NAI Capital, a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm, launched a new division, the Asia Pacific Group (APG).

The Asia Pacific Group is one of the largest Asian-specific groups among major commercial real estate brokerage firms nationwide. NAI Capital is based in California and is an affiliate of NAI Global.

This new division is equipped with almost a dozen Asian team members who can connect with the Chinese, Korean, Japanese and South Asia cultures. They come from NAI Capital’s offices located in West L.A., Commerce, Orange County, Ontario and the South Bay.

The APG was founded by Daniel Hu, who has strong relationships with Chinese government officials, overseas investors and Chinese communities in the U.S. He has consulted for several Chinese companies and has been interviewed by Chinese newspapers regarding real estate market trends. Hu was featured as the cover story in Asia Fortune magazine.

NREI talked to Hu about the differences between local Asian investors and those from overseas, the major impacts coming from the Asian market and the differences in investing among Asian cultures. An edited version of that interview follows.

NREI: What are the differences between Asian investors locally and overseas?

Daniel Hu: The local Asian investors’ investment strategies are fundamentally not much different than the American ones. However, they prefer properties that are a lower risk and in closer proximity to the high Asian population areas. They also prefer to use the agents and management companies that speak the same languages and who have the ability to attract or expose their properties to Asian buyers or tenants.

On the other hand, overseas Asian investors would prefer development projects or distress properties. Many of the overseas investors are searching development projects which qualify for EB5 programs so they can also apply for permanent residency with their investments. Therefore, you will see the properties are trading with lower cap rate with full cash offers in the local Asian markets, along with many development projects that are done with the EB5 money flowing from Asia, especially from China.

NREI: How are some of the differences between the U.S.-based Asian market and the American one?

Daniel Hu: The Asian customer likes to own rather than lease if they can. In the industrial market sector, due to the SBA loan offering, many of the importer/exporters or manufacturers are taking the advantages of owning their facilities with just 10 percent down payments. The shopping centers in the local Asian market have lower vacancy rates due to tenants’ resources from both U.S. and overseas established retailers and restaurants. Due to the work force demand in these areas, the demand for the apartments is also high. Generally speaking, the commercial real estate markets value in Asian areas are holding firmer than overall areas. The key difference between the local Asian market and others is that due to the new Asian immigrant to local Asian areas with large capitals injections from abroad. That means the local Asian market property value and vacancy rate are local phenomena and are not affected greatly by the country’s economy and unemployment rate.

NREI: What are some differences amongst Asian investors and cultures?

Daniel Hu: In the 1980s, many of the Japanese investors were acquiring U.S. trophy properties. In the past 10 to 20 years, we have seen many Korean investors buying many office buildings. Now, in the recent years, due to the booming of the Chinese economy, the fears of inflation back home, combined with the instability of the political climates and favorable currency exchange rate, we have seen and heard that many properties are being acquired by Chinese buyers.

The differences among these Asian buyers are that Japanese buyers are mostly backed up by corporations or financial institutions. Korean investors often form joint ventures by groups of professionals such as attorneys and doctors. Chinese investors are mostly wealthy individuals or families coming from overseas. The purchase power of the private investors coming from the upper and middle class in China is just tremendous. They have made a big impact in the luxury goods and residential markets and they will also make big changes in the commercial real estate market.

NREI: What will some of the biggest issues in Asia be in the coming months?

Daniel Hu: The biggest issues in the coming months are, first of all, the elections in China; secondly, the tensions between South Korea and North Korea and finally, the political time bomb of island dispute between Japan and China. However, no matter what the political outcome may be, the flow of capital and investors from Asia will not be disrupted and will keep coming to the U.S.

Partner Joins A&G Realty

A&G Realty welcomed Michael Jerbich as a partner in the firm’s Chicago office.

Jerbich has guided and structured deals for some of the leading U.S. retailers, such as Dollar Tree, Anna’s Linens and Aldo. In addition to facilitating M&A activity, Jerbich specializes in retail turnarounds.

AT A&G Realty Jerbich will work in the firm’s equity business and be responsible for deploying capital in situations where it is needed to create liquidity and assist in acquisitions. Before joining A&G, he was a senior managing director for DJM Realty, a Gordon Brothers Group Company for six years.

Prudential Douglas Elliman Names Lending Arm President

Prudential Douglas Elliman appointed Ace Watanasuparp president of DE Capital Mortgage LLC, the company’s lending arm and joint venture with Wells Fargo.

Watanasuparp began his mortgage industry career as a loan officer with Citibank in Queens. By 2005, he was ranked the sixth highest producer in the United States for a total funded volume of $189 million. That same year, he enrolled in New York University’s School of Law.

Healthcare Facility Director Joins C&W

Cushman & Wakefield hired Mark Johnson as director of property management, healthcare facilities.

Based in Rosemont, Ill., Johnson will oversee the company’s service delivery platform supporting investor services clients while growing C&W’s healthcare practice group.

Prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Johnson served as senior vice president, director of property management with Lend Lease Healthcare Development, formerly the DASCO Companies, which he joined in 2006.

Three Pros Join Cassidy Turley

Cassidy Turley hired Beth Lambert-Saul as executive managing director and Diego Arroyave as a senior vice president.

Both join Cassidy Turley from Vision Capital, a boutique commercial real estate investment banking and capital advisory firm that provided fully-integrated national capital markets services, including permanent and interim debt origination and placement, highly leveraged participating debt, mezzanine debt, note financing, structured finance and preferred and joint-venture equity. At Vision, Lambert-Saul and Arroyave strategically advised multifamily, retail, hotel, industrial and office clients on engineering profitable capital-stack solutions on investments exceeding $500 million.

Cassidy also brought on Ed Verret to the firm as senior managing director, based in Atlanta. He will serve as the alliance executive leading Cassidy Turley’s partnership with SunTrust Banks Inc. He will be responsible for transaction management, project management, lease administration and portfolio planning for the bank’s 15-million-sq.-ft. corporate real estate portfolio and more than 1,600 branches.

Before joining Cassidy Turley, Verret’s corporate real estate career included 19 years at American Express Co., where he served as vice president, global real estate, Asia Pacific; vice president, global operations, U.S.; and regional director, Southeast U.S. and Latin America.

Blanca Promotes Two

Blanca Commercial Real Estate promoted two members of the Miami-based firm.

Andres del Corral has been named vice president and Alexander Cahlin has been named associate vice president.

In his new role, del Corral specializes in the leasing of office properties and overall team support in the sale of land and income producing properties. He was previously an associate at the firm, having been involved in the real estate business for more than eight years.

Cahlin will engage in tenant and landlord representation, market research and analysis and overall team support. He has been with the firm for two years, having been previously named junior associate in 2011.

Boston Managing Director Joins JLL

Jones Lang LaSalle’s Capital Markets hired Jessica Hughes as managing director in the firm’s Boston office.

Hughes comes to the firm from Beacon Capital Partners, where, most recently, she served as senior vice president, responsible for the acquisition and disposition of office properties in London and across Europe.

She will work closely with Regional Leader Frank Petz to expand the firm’s client services capabilities in New England investment sales and bolster the firm’s position as a full-service capital markets leader.

Most recently while at Beacon Capital, Hughes completed more than $2.5 billion of acquisitions in Western Europe and was a member of its investment committee. Previous to her term in London, she was active in the acquisition and disposition of office properties in the United States, notably in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

Opus Opens New Office, Hires Senior Director

Opus Development Corp. opened an office in St. Louis, Mo., and hired Joe Downs as senior director of real estate development.

Downs will be responsible for pursuing business opportunities in the St. Louis market across a variety of sectors, including office, industrial, multifamily, retail, higher education and government.

He comes to Opus from The Love Cos., where he was a vice president and responsible for pursuing and executing real estate developments, sourcing investment opportunities for Limestone Real Estate Investment Fund and managing Heartland Bank’s real estate assets.

Hines Promotes Four Execs

Hines promoted Mary McCarthy to senior managing director.

Based in the firm’s West regional office in San Francisco, McCarthy joined Hines in 2006 as a member of the capital markets group, focusing initially on fundraising for Hines U.S. office value added fund II and Hines International real estate fund. She has worked on multiple capital raising initiatives since, including the recently closed Hines Russia & Poland fund and Hines U.S. office value added venture III.

She is responsible for relationships with major U.S. pension consultants and investors, and is a member of the firm’s capital markets committee. She is also responsible for certain securities-related aspects of private placements for Hines Securities Inc.

Other promotions took place in the firm’s New York City office. Starling Cousley has been promoted to managing director. He joined Hines in 2007 as a member of the firm’s U.S. office’s value-added funds management team, where formulated and oversaw execution of asset strategies on more than 3.4 million sq. ft. of investments.

Beth Raskin Demba has been promoted to managing director. She joined Hines in 2008 to work on the firm’s U.S. office’s valued-added funds management team to evaluate and execute new investments, manage existing investments, and assist in carrying out Hines’ duties as managing general partner of the two value added funds. Working closely with the firm’s Los Angeles team, she managed a $277 million acquisition underwriting and debt financing of 444 South Flower Street, VAF II’s largest single investment.

Dan Doty has been promoted to managing director. He joined Hines in 2005 to work on luxury hotel development management project, and his responsibilities included project underwriting and a feasibility analysis. In 2009, he was promoted to project manager, and helped secure control of the 7 Bryant Park site from Pacolet Milliken. He played a critical role in obtaining a $345 million all-equity financing commitment for the project from J.P. Morgan’s investment management division. He will continue to oversee the 7 Bryant Park project, which is currently beginning construction.

Dan Pugliese has been promoted to vice president-engineering. He joined Hines in 1990 as an operating engineer at 450 Lexington Avenue. In 2003, he was promoted to senior engineering manager and assumed responsibility for all engineering operations for a major financial institution’s office portfolio throughout the Americas. In his new position, he will continue to supervise a staff of 80 engineers and support the firm’s East regional business pursuits.

Exec Joins NAI Horizon

NAI Horizon hired Jonathan Coffen to join the firm’s multifamily investment group.

Coffen spent the past 15 years as a principal at NWJ Company’s signature community investment group. As a founding partner with NWJ, Jonathan acquired and managed over 3,500 apartment units in 17 markets throughout the U.S., accruing a portfolio value in excess of $300 million.

Broker Joins Southeast Venture

James Neal, Jr. has joined Southeast Venture LLC as a broker.

Neal comes to Southeast Venture from Luckenback Branding & Promotions LLC, a marketing and promotions company that has outposts in Nashville and Dallas. He founded Luckenback in 2010.

Neal also worked for 18 years as principal and founding partner of KMG Marketing. At KMG, he acted as a national sales manager and creative director, handling key accounts that included Mercedes Benz Financial, the Dallas Mavericks and Blockbuster.

KZA Hires Sherry Scanlon

KZA Realty Group Inc. welcomed Sherry M. Scanlon to the agency to work with clients in the Bronx, northern Manhattan and southern Westchester County.

Born and educated in Guyana, Scanlon immigrated to the United States in 1980 and worked two jobs before later going into business with her husband as owners of a plumbing supply store in the Bronx. During her 20 years as a business owner, she served on the Pelham Bay Merchant Associated Board as secretary, treasurer and president for the past 12 years.

IREM Names 2013 Officers

The Institute of Real Estate Management named its officers for 2013.

Elizabeth (Beth) Machen of Charlotte, N.C., is the new president; Joseph J. Greenblatt of San Diego, is the new president-elect; and Lori Burger, of Rohnert Park, Calif., is the new secretary/treasurer.

Machen is president of Machen Advisory Group Inc., with responsibility for overseeing the firm’s portfolio of office, retail, mixed-use, showroom and industrial properties in the Carolinas. Greenblatt is president of Sunrise Management, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company, its portfolio of more than 11,000 resident units, and its 300 employees. Burger is a senior vice president and director of Eugene Burger Management Corp., whose portfolio consists of more than 6,500 residential units, 20,000 association homes, and 2 million sq. ft. of commercial space.

Hospitality Hall of Honor Awards DeBoer

Jack DeBoer, founder of the Value Place economy extended-stay lodging chain in 2002, was inducted into the Hospitality Hall of Honor, by the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management.

DeBoer leads the 178-unit Value Place chain. In 1966, he began building apartments and by 1973 his company had built over 16,000 of them in 30 cities across 25 states. DeBoer went on to create the Residence Inn all-suite hotel chain in 1975 and build it to 103 corporate and franchised locations before selling it to Marriott Corp. 12 years later. He also founded the upscale all-suite Summerfield Hotel chain, which he eventually sold to Hyatt Corp., and the Candlewood Hotel Company, which was eventually acquired by InterContinental Hotels Group.