In an uncertain market nationwide, Chatam Management vice president Anita Gupta is finding the hidden opportunities.
Gupta, who has been in the real estate business for more than a decade after starting out at Marcus & Millichap, joined her familyʼs firm in 2008.
Founded in 1976 by Ram Gupta, the Bronx-based Chatam Management has a diverse portfolio of properties that it owns, as well as properties the company manages, across the tri-state area and in several states across the country.
The firm’s bread and butter is multifamily properties they own and manage throughout the New York metro area, New Jersey, and Connecticut, several of them joint partnerships with other companies.
They also own shopping centers in several states, including Florida and Tennessee.
Growing up in the business, Gupta has seen highs and lows in the market, and has learned how to make the best of it in either case. In the current market, her firm is looking at areas of the country they haven’t before.
Chatam recently joined a group of investors to buy a large shopping complex in Metropolitan Tampa, Florida.
“That’s what interesting in this market,” said Gupta. “Looking outside of normal areas.”
Her company has checked out opportunities in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, and in the last couple of years purchased shopping centers in North Carolina and South Carolina with a group of partner investors.
Partnering with other firms on acquisitions has helped Chatam expand and diversify its portfolio, something Gupta sees as crucial to a company’s longevity.
“I think what’s extremely important going forward is continuing to build long-lasting partnerships, maintaining current ones, and building new ones,” said Gupta.
“One of the best parts of this industry is collaborations that last and can last decades, just based on the longstanding trust in partners.”
For Gupta, being successful in commercial real estate isn’t just about diversifying your portfolio; it’s about diversifying your skills.
“You have to be able to manage all those different types of assets,” she said. “I’m still learning.”
Along with the skills she’s learned working on different types of deals and in various asset classes, Gupta has a law degree that is enormously helpful when looking at deals and potential partnerships.
She said she learned a lot about business and business philosophy from her father, with whom she has worked for the last ten years, and who built the company from the ground up, after starting with nothing.
“I have to remember that there’s an importance about handing something down generation to generation that started from nothing,” she said. “I want to recognize where it came from, where it is now, make is stronger, and possibly pass this legacy on to the next generation.”
And with new generations come new technology. As Gupta has seen over the course of her career, new tech has upended commercial real estate in the last several years. Coveted information is now at a broker’s fingertips in the office and on the go, allowing for more creativity and more competition.
“I work with my father who is 70,” said Gupta. “He’s definitely learning from what I know, and I’m learning from people under me.”
One of the biggest learning experiences over the course of her career was right around the time she began working with her father. A building Chatam owned in the Bronx in Westchester Square burned down in an intentionally set blaze in 2009. Gupta had never worked on a ground-up development project before, but she was encouraged by her father to take it on.
“My father said ‘You’ve always been interested in development, go for it,’” she said. The 10,000 s/f building had to be completely demolished down to its foundation and built back up to what it had been before. It’s now fully occupied with tenants and has been a success.
“It was a very interesting time for me because it was something I had no experience with whatsoever, and I was learning as I was going,” said Gupta. “I definitely learned what not to do, and what to do next time. That was a very exciting time.”
Next week, Gupta will join a group of her millennial peers to take part in a panel at the annual Real Estate Weekly Women’s Forum focused on the changing landscape of the workforce as a younger, more tech-savvy generation takes hold.
Though the number of women in commercial real estate has been steadily increasing over the last couple of decades, it is still a male-dominated industry in New York City.
Gupta’s advice for women rookies in real estate is to not let your voice get drowned out in the crowd.
“It’s important to speak up when you have an idea and not be intimidated by people around you, even if they have more experience than you,” she said. At the same time she guides newcomers “to be humble and listen to people who are better in this business, and listen to their stories about what it once was.”
Gupta was recently elected one of the first female board members of Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a trade association representing owners of more than 4,000 apartment buildings in New York City.
“To me, that was a huge step in diversity for the organization, and for women active in this industry,” she said.