Commercial Real Estate Brokers Journal


Photo-Illustration: Lined; Photos: Getty Images

In this bi-weekly series, Realtor Logs, we hear the people at the center of a market wilder than ever. Today, an hour-by-hour glimpse into the working world of Alex, 44, CEO of a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm in New York City.

8am I am a late riser. I turned 44 recently and after waking up from a night of partying, life hit me like a ton of bricks. It was like, “Okay, I’m ready to accept that I’m not in my thirties anymore.”

8:15 a.m. I quickly prepare alongside my girlfriend, who works in the arts — totally different lifestyle. We’re in my brownstone apartment on the Upper West Side. I happen to rent this place, but I also own several buildings.

9am I’m outside heading to my office at Nomad. I have my fruit bowl and my breakfast sandwich and I’m sitting in my private office, which has a luxurious, professional vibe: a large desk, high-end swivel chairs, a great view. For the next 30 minutes, I respond to emails and check my to-do list. I oversee over 400 offices in the city center. It’s millions of square feet. I have dozens of people working for me. I don’t stress though. I become ambitious.

10am We have a tour of a new building. Beautiful, large, new construction with great furnishings. It turns into a total emergency. We have a handful of brokers and tenants coming to see 10,000 square feet, and when we get there, the whole place is flooded. A pipe burst. There is water gushing out! It’s not good. It’s so hard to get visits for the big spaces – the biggest companies are usually already set up in one place – and now no one will be interested.

I’m trying to remedy the situation. I tell everyone it’s not a problem, it’s very common, etc.

10:30 a.m. They all say “Sorry, goodbye”. They immediately move on. There is no room for risk right now. Everyone knows that they can rent what they dream of – their ideal office – at the price they want, sometimes for as long as they want. Everyone wants a cheap deal at rock bottom. There are currently 95 million square feet of vacant office space in Midtown and Midtown Manhattan. Honestly, I don’t know what will happen to it. I mean, we have a restaurant tenant who’s paying 77% less than what he was supposed to pay for the whole of 2021, like 77% less than what’s on his actual lease that he signed before the pandemic. In 2022, they pay 61% of what they are supposed to pay. We said yes, we accepted. It was like the only movement at the time.

11 a.m. I’m quite upset. This was our first exposure for this building in weeks, and to say it all fell apart is an understatement. But you do your best to keep going.

12 p.m. I see a personal trainer at 12, in a private gym. I gained 12 lbs in COVID so we are working to get it off.

1:30 p.m. I meet one of my favorite customers for lunch at Nolita. He’s an owner who has about five buildings and thousands of square feet, a mix of offices and residences. It’s a ton of crap to praise but we’re really good at what we do. He’s the kind of landlord who understands that every tenant who walks through the door is a VIP, and every tenant will want walls, furniture, and constructions. He is fully aware that they are going to ask for it and that we have to deliver it. The answer must be no problem. This guy also understands that there are 20 other buildings in the neighborhood, with similar offerings – amenities, high ceilings, nice decor – so what’s going to set us apart is our flexibility and friendliness.

On the other hand, a nightmare customer is a landlord who can’t be flexible, who is disconnected in terms of rental prices, or who can’t move because he has a mortgage and his lenders will balk. Those owners should know it’s a wasteland out there. I don’t want to deal with crazy people.

Just yesterday, I was trying to convince a landlord that rents were down 40% from three years ago. I was like, “I know you don’t want to hear this, but it’s the truth!”

3 p.m. An employee walks into my office. I know he’s about to quit. He can’t pick up the phone, it’s just too exhausting for him to make cold calls. I’m like, “It’s in your job description. Your contract literally says that’s the most important thing here. He’s like, “I can’t do this. I can’t.” So it won’t work. I see the potential in everyone, but sometimes it just doesn’t fit.

I have empathy for people who are starting out. Your early years are your worst years. You are a rookie; but if you can hold out for about four years, you’ll be fine. You can make around seven figures if you do really well, eight figures if you absolutely kill it. Even in this market.

But I will say, eight figure guys, they have no life. They work 24/7 and sometimes need substances to maintain this lifestyle. They don’t take time for themselves, travel and enjoy life. They do not go on vacation to Italy and France. I love my vacations in Italy and France.

4 p.m. I gather my team for an impromptu sales meeting. We have a lot of square footage to move and that has to be our daily goal. Whatever it takes. Non-stop calls, lots of screenings, social media, emails, etc. Everyone needs to make calls and do outreach, no matter how painful that may be.

I tell my staff that I understand. Raising awareness in a post-COVID world is difficult. Do you need office space? “NOPE. We are fully FMH. There is a relentless rejection. They call law firms, fashion lines, insurance agencies, old boutiques, call everyone; they do targeted Google ads, targeted Instagram ads, etc.

I remind them that it works, though. One in ten closed deals is because someone picked up the phone, or because of social media or other ready-made marketing. If you keep pushing, all of a sudden you’re doing 40% more work than your competition.

We talk about how we’re pushing back open houses because everyone’s an introvert now. The WFH changed everything forever, but I think there will be an upside. There will be a lot of conversion from office buildings to residential buildings; people are going to have to start investing in their buildings; owners who are not will be the last selected.

5:30 p.m. Some good news! We have leased 8,000 square foot office space in Chelsea. I knew we would rent it. It had very nice polished concrete floors, glass offices, a cool kitchen, a living room, a co-working space. It shows very well. This is what office tenants want today: attractive, ready-to-use spaces, furnished if possible, bright. That being said, the rent is 30% lower than it was two years ago. Honestly, I don’t care, I just want signs of life and I’m happy.

5:50 p.m. I hear the bell ringing in our office because of the deal with Chelsea. We have a bell here for every time someone enters into a lease or agreement. I believe in hope and positivity. We also celebrate small victories. It’s like “Awesome! You have a screening! Put that on the calendar!

7 p.m. Before everyone takes off, we all have a drink together. Alcohol consumption in my office has tripled since the pandemic. It’s crazy because we used to socialize in the world all the time. We would throw great parties with DJs or host cool networking events and have fun around town together. But now we are having these events now and hardly anyone comes. Literally only four or five people show up. And we even give out gift cards as incentives to come — like $50 to Starbucks — and yet no one shows up. So instead, we drink here, together. I’m a Scotch, or sometimes Japanese, whiskey guy.

8 p.m. I’m meeting my girlfriend for dinner in Soho. Prime Soho, for offices, is hot. All these crypto companies come here. NFT too. There’s a new wave coming right now. I would say it’s the same for niche neighborhoods: Noho, Flatiron, Meatpacking, Dumbo. Nobody wants Murray Hill, they don’t want 40s Eastern, and honestly, they don’t even care about the Rock Center.

9 p.m.. I ask my girlfriend what she thinks of the daily pressure of my job. She says, if I’m happy, she’s happy. A few months ago, you saw me with my head on my desk, desperate for the market. But now I am happy again.

Because at the end of the day, I love high-speed racing. I thrive on it. I get super alpha-motivational sometimes, making motivational videos for my team and trying to get everyone pumped up. Sometimes I sit in my office and blast Eminem 8 miles soundtrack and I feel like I can conquer the world.

But I’m lucky to be able to detach myself too. I want to live my life. I want to go to Paris and then relax in the south of France.

11 p.m. I scroll my phone late into the night. Try to get things done. Respond to as many emails as possible by tomorrow. Review new listings and pending sales and check in with colleagues. It’s an obsession. But a healthy obsession.

Previous Real Estate Summary Week Ending April 29, 2022
Next Is real estate a refuge against inflation? Not always.