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New Heights

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 8:25 a.m. September 27, 2013
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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It's more than market confidence that led longtime local commercial real estate broker Barry Seidel to invest $1 million into an expansion at his firm, American Property Group of Sarasota.

Another factor: His son Brian Seidel, one of two Seidel boys to work at the firm, is 6-foot-3. And that caused a problem at the company's old office, which was basically a 1,250-square-foot cubicle farm on U.S. 41 in south Sarasota. The elder Seidel witnessed his son crouching all the time at his desk, and that, combined with a prediction on a commercial real estate rebound, drove the expansion. “He looked like a giant in there,” Seidel says.

The expansion began in late 2011, when Barry Seidel bought the former Prudential Palms Real Estate office at 7750 S. Tamiami Trail. Seidel paid $380,000 for the building, which, at 4,800 square feet, was 300% larger than the too-small space it had occupied since 1994. The expansion has since included more than $700,000 for renovations at the building; several new agent hires, including Jim Boyd, a well-known commercial property appraiser; and a heavy investment in technology for marketing.

Now, nearly two years later, American Property Group is one of the fastest-growing commercial real estate brokerages in the Sarasota-Bradenton region. Revenues through the first eight months of 2013 have doubled over last year, says Seidel, who declines to release specific figures. Seidel adds that he alone closed $16 million worth of local sales in August, and that doesn't include the seven other agents in the firm.

“There were four very difficult years for all my clients,” says Seidel. “But now the market is booming. We are really busy. This has been the busiest summer I can remember in 20 years.”

Seidel has had several other recent triumphs. Most notably, commercial real estate data firm CoStar Group named Seidel a 2012 Power Broker. The award recognizes local agents with the highest leasing volume among their peers. Seidel had an inkling the past year was going well when several clients started to look for investment properties again — a signal to him that money had begun to come off the sidelines.

“I'm in the money business,” says Seidel. “Commercial real estate is driven by dollars.”

Seidel, moreover, has come to realize he's also in the technology business. That's why he recently hired a marketing director. Says Seidel: “We decided that we needed someone with technology experience to bring us into the 21st century.”

That new hire, Andy Metz, added a blog and videos to the firm's regular marketing initiatives. American Property Group also still utilizes traditional advertising, including print media ads in the Business Observer and other publications. Says Metz: “We want to have the perfect balance of online and offline.”

Seidel and his wife, Leslye, a partner in American Property Group, moved to Sarasota from Philadelphia in 1986. Barry Seidel had been in several businesses up north, from running a restaurant to owning a burglar alarm company. With his sons now working full-time in the business, Seidel, 66, sometimes hears questions about how much longer he will stay at it.

His answer: a long while.

“I have no plans of dying or stopping working,” says Seidel. “People say I should stop and retire, but this is what I love.”

One Busy Summer
Barry Seidel, president and founder of American Property Group of Sarasota, says this past summer was the busiest he's had for commercial real estate deals in 20 years. Recent acquisitions his firm worked on include:

  • Represented Charter One Hotels & Resorts Inc. when the hotel-management firm bought a new headquarters in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park. Transaction was a $1.3 million deal for a 9,091-square-foot building;
  • Represented investors in a 1031 tax-deferred exchange acquisition of seven commercial buildings on Venice Avenue and a two-unit retail storefront on Main Street in downtown Sarasota. The combined price for all the properties, including an apartment building and several restaurants, was $7.58 million;
  • Represented the buyer and seller of a 14,250-square-foot retail strip center at the intersection of Bee Ridge Road and U.S. 41 in Sarasota. Property sold for $3.7 million.

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