By Konrad Putzlier
It is safe to say that Jeff Nissani understands his clients better than most commercial brokers in New York City. After all, he is regularly in their shoes.
Nissani, who specializes in selling office and retail condos, also runs his own hospitality business. And he argues that sitting on the other end of the table from time to time helps him be a better broker.
Head of Marcus & Millichap’s Nissani Group by day, he co-manages the club GoldBar, the lounge Sweetwater Social and the restaurant Bleecker Kitchen – all in lower Manhattan – in his spare time.
He said the venues have become go-to spots for the real estate industry, helping him make connections. But it also leaves him with the challenge of growing two businesses at the same time.
When Marcus & Millichap hired Nissani in early 2014, the California-based brokerage tapped him to head the brokerage’s new office and retail condo investment sales division.
For now, he has been busy hiring agents and securing exclusives. But Nissani hopes to close his first deals at Marcus & Millichap in the coming months and grow his team, which also includes his identical twin brother Erik, from four to six or eight agents.
The Nissani Group’s current exclusives include a 4,000 s/f retail condo at 738 Broadway – priced at $15.5 million – as well as a 3735 s/f office condo at 70 West 36th Street.
But Nissani’s most important job is a leasing assignment: he is charged with finding a new, 40,000 s/f office for Marcus & Millichap’s tri-state operations in Manhattan.
“We identified a space and hope to have a lease signed within a month,” he said, adding that the firm plans on staying within a ten-block radius of Grand Central Station.
The brokerage’s current office is at 270 Madison Avenue.
For Nissani, selling condos is relatively new turf. After graduating from the University of Michigan and brief stints at ABS Partners and Murray Hill Properties, the native New Yorker spent a decade at the helm of his own brokerage, JSN Properties. JSN specialized in office and retail leasing, but Nissani soon set his sight on sales.
“I really wanted to add sales because a ton of landlords that I have done leases with said ‘why don’t you bring us deals to buy space’”, he explained. So he was happy when Marcus & Millichap’s offer came along.
Nissani said it helps to be part of a bigger firm, but it also required some adjustment from him after a decade of calling the shots at his own brokerage.
“That’s been the only relative change that has taken some getting used to, but the group here is really friendly. It’s a good environment,” he said.
In selling office and retail condos, Nissani operates in a relatively small niche market that is often ignored by the major brokerages.
He explained that his biggest rivals are Massey Knakal – now part of Cushman & Wakefield – and Rudder Property Group, which specializes in office condos.
He said that his typical buyers are users rather than investors. “We work with users that want to build equity and be able to shelter themselves from rising rents,” he said, adding that this usually save users money in the medium run.
“Every single analysis I’ve done shows that, over ten year leases, you find you’re way ahead financially if you buy an office condo,” he argued.
Nissani entered the hospitality business through his work as a broker.
“I was doing all these deals and I realized that I was sourcing very good off-market opportunities. So I thought to myself: I can form a hospitality group with friends that I trust,” he recalled.
Nissani and his partners plan on opening another venue, a rooftop lounge, within the coming year and are looking for a location.
While his partners run the venues’ day-to-day operations, Nissani serves as a de-facto head of acquisitions. As a result, he spends much of his free time there.
“It’s pretty much where I am every weekend,” he said.