Dan Milinazzo – Real Value Ventures
Dan Milinazzo grew up swinging a hammer alongside his father, who owned a construction business that handled commercial and residential roofing and siding installation.
As an adult, Milinazzo went on to work for an architecture firm, a building engineer, a construction company and a real estate investment trust.
Now, after roughly two decades in the industry, he’s developing his own business, Real Value Ventures. He started the company a few years ago while he was senior director of construction for AIR Communities, a national REIT that owns and operates apartment complexes across the country.
“It’s definitely a passion of mine, being around the trades, and I have this connection to the buildings,” Milinazzo says. “I’m a very visual person—I can see projects go from a concept in your mind to actual application and execution in the field.”
Registered in 2016, Real Value Ventures is based in Pelham, New Hampshire. Milinazzo is the sole proprietor and is currently working on expanding the company’s several partnerships. Having worked for a national REIT, Milinazzo says he can provide clients with the insight of a much bigger firm but the personal service of a small business.
“They don’t have to go through the pain of big unforeseen projects slapping them in the face that they didn’t know were coming because maybe it wasn’t caught by their due diligence because they didn’t know what to look for,” he says.
When extreme weather strikes
Sometimes, however, there’s no predicting a disaster, and unplanned jobs have comprised much of Milinazzo’s recent work.
One such project involved a 300-unit luxury apartment building in Massachusetts that flooded after a storm overwhelmed the old city water line beneath (and tied into) the apartment building. Water poured into the building’s basement from the pipes overnight, swamping the building’s critical electrical systems in 24 inches of storm water and knocking out the power.
Milinazzo says tenants demanded to know what had happened, when power would be restored and how damage would be repaired. As he began the months-long process of managing dozens of laborers and maintaining two tractor-trailer-sized generators powering the building, he reported to tenants several times a day and worked with the property management team when it drafted letters to residents.
He also hired an emergency response crew to remove the water, contacted the utility companies to shut off services safely and dealt with city officials who had been alerted to the situation. And he had drywallers, painters, wallpaper crews, cabinet crews and manufacturers involved, because many of the materials were custom.
“We were tasked with restoring power as quickly as humanly possible while we were dealing with the actual loss mitigation and trying to address the water infiltration,” he says. “Once we got the building stabilized again, got the electrical sorted out, then it was time to kind of decompress off that and look a little further back.”
After examining what went wrong, Milinazzo had waterproofing and leak detection systems installed, as well as cameras and additional alarms. The goal was to give the building remote detection capabilities that will warn of what’s coming in case of future floods or other adverse weather.
“Being able to debrief after a major loss like that was important,” Milinazzo says. “Now, if a little dribble of water gets into that room, it triggers the alarm, and then the property management can respond much faster.”
A holistic approach to surveying and planning
Besides emergency response and disaster preparedness, Milinazzo is skilled at surveying properties and planning capital expenditures. For example, at AIR Communities, he serviced over 5,000 units located in over a dozen New England communities, determining what work was needed and how it should be prioritized.
“Each property is going to have a list of projects that it should probably get, either immediate, near-term or down in the future, but when you stack those into a portfolio, you have to weigh them against each other, because owners don’t have a bunch of capital sitting around for every single property,” Milinazzo says.
He says he helps clients get “the best bang for their buck” by showing them how certain improvements—say, a hallway upgrade or a much-needed roof repair—will allow them to raise rent or spare them rising maintenance costs.
“I’m not just going to go up and say, ‘Oh, you need a roof,’ and then walk away,” Milinazzo says. “I’m going to tell you, ‘Look, you have five different projects in front of you. The most pressing would be your roof, and that’s about a million-dollar job that you’re going to want to budget for in the next year. In three years, maybe you want to do the pavement, and that’s a $1.2 million job.’ So I kind of give them the roadmap.”
Learning how to draw the roadmap
But that form of cartography takes years to learn, and even after growing up in the construction business, Milinazzo needed considerable training. A graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology, where he earned his B.S. in architectural engineering technology, he started his career with Belanger & Foley, an architectural firm. He then moved on to RMX Northeast, a building envelope engineer, eventually becoming a partner in the business.
In 2011, he joined AIR Communities, which was spun off from parent company Aimco in 2020, as senior director of construction services. It was during this time that he went back to Wentworth and earned his master’s in construction management, as well as his construction license.
“Performing the construction, and then being part of an engineering firm, doing the analysis and investigation work, and then moving into an owner’s rep position with a multifamily REIT, where I got to bring all those skills together, has been a great experience,” Milinazzo says. “I’m also now an investor in multifamily properties. And so being an investor as well gives me a little bit of a different perspective.”
As he expands his investing activities as well as his client list, he hopes to grow his business tenfold over the next five years. Like he did as a kid, he’s still breaking things down, figuring out how they work and then fixing them.
“We have barely scratched the surface in terms of clients who need our help,” Milinazzo says. “So many property owners are struggling with planning, maintaining and upgrading their buildings, and they run the risk of poor quality and spiraling costs. Our clients don’t need to carry huge overhead for an in-house construction team; we can step in property by property and steer them past the hurdles that stand between them and a smoothly-performing asset.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2023 Edition here.
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