Changing of the guard

Forget Wall Street, these kids chose real estate

Author: JASON SHEFTELL, NY Daily News
Date: Thursday, February 21

Changing of the guard: Forget Wall Street, these kids chose real estate

By JASON SHEFTELL

DAILY NEWS REAL ESTATE CORRESPONDENT Thursday, February 21st 2008, 9:31 PM Ten years ago, New York City real estate was a business dominated by older, mature women selling apartments and even more mature men building them. Now, it's not uncommon for twentysomething real estate agents to rake in more than $1 million a year or 26-year-old developers to lead teams of hundreds building skyscrapers in New York's top neighborhoods. Kids straight out of college are choosing real estate over investment banking as a career.

"I remember when I was the young one," says Donald Trump, the world's best-known developer, who built the Grand Hyatt Hotel on top of Grand Central Station when he was just 30. "Young real estate professionals bring flair, style, hard work and enthusiasm to the industry. My kids just took to it. They really understand the international game.

"Developer Alex Sapir, 27, who runs the Sapir Organization, has partnered with the Trumps to build the Trump SoHo, a condo-hotel where owners can only stay in the property for 120 days in the entire year. The project is 53% sold. A $350,000 Maybach chauffeur-driven limousine is Sapir's "rolling office." "For the past 10 years or so, real estate is the place where every young person wants to be," says Sapir, who says he feels 45 years old at times. "I was lucky. My father has been toting me around to business meetings since I was 12 years old." Alex's father, Tamir, is a self-made billion-aire. The former cabbie ran an electronics store before changing his focus to real estate. The Sapir Organization, run by Alex and his father, owns some of New York's largest commercial buildings. Alex Sapir used his ambition and sense of style to start the Sapir Organization's residential and hotel development arm. His company's investment in the 320-unit Beaver House with hotelier Andre Balazs and SDS Properties fetched the highest square-foot prices to date in the Financial District. Sapir wears jeans, T-shirts and blazers, and he throws some of the best real estate parties in town. The Trump SoHo's decadent party saw servers in masks pour champagne while Cirque du Soleil performed. The reigning Miss USA attended. "I like to have a good time," says Sapir, who thinks real estate should be sexier. "What's wrong with sexy? I can't imagine my life without sex." Sapir works closely with twentysomething Ivanka Trump, who also spearheads her family's Dubai, Panama and Chicago projects. "Being 26 in the industry is a delicate dance," says Ivanka. "I have to command the respect of people twice my age who work for me. To do that, I have to respect their ability to do their job and I can't be afraid to exert my will. "

A t 24, Jon Isaacs of Core Group Marketing totaled $106 million in sales since February of 2007. Isaacs found gold going after international clients and working the young finance crew in New York. He sold a $31 million, three-apartment combo at One Madison to British hotelier and designer Paul Davies. When he joined the business, Isaacs had none of the family contacts or social network of other young agents "I met my clients through industry contacts whom I worked with on past deals," says Isaacs, a little shell-shocked by his success. "It's been referrals based on hard work and honesty. Even if my clients like a property but it's over-priced, I will tell them to walk away. New York real estate is an investment, and there is nothing worse than seeing a client unhappy when they find out they paid too much." Isaacs hasn't let the money go to his head. His only vice is custom-made suits that he needs because off-the-rack items won't fit his athletic frame. He recently purchased a BMW to shuttle clients to and from high-end properties. "My friends are proud of what I've done," he says. "I'm just a regular guy who likes to watch football and eat good steak with his buddies."

Steven Mashaal, 27, earned his New York University's real estate master's degree while completing his first development for his own Skyway Development company. Focusing on boutique properties, Mashaal finished two projects in the Flatiron District. The first was a townhouse conversion. The second, a 15-floor new construction condominium, took almost two years to get approval from city planning and the Landmark Commission. "The NYU program was very helpful in putting me in touch with industry contacts," says Mashaal who counts actress Lucy Liu and designer Colin Cowie as buyers of his apartments. "I think my age has helped. Not many older developers would have stuck with this through a difficult approval process."

Jennifer Bell, 29, runs the lifestyle service division for FLank, an architect and development firm founded by Mick Walsdorf, 30, and Jon Kully, 33. Known for forward-thinking building design, FLank is the first firm to offer architecture, development and sales all in the same building, which they designed and developed on W. 27th St. Bell traces real estate's youth invasion back five years, when the industry became more lifestyle and service oriented. Identifying a need for an emotional connection to the home created steeper competition among developers wooing buyers with amenities, inspiring an influx of young, creative minds into the property field. "At FLank we have that young mentality of 'Keep it coming,' " says Bell. "We don't define ourselves as young. We define ourselves as doing amazing work. Are people surprised by our age when they meet us? Yes. But they're more surprised how ambitious and talented we are."  

Austin Nagel, 25, compliments two high-design furniture stores in Chelsea with boutique residential developments in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. Nagel's Natrona Furniture stores, on W. 20th St. off Sixth Ave., sell sleek Italian and Brazilian brand furniture at affordable prices. His developments have apartments ranging in price from $850,000 to $1.3 million. "I have no desire to be told what to do," says Nagel, who left his native Wyoming at 16 to pay his way through school in Paris. "It's not so much about money as it is doing exactly what I want."

Urban Sanctuary's broker Elie Pariente, 23, sold $40 million in property last year. Focusing on downtown Manhattan, the French Moroccan realtor came to New York to finish his schooling. At first, he was shy about his age. "I was ashamed to be so young selling $3 million condos," says Pariente, who sold 30 apartments at 15 Broad St. in the Financial District. "But now I use it as an advantage. I work 16-hour days. My clients know they can call me at 11 at night." Pariente's boss, Issac Krispin, likes the work ethic of his young star, nominated for 2007 Real Estate Board of New York's rookie of the year. "Elie gets an exclusive listing he'll sell it in 48 hours," says Krispin, who has 20-year-old interns earn up to $10,000 per month renting apartments. "Older agents sell a $5 million condo and they might not come to work the next day. Elie is right back at it." What does Pariente do with his money? "I invest it in New York real estate," he says. "I'm so young I don't need anything fancy-schmancy. I want to take care of my future."