Back Office Risks for Real Estate Investors & Developers

We know just how hard it can be to manage all the small details when your business is in growth mode. Landing new deals and absorbing the administrative burden can become overwhelming and messy if you don’t have the right team in place. The first things to suffer when this happens are bookkeeping and compliance. Often we find that when the team you have in place is overwhelmed with the pace of acquisitions or expansions, many things fall through the cracks. Sales tax returns, proper state and local filings, bill payments and bookkeeping can get overlooked when there’s more pressing business to handle.

Bookkeeping – This is one of the most important areas because if your books aren’t done properly, then you don’t have an accurate financial picture of your company. It is highly important to have a competent bookkeeper and to review your financial statements monthly. It is also extremely important to have internal control policies in place to make sure that your business and money are protected.

Allow me to share a recent event where the company sustained a significant loss: A man was able to embezzle over $300,000 from his employer that was never recouped. How could this happen? Because no one was watching and the proper controls were not in place. On a monthly basis as the main accountant he produced financial statements and distributed them to the partners. The partners reviewed the income statement and discussion of the variances and generally felt that everything was in order. They had secured a $20 million plus loan that allowed them to build out tenant spaces and lease up the building, and everything was going good until one day they got a call from the bank about a suspicious check that had been made out to cash. And this was the tip of the iceberg. It turns out over 150 checks had been written to cash with the owner’s signature forged. The money was already gone, along with their accountant. One main thing went wrong here—there was no segregation of duties between the person able to disburse money and the person doing the accounting and bank reconciliations. This is a very important component of internal control that is very easily overlooked and disregarded. The man was able to remove the check images from the bank statements, which reconciled without issue because he booked the disbursements as tenant improvement additions. The partners reviewed the monthly reporting, but because everything reconciled and the checks to cash were not visible, they had no idea.

Could you be exposed to this risk? Let’s discuss it. As a former auditor in public accounting and accounting executive in commercial real estate, I can help identify risky areas in your business and implement a structure that ensures your back office administration is buttoned up and allows for your growth with less risk.

Would you rather unload the burden of bookkeeping and bill payment all together? Let us manage the administrative burden so you don’t have to. We offer tailored services with well thought out control policies to suit your needs for a fraction of the cost of typical bookkeepers.

Steve Olson CFP®, AEP® CEO | Family Wealth Advisor

Steve Olson’s experience spans over a decade of focused tax planning, legal strategy interpretation, investment management, and advisory services to wealthy individuals and families throughout the U.S. Over the course of his still young career, Steve provides counsel and management on individual assets and portfolios—encompassing a combination of securities, real estate, privately held businesses and other alternative investments—ranging in value from $5 million to over $400 million in value.

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