb said. “That probably helped and hurt him with the homebuilders, but it really comes into play in these workouts. You have to be nimble, creative and figure a way out of or to fix these deals. That fits well for him.”
Bagley said he’s most comfortable as a distressed real estate investor: “I have access to near-unlimited capital and we have a tolerance for risk. We buy non-traditional real estate while most builders run from it.”
So, would anything cause Bagley to start looking for an exit door with Encore? Only if the firm decides to file an initial public offering. “That means I’d have new cash, so I’d say I had a great career and move on.”
But that’s a whole other encore.
Central Florida projects in the works by Encore Housing Opportunity Fund and related entities, including Jim Bagley: