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Monday, Oct 2, 2023

Despite Deal, Countrywide Sticks to Out-of-State Plans

Despite Deal, Countrywide Sticks to Out-of-State Plans By SHELLY GARCIA Senior Reporter Countrywide Financial Corp. may not think California holds much promise for business expansion, but there’s no arguing with a good real estate deal. The Calabasas-based company is said to be close to a deal to acquire a 257,000-square-foot building on Agoura Road in Westlake Village, for about $25 million, a price, sources in the real estate community say, that is well below market value. Brokers said the building has an unusual configuration not readily adaptable to many businesses, so most of the potential buyers for the property were developers who planned to tear it down. “Since the owners were looking at selling the land for land value, for a user it’s going to be a very good deal,” said one broker familiar with the transaction. Countrywide, which has previously announced its intention to seek other locations outside California for expansion, is not expected to use the facility for added business units or personnel. Rather, brokers said, the company is taking advantage of a good real estate deal to better accommodate the existing workers in its current area facilities, many of which have been bulging at the seams as a result of the growth the company has undergone in recent years. The final bidding was down to three prospective buyers, all developers, when Countrywide came in and made its offer, which though probably higher than the top price developers were willing to pay, was still well below the per-square-foot price of other standing properties in the area. The two-story structure has been occupied by a division of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. Countrywide officials last year took a very public position over the business climate in California and said a deal to build a new facility in Lancaster would be the company’s last in the state. Business taxes and wage rates, the cost of living, lack of affordable housing and an ever more restrictive and costly regulatory climate were some of the reasons the company cited for its decision. Instead, Countrywide said, it would focus its future expansion in other areas of the country, mainly in Texas and Arizona. This latest acquisition comes as Countrywide has had difficulty accommodating its local staff in its existing facilities. Countrywide now operates four sites in Calabasas along with Simi Valley, West Hills and Thousand Oaks. In 2002, Countrywide acquired another office property in Agoura Hills. Executives at Countrywide would not comment on the pending acquisition, but they did reiterate their concerns about the California business climate and their decision to cease expansion activity here. “Any purchase that Countrywide would be making in Southern California should not be considered an expansion and should not be considered to be contrary to our continuing expression of dismay over the California business climate,” said Rick Simon, a spokesman for the company. “If we do purchase a building, it will be needed for what we already have here in California for various reasons, some because our leases are expiring or because currently we are over our manageable capacity in our facilities in Southern California.”

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