The Young Jewish Professionals hosted their annual Real Estate Deal Makers Summit at Herrick’s offices on November 4th. The YJP is a non-profit based in New York and focuses on providing business and networking opportunities for the new generation of Jewish Business leaders. The Real Estate Dealmakers Summit brought together high-profile panelists and industry luminaries at exclusive roundtable events which allowed attendees to gain direct access to leaders in the industry.
Belinda Schwartz, Chair of Herrick’s Real Estate department, held a “fireside chat” with Ziel Feldman, Chairman and Founder of HFZ Capital Group. Ms. Schwartz and Mr. Feldman were keynote speakers at the event.
Ms. Schwartz asked, “What important skill, or set of skills, should a real estate professional have in order to be successful?” Mr. Ziel responded, “You have to know the trends, nationally and internationally. You also have to know your customer, whether it’s a tenant or buyer, it’s important to know the goals of your customer for every transaction.”
In response to the question about how to handle a busy schedule and extensive network, Mr. Ziel said, “I am lucky. I have two sons who entered the business. I think the main thing is to know when to delegate. You need to have good partners you can rely on which means you need to know how to surround yourself with people you can trust. There has to be a balance. Work isn’t everything. There should be a healthy balance of family, charity and work.”
When asked to discuss one of the most exciting deals he has ever worked on, Mr. Feldman said, “The Rock & Roll amusement park in Myrtle Beach. It was a great concept but it failed. We opened in the summer of ’08 and, because it was in Myrtle Beach, people would drive to the park. That summer, gas prices were insane so we were doomed from the start. Thus my point of knowing the market, studying trends and knowing your customers!”
“What do you worry about?” asked Ms. Schwartz. “Supply and demand mostly,” commented Mr. Feldman, “Places like San Francisco and Miami are economically as healthy as they have ever been. New York’s population continues to grow. There is a huge demand for housing. I am concerned about the aggressive underwriting that leads to downward pressure on pricing. It can become a self-prophesizing cycle. Real estate like art is a commodity.”
“With all this taken into account, how does one become Ziel Feldman?” enquired Ms. Schwartz. Laughing, Mr. Feldman replied: “You have to do it for as long as I have! But on a serious note, it is way more challenging to create wealth in the tri-state than in used to be in the past. You have to be a student of global economics, currencies, demographics and movements in other countries. What happens in China could affect a deal you are working on here, right down to affecting the cost of the drywall you are putting into your building. All these factors come into play.”
In closing, Ms. Schwartz asked what it takes to be a good leader. Mr. Ziel responded: “A leader has to be likeable and have the ability to delegate to people who are capable of carrying out your vision. You cannot create a successful development company and run it as a one-man show. It’s also a lot about luck. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time can make all the difference.”