Veteran brokers Lev Kimyagarov and Rubin Isak are seizing opportunity during the coronavirus pandemic to direct their skills towards a niche market.
The pair have formed a new firm, Development Site Advisors, with the aim of cornering a market plagued by inconsistency and complexity.
And while many firms are on a COVID pause, Development Site Advisors is in the midst of a recruitment drive to train up agents whose sole focus will be on the development site sector.
“During our many years of working in the commercial real estate industry, we came to realize that there was a true void in the development site sector,” said Kimyagarov, who serves as managing principal and co-founder.
“Development sites are a very complex asset class, with each site having several potential development scenarios and each scenario affecting value differently. But most brokers don’t evaluate development sites correctly, primarily because of their lack of neighborhood-specific zoning knowledge. That’s why our tagline is We Know Zoning.”
With plans in the pipeline for several months, Isak and Kimyagarov said they decided to press ahead with their launch this month despite the pandemic’s impact on the market. They tapped industry consultant Wayne Naylor to conduct intensive training for a group of 12 new agents who “will be ready to hit the ground running once the market gets back to normal.”
“When the pandemic hit, we decided to switch to a virtual training program,” said Isak, managing principal and co-founder. “Our agents will be hyper focused on their specific neighborhood, the specific zoning regulations for that area and site and every possible development scenario with costs, and ultimately the value a developer can pay for any given site.
“These are powerful tools for property owners, because we help them to understand how developers view their sites, and we make sure they achieve correct pricing, strong terms and straight-forward contracts,” said Isak. “We make easy what is inherently complex.”
Already DSA has won several agency assignments, including a West 35th Street assemblage in an M1-6 zone located one block north of the Empire State Building, and the former Beethoven piano building in Mott Haven where a conversion or ground up development is on the cards. It recently went to contract on a 150,000 s/f site on West 219th Street in Inwood and closed on a corner lot in Woodside, Queens, that will contain a charter school.
Said Isak, “With so many variables in the development site sector, we want to go to the market with accurate information having done our own drone tours, comparables, zoning studies and environmental reports. When we have a site for sale, investors will know it’s a real site and they are going to be able to make an informed decision with all of this due diligence already done, which is something I think will be very valuable moving forward.”
Kimyagarov and Isak have worked on and off together for many years, first as agents at Massey Knakal Realty Services/Cushman & Wakefield and later at Eastern Consolidated. When Eastern shut its doors in 2018, they serviced their clients through Isak’s Goldenwood Property Advisors.
“It was while we were working as jack-of-all-trade brokers that we decided to form Development Site Advisors because we realized there was a real void in the sector,” said Isak.
“It’s not just about adding value for our clients, but in a city of over 60,000 licensed agents, you need to differentiate yourself. That’s why we’re doing all this training and investing in a proprietary valuation platform that will distinguish us as experts not just in the sale of development sites, but in their ground lease, joint ventures, air right transfers and all of the other aspects of the sector.”