By Linda O’Flanagan
J.D Parker has seen some growth since he burst onto the New York City real estate scene as an eager young agent at Marcus & Millichap in 2004.
Back then, he was out to prove he could sell buildings with the best of them and, within his first year, he certainly showed he could.
He was crowned Rookie of the Year within his first 12 months and was a Top Ten producer by the age of 24. Promotion to management level followed and, in 2007, he became regional manager of a trio of the firm’s New York offices.
And, despite one of the worst recessions in decades, the former dive master from Pennsylvania has retained a pace that defies the market. At age 32, he is now a first vice president and northeast regional manager responsible for nearly 200 brokers and staff in five offices.
He closed the firm’s busiest year on record in 2012, with 645 sales and financing transactions in the northeast region valued at $2.4 billion, and is on the cusp of perhaps the company’s biggest growth spurt ever.
“We’ve had a good run,” said Parker, from his corner office at the firm’s northeast regional headquarters at 270 Madison Avenue. “In the last three years, we have made a big push into commercial financing and now have a 15-person team operating throughout the North East.”
He hired finance veteran John Wilcox to help him grow that business and said upto 30 new loan officers will be recruited within the next 12 months.
Parker is also expanding the firm’s New Haven office, and this summer will move into a new, larger space in White Plains to accommodate 15 new sales agents being hired there.
With the Manhattan office at capacity, he’s in talks to expand the firm’s space at 270 Madison “to accommodate future growth” there, too.
And, he’s checking out spaces on Long Island for an office opening as part of a bigger push along the eastern seaboard.
“Our goal is to be the best real estate advisors and give our clients all of the options that are out there. Today, if you are not coming to the table with all of the options for your client, then they are not being served appropriately.
“You can sell your property, hold it, or refinance. When we meet with clients, we are looking at addressing these three options as well as analyzing their tax consequences and overall investment objectives.
“Our goal is to help them and their partners and families make the best possible decision to create and preserve their wealth.
“All of this allows us to build deeper, long-term relationships with our clients.”
Last year in the five boroughs, Marcus and Millichap agents closed an impressive 126 transactions, shattering the previous high of 96 set at the height of the boom in 2007.
Parker believes the company has been able to assert dominance in the boroughs in particular because of disorganization within the market.
“There is a lot of room for quality brokers today because the market is extremely disorganized,” he said. “The majority of transactions are still being done without a broker’s involvement and any time that happens, a seller is almost always leaving money on the table.
“Buyers take advantage of those who don’t understand the true value of their property and most sellers are not capable of creating an intense level of competition to drive the value up. The only way to do that in a short period of time, is to bring qualified buyers to the table, vet them, make them bid against each other. The result is a higher price with better terms for the seller.
“That’s at the heart of the process where we believe competition is in the seller’s best interest.”
Since Marcus & Millichap first opened in New York in 1999, it has become the leader in the northeast region, doing more than double the number of transactions of any other firm from D.C. to Boston, according to Co-Star.
“We are making a significant push with our eight offices between Boston and DC and we have plans to double our entire sales force within the next four years,” said Parker.
“We have already hired a lot of new people and that has allowed us to delve into markets we were not active in before. Clients are looking for quality people to represent their interests, and we have focused on hiring the best and brightest as opposed to hiring warm bodies and putting them on the phones and having a constant turnover of staff.”
He attributes a high agent retention rate to Marcus & Millichap’s well regarded training program and mentorship system. “Our agents never stop learning,” said Parker, who continues to be mentored by managing director Gene Berman in Ft. Lauderdale and CEO John Kerin in Los Angeles.
As the market shows signs of a return to normalcy, Parker said his team is poised to take full advantage.
“We have really ramped up for this new market cycle,” he said. “At the bottom of the market, we were preparing aggressively for this.
“Our revenue has grown close to 100% percent over the last three years and I don’t see this year slowing down at all. The wind has been at our back in terms of transaction velocity, but we have also grown faster than the market has come back across all product types and in all regions where we focus, so we have been able to make significant gains in our market share.”
Next step for Parker is to hire specialists who can direct sector teams in office, industrial, east coast hospitality and multi-family.
“There has been an explosion in the retail sector — strip centers, shopping center sales, net leases — and that is another area where we plan to grow,” said Parker, who last year hired a top retail team from a competitor in White Plains that has made its presence felt.
This month, he’ll take 29 agents to the ICSC convention in Las Vegas as part of a contingent of 200 Marcus & Millichap staff from all over the country.
The company will host its annual golf tournament and a Retail Trends panel. “We do a substantial amount of business in Vegas,” said Parker. “Upwards of 30 percent of the firm’s annual retail business can be originated at the show.”
In the midst of the unprecedented growth in his professional life, Parker has also seen some growth personally. He and his writer wife, Eloise, welcomed baby Jack to the world 14 months ago.
“It’s been exciting because Eloise and I had the baby in the middle of all this and it has been a little bit of a juggling act,” Parker admitted.
“I want to spend time with my son. I don’t want to be an absentee father. He comes into the office and everyone knows him. We try to keep a family atmosphere here and a lot of kids come into the office on a regular basis. The whole office is going to the Mets game next week and there will be spouses and kids there.
“We try to keep a healthy balance between work and family and not get consumed by the brokerage business.”
He said he has managed to enjoy the craziness. Even during what were very lean years for many firms, Marcus & Millichap’s sub-$100 million market niche continued to percolate business.
“Large property sales almost completely stopped and, because the regional banks were relatively healthy compared to their Wall Street brethren, we were still able to get financing done, although it wasn’t always easy,” said Parker.
“Now that liquidity has returned to all tranches, the market is becoming extremely competitive with buyers chasing properties, construction financing is back in a big way, land prices have sky rocketed and foreign buyers are on the prowl in greater numbers than I have ever seen them in my career.
“All these things point to a healthy market place for sales and I would say it is definitely a sellers’ market right now.
“It’s been a fun and exciting time for me. I had the benefit of participating in the previous up cycle, so I have had a taste of what it would be like in the future when the market normalizes.
“I knew if we could prepare to take advantage of it, then when the market did return, we would be in a great position to capitalize on that. It is certainly a lot more fun when your agents are making money.”