Real Estate Round-up
Another day at the office.
Another 2.134 homes sold.
That’s what 2009 was like for Joe Rothchild, Houston’s most prolific Realtor. He averaged more than two home sales a day last year, a brisk pace by any standard.
Working mostly in west Houston and the Katy area, Rothchild and his assistants handled 779 transactions last year, more than any other Realtor in the city, according to rankings by the Houston Business Journal. His deals last year totaled $155 million.
Being No. 1 in Houston is impressive. But on three occasions, Rothchild and his team have been the top Re/Max team in the world. And Re/Max, my friends, is no slouch when it comes to big.
The bad news for Re/Max is Joe Rothchild is gone.
Rothchild has taken over the Keller Williams Signature office in west Houston. Rothchild says dropping the Re/Max brand won’t be a major concern to his clients, many of whom have called in recent days to express their loyalty.
Rothchild, who had been with Re/Max for 20 years, is philosophical, quoting Calvin Coolidge when asked what it takes to be a great Realtor. “My favorite saying is: ‘Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent,’” Rothchild says.
With modesty, Rothchild also gives a lot of credit to “his team” of associates. The team approach to selling homes has emerged as a popular way for big-time Realtors like Rothchild to maximize their productivity. An agent’s team will have runners to put up signs and install lock boxes, escrow specialists to handle contracts and earnest money, and listing coordinators who specialize in bringing in new business.
The real estate business has been though tough times in the last couple of years. But Rothchild says the worst is over, even though there will be bumps in the road as the market gradually climbs back. “In my opinion, we have bottomed out,” Rothchild says. “We are doing way better than last year.”
Marvy’s on a Roll
Marvy Finger has racked up another award for his new high-rise residential tower, One Park Place.
The 37-story tower is located across the street from the Discovery Green park and it’s the first apartment tower to be built in Houston in more than 40 years.
“It’s a pretty special building,” says Finger, who’s developed some 30,000 apartment units over his 40-year career in multi-family with his Finger Companies.
Finger’s downtown tower recently won a Landmark Award from the Houston Business Journal. This comes on the heels of winning Houston Development of Distinction Award from the Urban Land Institute.
One Park Place, designed by Jackson & Ryan Architects, has great views and a huge sun deck and swimming pool atop the eighth-floor parking garage. The design of the swimming pool was inspired by Finger’s visit to a Ritz Carlton Hotel in Hawaii.
The 346-unit apartment, which sits on a block bounded by La Branch, Lamar, Austin and McKinney, is 73 percent leased. With the economy in a tough spot, leasing up the building, which opened a year ago, has been challenging for Finger Companies.
A major draw for the building has been its location across the street from the Discovery Green park. People moving to Houston from other cities recognize the value of living near a park.”The park has been a huge factor,” Finger says. Having a green space like that underneath you makes high-rise living pleasant.
The 28th Expo
Deal-making has been difficult in the recession and obtaining financing has been nearly impossible for many in commercial real estate. But that didn’t stop the annual Commercial Real Estate Expo where hundreds of Houston’s brokers and developers gathered last week.
Sure, there were plenty of dark humor jokes as commercial brokers milled about the Expo booths in the ballroom at the InterContinental Houston. When the market is down, sometimes the best thing to do is to joke about it.
For 28 years, the Commercial Expo, which is produced by the Commercial Gateway division of the Houston Association of Realtors and the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, has been a good place to hear a tidbit or two of news. But the rumors were pretty scarce this year, except for the nebulous mention of a possible enormous transaction in northwest Houston.
One of the old pros at the Expo, Marty McAdams of McAdams & Associates, says he’s seen an uptick in the market, following a dismal 2009. Decent retail centers and office buildings with low-interest assumable loans are attracting a growing trickle of buyers, McAdams says.
Empty buildings with absolutely no tenants are ignored by many investors today. But a building that is at least 50 percent leased has a chance of attracting a buyer.
“Money has definitely come back in," McAdams says. "I won’t call it vulture money — I’ll call it opportunist money. People are looking at the 50- and 60-percent empty retail and office buildings and are willing to try to buy those for cash.”
Ralph Bivins, former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, is editor-in-chief of RealtyNewsReport.com.