Two Phones Are Better Than One: Aaron Jungreis on Fast Times at Rosewood Realty
Al Barbarino April 23, 2013, 9 a.m.
Aaron Jungreis is not a stockbroker on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But he looks a lot like one standing behind his desk at his East 29th Street offices.
Two desk phones sit side by side. He talks into the handset of one. The other one rings. An iPhone at arm’s length lights up with an incoming message.
Indeed, the founder of Rosewood Realty Group seems to work in double-time, sending a text message, jotting an address on a notepad, simultaneously holding a conversation with a client, while intermittently sipping a cup of office-brewed coffee. No Starbuck’s?
“I don’t have time,” he said.
Mr. Jungreis and Rosewood Realty Group, a commercial real estate brokerage firm that focuses on sales of multifamily, retail and office properties, have managed to climb the ranks among the city’s elite investment sales shops in a relatively short period of time since the firm’s inception in 2007.
The firm is now thrown in the mix with names like CBRE and Jones Lang LaSalle, though bolstered by a work force of just 10 brokers, where the other firms boast hundreds.
A breakthrough 2012 brought $1.4 billion in sales, a 164 percent leap from the previous year, according to an analysis from The Real Deal that honed data from Real Capital Analytics and CoStar, which sat Rosewood next in line to investment sales powerhouse Massey Knakal.
The firm completed 124 deals last year, and this year, Mr. Jungreis said, he’s on track to personally hit 130 toward a 170 goal for the entire firm. The deals, many off-market, are split roughly 30-30-30 percent between Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, with the remainder in Queens.
“I don’t want to denigrate any other firm, but obviously I work hard,” Mr. Jungreis said, reflecting on 2012’s performance. “I’m standing here all day on two phones at the same time … It’s about knowing your product and putting in that extra time.”
Mr. Jungreis has said he makes about 200 calls per day.
“I obviously still get out and show buildings,” he said. “But it’s so important to be on that phone. I try to be on the phone from 7 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night.”
The key to success for Mr. Jungreis has been not only putting in the extra time, but canvassing the boroughs the old-fashioned way, with weekly Sunday drive-throughs to monitor new listings, block-by-block changes, the properties he is either assigned to sell or, most importantly, those he hopes to pick up as assignments.
“I keep a list of addresses and when I drive out, I look at all of them,” he said. “I usually will take one borough at a time, but sometimes go to two and look at all the buildings. This Sunday I have a list of 15.”
Following his early Sunday morning drives through the boroughs, Mr. Jungreis stops off at his favorite bagel shop to bring breakfast home for his wife and four daughters in Long Island. Once in a while, he’ll take one of his daughters for the ride. Other times, they’ll make a stop at the office, where he hangs their artwork.
On the wall behind his desk hang an array of multicolored pieces of 8-by-11-inch paper. Taped to the wall, the words “Dad” and “Daddy” are etched across two of them.
The family man’s firm has pulled off some monster deals in the multifamily space over the course of the last year, gaining the respect of the industry and the numbers to back it up. The last quarter of 2012 was considered one of the industry’s best quarters ever—and the best ever at Rosewood.
The firm closed close to $500 million in deals in December alone, including the $39.9 million sale of an eight-building package that included 95 Thayer Street, 615 West 173rd Street and a number of other properties located on the upper reaches of Manhattan, as well as the $32.5 million sale of two properties on 38th Street in Astoria, Queens.
Mr. Jungreis said his good fortunes continue into 2013, with his firm having completed almost 40 deals already this year.
It’s simply a matter of “knowing your product” and finding the right buyer—often repeat buyers and established clientele, he said. Many of his deals are off-market, meaning that the seller gives the broker “one shot” to find the right buyer.
“I have one guy who likes condos, one guy who like two-bedrooms, one guy who likes …” he went on.
In at least one case, Mr. Jungreis hasn’t been afraid to put his money where his mouth is, fronting deposit money himself. In others, he showed the flexibility to break up portfolios and find multiple buyers, which complicates deals and multiplies paperwork.
In January, Mr. Jungreis represented the buyers in the purchase of a portfolio of 14 buildings in Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens for $190.5 million. Ten of the buildings—five in Manhattan and five in the Bronx—were sold to the Parkoff Organization for $158 million, and the remaining four were sold to Douglaston Realty.
The 14 buildings were initially marketed as a package, but it was determined that splitting it up was in the best interest of both the buyers and the seller. The switch was the key in completing the deal.
“The guy in the Bronx and Manhattan didn’t want the Queens buildings, and the guy in Queens didn’t want the Bronx and Manhattan buildings, so it paid to split them up,” Mr. Jungreis said at the time of the sale.
But Mr. Jungreis said that situation is changing, as financing frees up and more buyers are willing to go hard on deals.
“Financing is so plentiful and guys are more eager to take risky deals,” he said. “That makes things easier for me.”
In many cases, his familiarity with his clients and the market allows him to turn deals in a matter of days.
“I usually get in the minds of the buyers right away. And I know almost every building in the borough, and I turn it around so quickly because I have such familiarity with these products,” he said. “Close to 50 percent of the deals involve someone I’ve worked with before. I don’t have to send the deal to 100 people. Sometimes I get a deal and I have it done literally in a day or two.”
Those are the “easy” ones. Yet it seems that the most memorable deals are those that take the longest to seal.
When Mr. Jungreis sought a buyer for the Bossert Hotel at 98 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights last year, for example, the off-market deal and complicated zoning made for “many bumps in the road.”
But he and colleague Devin Cohen ultimately identified Joseph Chetrit of Chetrit Group and David Bistricer of Clipper Equities (who put up a staggering $1.1 billion for the Sony Building) as the buyers, selling it to them for $81 million.
“We worked that deal for years,” he said.
A three-building package Mr. Jungreis sold on the Upper West Side for $145 million about a year and a half ago sticks out as another of his most memorable deals—an instance where he was so confident in the deal that he was willing to loan his own money to the buyer to cover part of the roughly $6 million deposit.
He also had to sell off one of the three properties (393 West End Avenue, 165 West 91st Street, 55 West 92nd Street) before the buyer would budge.
“Within the 60-day window, I had to make sure I found another buyer for one of the buildings,” he said. “[The buyer] said, ‘I don’t want to go hard on the deal,’ but he did, and I’ll tell you why … because I said, ‘I like the deal so much that I’ll actually put down part of the deposit.’”
“The guy will never forget that,” he said.
Following his graduation from the University of Maryland and Touro College, Brooklyn-born Mr. Jungreis began his commercial real estate career as a broker at New York-based GFI Realty Services. He founded Rosewood Realty Group in 2007.
Though the economy would take a turn for the worse after the Rosewood launch, it made for another of the broker’s most memorable deals—his first under the Rosewood name—when he turned around a 13-building portfolio on the West Side of Manhattan for $69.5 million.
“It was when the market was dead … the market, I’m telling you, was dead,” he said. “Even in my own office, everyone was telling me that the market is dead, that the banks don’t want to lend.
“Pulling that one off was not easy.”