DJ Van Keuren – The Family Office Expert

All Interviews, Family Offices

“As the younger generations get older; I believe the impact investing from the families will rise significantly.”

Named as one of Family Capitals Top 10 US Family Office Real Estate Professionals and one of Trusted Insight’s Top 30 Real Estate Investors at a Family Office, Mr. Van Keuren is the Co-Managing Member for Evergreen Property Partners. He knew about 200 family offices and became known within the community within a year of starting out only by attending as many conferences as possible to meet family offices. initially put together an educational website to provide family offices on real estate. Next, he wrote a book on family office real estate investing.  This turned into doing podcasts, speaking at conferences, and creating the family office real estate magazine. Recently he was approached by the University of Denver to create the Family Office Real Estate Institute.

Q1. Tell us about your journey. How did you become a trusted insider with family offices?

Like 95% of those that work for a family office, I fell into the family office space. I moved to Denver Colorado from New York NY, and after being in Denver for about a year, I realized I had not met any people in the local area.  That is when I started to reach out and meet people.  One of the people that I had met was someone who had their own family office and had created his wealth in real estate.  He was looking for a solution to solve the problem that when he died, how to continue the company he created to go on as all his money was going to go to his foundation upon his death.  To do this, he would start to have to bring in other investors to invest alongside him. Initially, the plan was to raise a fund to accomplish this objective.  It was then they asked me how I would go about achieving this outcome.  That is when I said to them there were two ways that they could accomplish this.  One would be to go to institutional investors where I had prior relationships with like the Carlyle Group, Apollo or Goldman Sachs,  or go the family office route.

At the time I only knew two family offices; however, knowing that family offices like to invest with other families, I recommended that they pursue other family offices to fill the fund. It was then that I started to go to as many conferences as possible to meet other families. By the end of the year, I knew about 200 family offices and became known within the community. After three months, I also realized there was a need for education with family offices on real estate. 

To help families with this need, I initially put together an educational website to provide family offices on real estate.  I next wrote a book on family office real estate investing.  This turned into doing podcasts, speaking at conferences, and creating the family office real estate magazine. A year ago, I was approached by Professor Glenn Miller from the Burns school of real estate construction management at the University of Denver to create the Family Office Real Estate Institute. After a year of discussions we just had our first executive education program in early June 2021.

Q2. For those who are unaware, what exactly is a family office? 

A family office is typically a family with 250 million or more net worth that was usually created from a large exit from the sale of a business.  After becoming flush with cash, they now need to plan for the family and future generations. That includes investment planning and investing and what we call the soft tissues, which includes everything from the best way to reduce taxes, pass money to the next generation or future generations, and sometimes have to deal with personal challenges within the family. A Family office should provide a holistic approach to every aspect surrounding a family’s wealth.

Q3. What is the difference between Single and Multifamily Offices? 

Single-family offices are made to service a single family, where a multifamily office works with multiple families, typically when the family cannot afford to handle all of their needs in-house. Many offices call themselves a multifamily office, but unless they provide what I mentioned above which are the “soft services”, they typically are only registered, investment advisors.

Q4. What mistakes do managers make when raising capital from family offices? 

The biggest mistakes that managers make when trying to raise capital from family offices is that out of the gate, they ask for a family to write a check and think that when they do, it’ll be a $5 million or even a $50 million check.  It doesn’t work like that nor are those mounts typical. Family offices invest with people they know and trust. Because of that, it takes time, and often managers do not realize that it is that relationship that is required to raise capital from a family office.

Q5. How do you help family offices with impact investing? 

The only work that we have done that would be considered impact investing would be with opportunity zones.  There are a few reasons for that. The first is that we focus on real estate, and there are not many impact investing opportunities in that space yet. It’s increasing but not to the extent of other types of investments within this space. Secondly, we work primarily with patriarchs.  Here the older generations would rather get a 16% return on an investment then focus on what the impact could be. The younger generation however would be willing to get a 12% return but make an impact. As the younger generations get older; I believe the impact investing from these families will rise significantly. 

Q6. How significant is impact investing in real estate? (e.g., Funds like Home.LLC)

Impact investing in real estate is really at its infancy stage, as I had mentioned above. The interest from families to invest into impact opportunities are starting to increase but is small at this time. Over time, as families become more educated about impact investing in real estate, this focus should increase significantly.

Q7. How will family offices evolve in the coming years? 

Where I see family offices evolving in the coming years will be from how well they become organized and start to operate more like an institution with protocols, guidelines, investment committees and the like.  Many Family offices have these protocols in place, but not to the extent that they should.  I see family offices becoming more organized and structured during their evolution process.

Q8. How do you allocate your portfolio?

My portfolio is heavily weighted in real estate because that is where my expertise lies.  The rest of my portfolio also includes an interest in Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other real estate tech.

Q9.  What can family offices do to preserve long-term wealth? How can you help them with this? 

This is the biggest problem with family offices, and this is widely seen as 70% of families lose their wealth by the 2nd generation, and 90% lose their wealth by the 3rd. That is where real estate can genuinely help maintain a family’s wealth through holding hard assets, taking advantage of the tax benefits, and the appreciation that comes with real estate over time.

The biggest way that we help family offices towards preserving long-term wealth is through Evergreen Property Partners, a real estate platform for families to invest together, and secondly by the education we provide through Family Office Real Estate (FORE).  That includes educational videos, podcasts, the family office real estate magazine, and most recently, the family office real estate institute that I have backed that provides executive education programs taught by top faculty from Wharton Business School, Harvard, University of Denver, and family office industry experts.

Q10. Which family office helped you understand this industry back in the day? Which mentor would you like to give a shoutout to? 

I wouldn’t say it was as much a family office as other family offices. First and foremost, Wendy Kraft gave me the initial insight into family offices, and in a close second, Tom Handler. The rest was self-taught by working directly for three different prominent families, and from learning from the 400 family offices and other industry professionals that I know and learning from their experiences.  

For more such insights, visit Home.LLC

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