By Mary Ellen Biery
Nathan Bragg, Dave Shalabi and Neil Warshafsky come from different backgrounds and sell commercial real estate in three very different cities, but some common traits and insights have helped them all become successful.
Bragg, a former Marine, works with RE/MAX Time Realty – Commercial Division in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where industrial properties are mixed with office and retail spaces. It’s a market that’s beginning to stabilize after several tough years.
Shalabi is with the Commercial Division of RE/MAX Synergy in the Chicago suburb of Orland Park, where high county taxes contribute to major vacancies in industrial, retail and office space.
And before Warshafsky set up his RE/MAX Commercial Advisors brokerage in Toronto, where the office leasing market remains strong but competitive, he studied urban planning and helped a developer appeal taxes.
Each of them is a standout performer who contributed to the more than $5.1 billion in investment sales and leasing transactions closed by RE/MAX agents in 2010. And they’ve helped make RE/MAX Commerical, with 380 offices or divisions and 3,000 practitioners in 42 countries, a growing, thriving aspect of the overall network.
“When we go into a room to meet clients, they all know RE/MAX, and they know RE/MAX delivers.”
STRONG BRAND RECOGNITION
The three say the RE/MAX name lends instant credibility to their introductions. For instance, even though the network’s recent J.D. Power and Associates awards were based on the responses of home buyers and home sellers, the recognition impacts the commercial side as well. “When we go into a room to meet clients, they all know RE/MAX, and they know RE/MAX delivers,” Bragg says.
Shalabi actually sells both residential and commercial properties, which helps his bottom line. “I’ve never known an investor who owns commercial property who doesn’t also own a house,” he says. Because he sells houses, provides property management and sells commercial real estate too, Shalabi can advise his clients on all fronts.
Adding value to each transaction is another strategy the three share.
Warshafsky’s office concentrates on investment sales and office leasing, but he also has built a strong multifamily residential business. Aligning with the right specialists, with different strengths, allows him to meet a client’s needs in whichever arena. He doesn’t want a client to ever have reason to approach another firm for help.
Warshafsky tells of a prospective client who emailed from Las Vegas on a Saturday, saying he was looking for office space in Toronto. It wasn’t going to be a big transaction – 4,000 square feet. But Warshafsky responded quickly to line up a suitable lease. The client and his business partner later moved to Toronto, where they began buying large tracts of land. “They’re now buying through me exclusively,” Warshafsky says. “I’ve sold them 400 acres and have four other properties under contract.”
Similarly, Bragg uses his construction experience to help clients in a way other agents cannot. A former licensed general contractor, Bragg can give clients with distressed properties a full report on what’s needed to secure the property and fix it up enough to get the most from a sale. Distressed properties generally draw buyer interest, Bragg says. “If we can present a nice one that’s distressed, we’ll get a better price for the client.”
Shalabi strengthens his relationships with his commercial investor clients by managing many of their properties. “When I manage somebody’s property for a year or more on a weekly basis, I’m their adviser,” he says. As a result, when it comes time to sell, those clients don’t look to other commercial real estate companies, even if they’re larger. “They want someone who’s going to tell them the real deal.”
That approach has paid off. One of Shalabi’s larger deals recently was with a nationally recognized bank that was also a satisfied property management client of his. The bank has now approached Shalabi’s firm to sell 160 housing units, including apartment buildings and single-family homes.
TECHNOLOGY PROVIDES AN EDGE
Technology is another theme that connects these three commercial agents. Each believes in investing in technology that provides a competitive edge – whether it’s an information system, marketing or communications.
Warshafsky’s firm spends about $30,000 (CAN) a year on data feeds to access comps from anywhere. As a result, he’s able to get proprietary information on market leasing activity and comps for clients even on weekends when he’s away from the office. That’s a key part of his ability to be responsive, he notes.
Shalabi is working to make his firm nearly paperless this fall, and he’s launching a website where property management clients can make payments. Bragg gets the jump on competitors by calling tenants when their leases are set to expire, thanks to data he gets as a subscriber to CoStar ’s listing service. A big believer in leveraging time and resources, he also makes use of email marketing to generate leads efficiently.
Shalabi, Bragg and Warshafsky constantly look for ways to run their businesses better so they can spend time with their families, something all three stars consider key to their happiness. Their RE/MAX affiliation provides them with brand power, support and a great deal of independence.
“I decide who I want to do business with, when I want to do business, and how,” Warshafsky says. “I’m in control. And that’s important to me.”
NREI magazine ranks RE/MAX Commercial among ‘Top 25’
RE/MAX Commercial has gained a spot on National Real Estate Investor magazine’s list of the Top 25 Commercial Brokerage Networks, positioning the brand alongside commercial heavyweights such as CB Richard Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield. Being included on the list gives RE/MAX Commercial – which outranked commercial-only firms Sperry Van Ness, Transwestern and Lee & Associates – a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace.