Even in a robust market like the one currently shining on Southwest Florida, Fischler Property Co.’s rainmakers aren’t fond of sitting behind the desk, waiting for the phone to ring.
“We are good at creating something from nothing,” firm Founder and President Phil Fischler says. “We go out and knock on doors.”
That approach has served the firm well: Fischler projects it could hit $50 million in sales volume in 2020, more than doubling the mark in each of the past few years. For a firm founded in 2009 in the ashes of the recession, helping banks unload troubled assets, $50 million in sales volume is a major milestone. Fischler declines to disclose specific revenue figures.
One reason for the projected volume increase, beyond agents pounding the streets, Fischler says, is more volume in people — two junior sales brokers are about to join the firm. That brings the total count to eight.
The clients and contacts it works with are also decidedly global, with reach everywhere from Canada to Tel Aviv to São Paulo. In total, Fischler estimates 80% of his buyers are from overseas. “We have a lot of relationships outside the country,” he says. “That’s one of the things that makes us different.”
Another difference maker? Experience and networking. On the former, Fischler has owned buildings. He’s been a landlord. “We’ve lived it on the ownership side,” he says. “We have the scars to show for it. Our clients appreciate that perspective.”
Two others, Vice President Michael Curran and sales associate Katie Pemble, bring significant experience in banking to Fischler Property. Curran, while with SunTrust, oversaw construction and development loans behind numerous Publix shopping centers. Pemble, meanwhile, helped grow several area community banks and was previously president and vice chairwoman of the board for St. Petersburg-based C1 Financial. Pemble also represents the firm’s move into the Greater Tampa market, another Fischler goal.
“These guys aren’t babes in the woods,” says longtime Fort Myers area entrepreneur Ron Weaver, an architect and Fischler Property Co. client. “They are really smart about the market, and they know their stuff”
On networking, finally, Fischler says word-of-mouth has been the firm’s best advertising vehicle. “You do your job really well,” he says, “and you have one client. And before you know it, the client told a friend, and then you have three or even five clients.”
A good example of the using international connections to full effect is in the recent sale of a landmark historic building in downtown Fort Myers. Known locally as the Bank of Fort Myers & Trust Building, the three-story complex, at 2282 First Street and 1500 Jackson Street, sold in early November for $4.4 million.
Weaver was a general partner in the ownership group of that building, having bought it, along with his architecture business partner, Daniel Summers, in 2004. Weaver and Summers are behind BSSW Architects, and they moved the firm into the budding in the mid-2000s — after a major renovation. “The building was in pretty serious disrepair,” says Weaver, who has since retired from BSSW. “It was overridden with termites, and there was asbestos in the plaster. We had tear down the wood structure. We had to basically start over.”
The building and renovation project, including new AC and plumbing, cost at least $2.5 million, Weaver says. Fischler Property Co. got involved in the project in 2010 or so leasing spaces, Weaver says. “They did a great job with that,” he says.
Believing he and Curran could find a buyer at a price that would provide a solid return, Fischler approached Weaver about a sale this past summer. Although Weaver was skeptical, Fischler and his team put together a prospectus, and within four days they had interest.
That interested entity, a Kingston, Canada, real estate firm, was the ultimate buyer of the building — going from listing to closing in 65 days. “We are really good at bringing two sides together,” Fischler says, “connecting people who have needs.”
Fischler also attributes the fast close on the deal to Weaver and his ownership group, behind the quality of the renovations. “They did it before it was even clear that Fort Meyers was going to be what Fort Myers has actually become,” Fischler says, noting the resurgence of the city’s downtown.
With that sale in the background, Fischler believes his ambitious 2020 projections can come to fruition.
For one, market advantage remains with property owners for a host of reasons, from low interest rates to demand outstripping supply. “We have substantially more buyers than sellers right now,” Fischler says. “It’s a great time to be a seller if you know what you’re doing.”
‘You do your job really well, and you have one client. And before you know it, the client told a friend, and then you have three or even five clients.’ Phil Fischler
Another plus, he says, is with the jobs and population boom, Southwest Florida is attracting a higher level of developers, from overseas and places like San Diego, Indianapolis and New York. That includes the buyer of Weaver’s building, which was Peter Splinter Family Holdings, according to Florida Division of Corporations. Peter Splinter is a prominent Canadian homebuilder, developer and entrepreneur, and the founder and president of Braebury Properties.
“These are really top-tier developers coming down looking to do projects and deals,” Fischler says about a segment that used to focus more on Miami and Tampa.
“We are excited about the potential here,” Fischler adds. “We are bullish about Southwest Florida for the next 20 years.”