Broker of the Year
Broker Follows Own Rules
Much of commercial real estate broker Barry Seidel's business comes from repeat customers. What's his secret?
By David R. Corder
Like a tiger on the prowl, Barry Seidel follows his instincts. That may mean positioning the price on a commercial sale property higher than the current market value. Or it may mean keeping the property off the Realtors' Multiple Listing Service. While not common practices, Seidel says he uses those tactics when it suits his customers' needs.
"I think I have been forward-thinking," says the president of American Property Group of Sarasota Inc. "Most properties are listed on a comparable basis. But with commercial you have to think a little differently because values are going up so fast (in Sarasota). If you list based on last year's values, you're not thinking in the right direction. Properties here are going up faster than most places in America. The proof of the pudding is I'm selling the darn things."
It's Seidel's innovative philosophy that earned him recognition as one of the runner-ups for Gulf Coast Business Review's 2003 Commercial Real Estate Broker of the Year. He consistently is a top producer in the Sarasota commercial real estate market.
Seidel points to the sale of an 8-acre parcel in Sarasota's Osprey community - the site of a new Wal-Mart superstore. "When I listed the property, it listed for $1.5 million," he says. "I sold it for $2.4 million. So what I do when I have clients and see their (property) value changing, rather than looking for a quick sale, I look out for their interests."
Last year, Seidel's company produced from $30 million to $35 million in total volume of sales. While he won't talk specifics, he says his sales activity accounts for about 90% of the volume. Just subtract 10% to figure out a prior year's sales volume, he says. Because he's a little superstitious, Seidel would say only this about 2003 sales: "Let's say we're having a good year."
Repeat business accounts for part of his success. For instance, his role as a dominant commercial broker along the Tamiami Trail has resulted not only in initial sales but his salesmanship has earned him second and even third sales of the same properties. He earns a measure of trust of most parties at the negotiating table.
"I negotiate deals that are good for buyers and sellers," he says. "I like everybody to walk away from a deal satisfied. To me, the ultimate goal is: You don't hurt the buyer; you don't hurt the seller. You must try to protect everyone in the deal to the best of your ability."
And he likes a challenge. That's evident from his favorite deal last year. The managing partners in Sarasota-based Kiwi Investments LLC - Jason B. Harwell and physicians Charles Loewe and Cyrus Badii - hired Seidel to represent them in the acquisition of the three-story NationsBank office building at the northeast corner of Siesta Drive and U.S. 41.
"There was only one tenant; most of it was vacant," Seidel says. "That's what I liked about it."
Now, only about 15,000 of 53,000 square feet of the building is vacant, Seidel says. "That's where the trust come in," he says about the buyer's confidence. "It was a matter of numbers and projections. They saw the value in the investment. I can't take all the credit, because they are savvy businesspeople."
It was also around the same time that officials with Fleming steakhouse, a restaurant group backed by Tampa's Outback Steakhouse Inc., asked Seidel to find them a spot in Sarasota. He pitched the idea of taking the first floor of the Kiwi property. "Because (the building) had the zoning to handle that type of business, I showed them the site, and they fell in love with it," Seidel says. "They're working on it now."
A retired Philadelphia restaurateur, Seidel and his wife, Leslye, a partner in his firm, relocated about 17 years ago to Sarasota.
The couple found the climate and quality of life to their liking. To enhance their lifestyle, the two decided to earn their real estate licenses. "All I work with is the local market," he says. "I don't go beyond. I love Sarasota. It's good enough for me."
Nevertheless, Seidel says Sarasota is not a market without challenges. "Finding product is probably the hardest challenge right now," he says. "I think that's across the board for all the commercial brokers. People would normally be putting their money in and out of the stock market, but they're not doing that now. They're safe in real estate now, and that's why they're not selling. I don't think you're seeing a lot of stuff on the market at all."
Title: President, American Property Group of Sarasota Inc.
Personal: Married to Leslye for 22 years. They have two sons, Brian, 18, and Adam, 15.
Business hero: Ted Turner
Book: "The Art of the Deal," by Donald Trump
Mantra: "You're only as good as your word."