Raymond Sandelli has been a fixture in Florida's commercial real estate field since he took over the Tampa office of the CB Richard Ellis office in 1995.
Six years later, starting in 2001, Sandelli was running the firm's entire Florida operations during the boom years. “I caught it when it was on fire,” he says.
Now, Sandelli is returning to more entrepreneurial roots as the managing partner of CRE Consultants in Fort Myers. He says it reminds him of the early days of CB Richard Ellis, when the firm was smaller and less corporate. “It's the way it used to be,” says Sandelli.
Sandelli recently moved from Tampa to Bonita Springs and will oversee CRE Consultants' day-to-day operations at its offices in Fort Myers, Naples and Stuart.
“We're going to look at some expansion,” Sandelli says, noting that Sarasota looks attractive. “Beyond that I won't exclude anything,” he says.
For now, though, Sandelli is focused on growing existing business. “Our goal is to continue to sharpen our skills here,” he says.
Sandelli says Florida's geography is ideal for growing international trade and attracting companies from around the globe. “We're like a big dock that sits in the Gulf of Mexico,” he says.
A keen observer of Florida's economy, Sandelli says there's been more residential activity in Southwest Florida than any other part of the state. “I think we're through the toughest times,” he says.
While there's continued economic and political uncertainty, commercial real estate is likely to follow residential growth. For example, industrial buildings that cater to the construction trades could see declining vacancies as new-home construction increases. “If this thing starts accelerating, there will be a scramble for that,” he says.
If the economy improves materially, it will take time for developers to build new buildings. “That existing inventory [of space] will dry up,” Sandelli says. “You could see values increase fairly rapidly.”
Besides leading CB Richard Ellis (now CBRE) during the boom, Sandelli oversaw the firm's recovery and restructuring services, helping clients manage problem assets during the bust. “To me it's really fascinating work,” says Sandelli. “You really have to think.”
Sandelli says the appeal of joining CRE Consultants is that it's an entrepreneurial organization where its founders can make decisions quickly. By contrast, CBRE is the world's largest commercial real estate firm and is publicly traded.
Sandelli, 65, took last summer off after leaving CBRE in February. “I went to the beach every day,” he chuckles. But, he concedes, “I was getting pretty bored. I missed the relationships and the mental stimulation of working through problems.”
That's when Larry Foster of CRE Consultants called. Sandelli and Foster are longtime friends and alumni of CB Richard Ellis. “It was energizing,” Sandelli says. “You can get lazy pretty quickly.”
Besides the entrepreneurial nature of the commercial real estate business, Sandelli says he recognizes some of the same traits he found while flying for the U.S. Navy. “They come to work with no [safety] net, based on their belief that they can make it,” Sandelli says.
Sandelli flew A6 Intruder attack aircraft in two deployments aboard aircraft carriers, became a flight instructor and was a member of the Blue Angels demonstration team in the 1977 to 1978 season.