For CBRE broker Elli Klapper, everything comes back to family.
Growing up in Queens, Klapper’s biggest mentor was his grandfather, a holocaust survivor who fled his native Poland for the US, arrived with nothing, and worked hard his whole life to support his family. In fact, he’s still working — buying and selling real estate at 93 years old.
“I love real estate, it’s in my bones,” Klapper told Real Estate Weekly. “It’s something I always wanted to do. I love the brokerage side of it. Every day I do a different, unique transaction, and meet people from different backgrounds, find out how the property came to be and where they came from.”
A broker with CBRE since 2006, Klapper works on middle-market investment sales in New York City and New Jersey. He is currently building his own growing team and, so far this year, it has enjoyed a stellar run.
The team, CBRE’s Tri-State Investment Properties Team, is on track to have a record-breaking year, with several deals under their belt so far.
They recently sold a $5.2 million property in the Fleetwood-Concourse Village area of the Bronx, as well as a $4.4 million property in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Last year, the team closed more than 20 deals.
“For investors or brokers, if you made it through the tough times, you’re really seeing the fruits of that now,” Klapper said.
Before CBRE, Klapper got an early start in the real estate game in high school, when he helped his grandfather manage his properties by collecting rent from tenants.
After graduating from Yeshiva University with a degree in business, Klapper applied for an intensive internship program with CBRE, but during the interview was offered a position in the capital markets group as a broker. He has been with the company ever since.
Splitting his time between CBRE’s Long Island City offices and its Saddlebrook, New Jersey office, Klapper works on investment sales deals with his partner, Charles Berger, with whom he worked for nine years before officially becoming partners six years ago.
Berger had joined CBRE about six months after Klapper, and they had worked on some deals together.
“During the downturn, a lot of brokers didn’t make it and left the business,” said Klapper. “He [Berger] and I survived the bad times, and we were doing good together at the time, and it was then that we decided to team up.”
Jersey City is a market Klapper sees as “one of the hottest” in the state, and the country with more than $26 million in sales in the first quarter of this year, most of which were redevelopment sites.
“A lot of old industrial office buildings are not properly positioned, and we go in and reposition them and market them,” said Klapper. “We can get significantly higher prices than most people realize they are worth.”
This side of the Hudson, another neighborhood that has investors flocking to make deals is The Bronx.
“You know the old saying ‘The Bronx is burning?’ – The Bronx is on fire,” said Klapper. “It’s the only place left in New York City where you can get cheap rent, even on the corner of a subway stations. People are finally seeing that the Bronx is the last place you can still get a deal in New York City.”
Klapper said the South Bronx in particular has become popular with investors, and prices have been steadily growing over the past year. “I think the market is really great right now. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity, interest rates continue be very low, and rents continue to grow, and it basically creates a perfect storm of people taking advantage of that,” he said. “I’m working on deals now that a couple years ago wouldn’t have made sense, the numbers aren’t ridiculous any more, they’re normal.”
When he’s not busy working, Klapper is focused on his family in Teaneck, NJ. He is married with three daughters, and he and his wife are expecting another child this summer. He takes after his grandfather when it comes to his work ethic and family focus.
“I have a tremendous amount of motivation to work very, very hard,” he said. He’s also very involved with his synagogue and with his daughters’ school, even helping them acquire a new property they are moving into.
And as for continuing working well into his 90’s, as his grandfather has?
“That’s a good question,” said Klapper. “Maybe — I don’t plan on stopping work any time soon. I asked him about a year ago, ‘Why are you still working? You’re 93 years old, you have enough money’. He said ‘the day I stop working is the day I drop dead.’ He needs his mind stimulated. I will take that lesson and keep my mind occupied.”