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Michael Pollack - Real Estate Investments

Michael Pollack, Real Estate Investments

Michael Pollack discusses his experience in the real estate industry in Arizona.

Michael Pollack

Title: President and Founder
Company: Real Estate Investments


What was it about the real estate industry that attracted you?

My grandfather and father were in the real estate industry. Growing up, all I really knew was real estate. When I was in the fourth grade, I gave a presentation on how to read working blueprints. So I’ve been doing this a long time.

Video by Cory Bergquist

What qualities helped you become successful in your industry?

I believe that you have to be honest, you have to have integrity, and you have to work really hard. This is not a business that is easy. You have to be able to roll up your sleeves and work really hard.

What qualities do you think a successful CEO needs to possess?

I work sometimes seven days a week and four or five nights a week. But it’s not working to just work, it’s working smart. It’s important that you lead by example.

Are there any obstacles to working in Arizona that you might not face in other states?

We’re still not compared equally with metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. They are seen much more as financial hubs. Our state leaders really need to focus on what’s important today: employment and diversification. We built this state on construction. We built the economy by building homes to house the construction workers. Now, we need to diversify so that we build a more sustainable economy.

How has your industry changed since you started?

When I started, you could do a residential contract on one page. So it’s changed a lot in that it takes a lot more paper to do essentially the same thing.

How do you think your industry is going to change in the next 10 years?

One of the things that is going to be very important going forward is the lessons learned — hopefully — in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. That lesson is that you cannot have the attitude of “build it, and they will come.” We have to build for a reason. Hopefully, that lesson will be in the forefront as we emerge from what has been some very dark days. The other big change is that we are going to see retailers getting smaller again. They grew into these supermega-sized boxes that were so big you needed a golf cart to go through them. That’s going to shrink. We’ve learned that the biggest is not necessarily the best anymore.

What has been your most significant challenge as CEO of your company?

The biggest challenge of my career was not getting carried away with the hype and exuberance of the marketplace in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 to the point where I could have easily over-leveraged and put myself in a position where I would be unable to make a recovery during the economic downturn. I watched so many friends and colleagues feasting on debt and getting to do all these projects while I watched from sidelines, telling myself, “This does not making economic sense.” Having the discipline to do that was the biggest challenge of my career.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I think we’ve truly been able to make a difference in the communities that we have worked in. Some of our redevelopment projects have changed neighborhoods and changed areas of our cities. My goal is to continue to make the communities we work in a better place one day and one project at a time.

Vital Stats: Michael Pollack

  • Has been involved in more than 11 million square feet of projects.
  • Is the drummer for Corporate Affair, a band that plays charitable events.
  • The Pollack family business began in 1937 in San Jose, Calif., when Sidney Gambord,
    Michael Pollack’s grandfather, decided to enter the real estate development business.
  • Entered the real estate business in 1973 while he was still in his teens, building
    single-family homes.
  • Began doing business in Arizona in 1991 with the purchase of a 23,623-square-foot
    shopping center that was 90 percent vacant. Within months, the occupancy rate climbed to
    more than 90 percent.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2012

buyers market

Real Estate Companies Are Seizing Opportunities During The Bust

With dark clouds hanging over the country’s economy and property prices tumbling, many people consider the idea of buying real estate absurd. Yet Valley real estate experts contend right now is the best time to buy.

Jeff Pavone, principal of Commercial Plus in Scottsdale, says smart, experienced commercial real estate investors only buy property when the market is down and no one else is buying. Buyers today are sophisticated, have cash and are looking to pay a good price for quality, he says.

“A year ago everyone could buy real estate and get financing,” Pavone says. “But today, it’s only qualified buyers with a strong portfolio, which puts the buyer at an advantage.”

In spite of economic hurdles, Commercial Plus is still closing deals weekly and getting financing done for clients. It recently closed a deal on a property on Seventh Street and Camelback Road that sold for 20 percent less than last year. Pavone says the buyer was qualified to close, so he obtained 80 percent financing and closed right away.

UTAZ founder Craig Willett says his company stopped buying properties four years ago because prices were too high. Now they are back in the game and in negotiations to buy a number of parcels near hospitals in the Southeast and West Valley. UTAZ specializes in developing professional office villages for small businesses. Since many small business owners have a hard time getting financing, UTAZ offers a lease with option to purchase. Willett says that model used to be 15 percent of the company’s business, but is now 45 percent.

“Leasing with the option to purchase makes a lot of sense in today’s market,” Willett says.

Pollack Real Estate Investments in Mesa is also buying again after taking a three-year hiatus. Founder Michael Pollack is shopping around for multiple commercial properties from single sellers in California, Arizona and Nevada. The company’s focus is redevelopment and renovation projects. Pollack Investments currently owns, operates, manages and leases its own portfolio of more than 100 commercial and industrial properties in California and Arizona.

“Investors are getting more for their money right now than a year or two ago, so it’s a good time to buy,” Pollack says. “But it’s harder to get loans unless you have good credit and put down more money, which I support wholeheartedly.”

Pollack says great buys exist today on land in Arizona and in all sectors of real estate. However, buyers need to look hard for quality opportunities and analyze the numbers, since many sellers want the same price today that they could have gotten three years ago.

“We put a property in Mesa up for sale a couple months ago and sold it the same day,” Pollack says. “So, if a property is priced realistically and reflects the conditions of 2008, it sells.”

Local experts agree that residential property is also a good investment right now, especially homes being sold by banks and by homebuilders forced to sell standing inventory. Greg Vogel, chief executive officer of Land Advisors Organization, says many of these properties are back to pre-boom prices, so they’re a real bargain.

Phoenix-based investment firm Najafi Companies bought Trend Homes in June for $86.5 million. The deal allowed the homebuyer, which reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, to grow and expand its Valley operations. CFO Tina Rhodes says Najafi is committed to homebuilding in Arizona and looks to invest in companies with strong management teams and long-term potential.

Paradiso Development Corporation is moving forward on development plans for Paradise Reserve, a 40-acre, exclusive, luxury residential enclave bordering the Phoenix MountainPreserve on Lincoln and 40th Street in Paradise Valley. The desert retreat has 14 hillside estate lots ranging in size from one to three acres. Lot prices are $2.7 million to $5.4 million.

“The 14 lots at Paradise Reserve are the crown jewels of our project,” says Scott Schiabor, principal of Paradiso Development. “They are rare and unique, and that will help maintain their value and attract investors. A big part of our market is also immune to economic changes, so while we expect some downturn due to the economy, based on the rarity of the lots, location and our target market, we expect sales to go extremely well. For many people it is still a good time to buy real estate and make quality investments.”