NAI Horizon sows seeds of organic growth with a youth movement of brokers

Above: NAI Horizon’s young professionals, from left, Drew Eisen, Dylan Whitwer, Victoria Filice, Logan Crum, Patrick Anthon and Andrew Warner. Real Estate | 2 Nov |

They are tech savvy. They volunteer their time. They have focused disciplines in a wide variety of specialties.  They are shareholders in the company and represent the future of NAI Horizon, an entrepreneurial commercial real estate company headquartered in Phoenix.

With responsible and effective mentoring becoming a lost art, NAI Horizon appears to be doing it well – it is grooming, promoting and encouraging the personal and professional growth of six up-and-coming brokerage professionals.

“We are proud to have a group of young professionals who exemplify the diversity of our brokerage coverage,” said NAI Horizon Senior Vice President Lane Neville, a member of the executive committee. “They are all extensions of very successful senior member teams. We have a nice blend of youth and experience.”

NAI Horizon was established 30 years ago in Phoenix. It is a full-service real estate company and offers premium commission splits that enjoys benefits of an international firm through NAI Global, the largest managed commercial real estate network in the U.S. 

“Our newest class of young agents joined NAI Horizon early in their careers. Most joined right out of college and went through our training and mentoring program before becoming productive team members,” said Terry Martin-Denning, CEO/Designated Broker at NAI Horizon.

“They are active in their communities, engaged in professional and industry organizations and have the desire to make a difference personally and professionally.  I am proud of this group. Their dedication to learning their craft, serving their clients and honing their skills is impressive, especially during these challenging times,” Martin-Denning said.

NAI Horizon’s “young guns” include:

Andrew Warner, Manufactured Housing

Andrew Warner, 31, is the “elder statesman” of NAI’s young professionals. A graduate of Arizona State University, Warner is teamed with an industry veteran who is also his mentor – and likely his biggest fan; his father, Russell Warner.

“My dad taught me the business from the beginning,” Warner said. “In our 7 years as a team he has placed confidence in my ability to manage deals, get listings and negotiate and close transactions.”

Warner and his father monitor the manufactured housing and RV park industry not only in Arizona but across the U.S. as well. Keeping track of what is for sale and what has sold requires the most up-to-date information. Warner said while he has shown his father some “new tricks” when it comes to technology, he added that dad is pretty savvy himself.

“You have to strike that delicate balance sharing new technology with a veteran,” he said. “With my dad, there is nothing delicate about it. But he’s always been tech savvy for his age. We both know the importance of having a good database.” 

Warner said he pursued a career in commercial real estate because of the freedom it affords. He said it’s not just about the time you put in; it’s about the results you see.

In 2018, while working toward his CCIM designation, he worked on a deal with a fellow classmate whose family was selling its mobile home park in Idaho. The sale of The Meadows fetched a sales price of $12.7 million – and put a nice feather in Warner’s cap.

“This job can sometimes be stressful, but if you can handle it, it’s a great job to be in,” Warner said. “One day you feel rich and then the next day you think it’s the end of the world. Just like any business, there are lots of roller coaster ups and downs.”

How has his industry been affected by COVID-19?

“There was initial shock of people being afraid of making deals,” he said. “When it first hit, I had five deals fall out of escrow in the same month. It has recovered nicely since then. This is an asset class that is in much demand.”

Warner cherishes the opportunity NAI Horizon provides young professionals like himself to learn and grow.

“This group, I think they’re all very talented,” he said. “And they all are doing well. When I first started, there weren’t many young faces in the office. Not anymore. It’s great to see the opportunities NAI Horizon is providing not just for the young brokers, but for the entire office.”

Patrick Anthon, Retail

When Patrick Anthon, 29, graduated from the University of Arizona’s Eller Business College, he was ready to put his degree to work. He wanted to help people achieve their financial goals, but not as a stock broker. There was something that had more an allure – commercial real estate.

“Being on the long-term investment side and helping landlords achieve the occupancy and financial goals they have set really appealed to me. Now, being in a team setting, I’m right where I want to be – surrounded by great mentors, not to mention some incredibly talented young professionals.”

Anthon is part of NAI Horizon’s top retail team (Chris Gerow, Shelby Tworek and Gabe Ortega). Their team specializes in all facets of the retail brokerage: land acquisition, ground up development and leasing and sales.

“My team really gives me the benefits of being able to widen my network and that helps to really dial into the market,” Anthon said. “Whether it’s representing a buyer or working with the seller, I know that somebody has the relationship that they can leverage in order to make the deal a smoother transaction.”

Anthon said he is particularly proud of a deal their team closed recently; working with a local developer to build and fully lease more than 50,000 SF of a new retail center in Queen Creek, Arizona.

With the retail sector one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, Anthon said the team realized it was going to be a new normal. Many small businesses closed their doors hoping to return. Many more didn’t survive.

“We all knew retail had taken a hit,” he said. “As a team we sat down to come up with creative ideas. We needed to find solutions for some of the vacancies we witnessed during this tough time. Through these discussions we were able to get a different perspective on the best way to get a tenant to occupy a space.”

Anthon admits his team has adapted well to new technologies, adding that as a Millennial he has been a little quicker to adapt and take advantage.

“Some on my team have been in the business for 35 years,” he said. “We’re always looking for new ways to best target our retail clients and services. It’s everything from new technology to knocking on doors.”

Anthon said NAI Horizon’s ability to recruit and retain young talent is a reason he enjoys what he does.

“It’s important to grow organically through a company and succeed,” he said. “It says ‘I can pound my chest and be proud that I stuck with the company and saw myself grow and rise and become a top producer.’ I know it’s important to retain young brokers and get them to where they can grow on their own.”

Victoria Filice, Self-Storage

California native Victoria Filice, 27, grew up with real estate a big part of her daily life. Her parents have owned mobile home parks in the Western U.S. for years.

“When an internship position working with Mobile Home Parks and Self-Storage groups at NAI Horizon became available, naturally, I was very interested,” Filice said. “I had the time and the opportunity to decide which direction I wanted to take. I ultimately decided to become a part of the Nunez Self-Storage Specialty team.”

Filice recently celebrated 2 years with the team, which is led by one of the top self-storage brokers in the business, NAI Horizon Senior Vice President Denise Nunez.

“She has taught me so much,” Filice said of Nunez. “I really didn’t have to introduce any new technologies. We use a multi-tiered relationship database that Denise had developed when she first moved over to NAI in 2015. When we are looking to identify the top buyers for a particular size deal, we are able to sort through our database and quickly develop a buyer list based on criteria gained through discussions with buyers.

“We appreciate that self-storage is one of the more recession-proof property types,” Filice said when asked about the effect of COVID-19. “Owners are seeing an increase of move-ins. People are moving. Students are moving out of their dorms and leaving their stuff in storage. We really haven’t come across any real hardships.”

Filice previously dabbled in real estate before joining NAI Horizon. She earned her Arizona Real Estate License and joined a residential brokerage firm. It was not the experience she now enjoys as a commercial broker with NAI.

“I would get out every day and knock on doors to drum up business” Filice said. “Today, I get on the phone and talk to owners from California to Chicago. At my first company, the next youngest person to me in the room was more than 30 years older,” she recalled. “I remember being in a bullpen office meeting. Someone asked what Instagram was. My jaw dropped. It’s a completely a different environment at NAI Horizon”

Away from the office, Filice spends time with her fellow NAI Horizon “Young Guns.” She also appreciates an office culture in which women hold key decision-making positions.

“I feel very lucky to work with another strong woman,” she said. “That culture seemed very forthcoming when I started here. I felt like part of the team. Under the great leadership of Denise and Terry I have learned a lot.”

Dylan Whitwer, Office

Dylan Whitwer is already a veteran in the business. He has served as a staff scientist, as an environmental consultant and was worked the business development world. Not bad for being just 27.

“Commercial real estate gives you the opportunity to work with who you want, whether it’s a client or a team,” said Whitwer, an Associate in office leasing and sales. “I really like to be someone who is self-sufficient and in control of their destiny and fate. And besides, I just love people.”

Whitwer said NAI Horizon has given him many opportunities to make the connections it takes to thrive in the industry. His mentors include staff veterans Laurel Lewis, Don Morrow, Mark Wilcke and Mike Myrick. In 2019 he served as Chairman of the Valley Partnership Community Project; a very time-consuming volunteer position.

“I volunteer because it helps me become engaged in the community,” he said. “It puts me in front of a vast number of people. I get to be a helper and an advisor. And they all have life stories to tell. All that coincides with that little piece that’s the commercial real estate community. We become friends and have great relationships.”

The mentoring that NAI Horizon also promotes a great sense of pride and camaraderie, he added.

“Working with Laurel and Don has helped me develop my skills,” he said. “I hope they have learned from me as well. They have such great ideas on business development. I’ve added another level of technology and efficiency to create another style of business development. Technology allows you to make those connections work better.”

COVID-19 added a word to the industry’s vocabulary that Whitwer said perfectly describes the current economic crisis.

“There is a lot of uncertainty, and for some reason that seems to be people’s favorite word,” he said. “I see it differently. I see it from the standpoint of people who are really succeeding in the pandemic and those who are taking the hits. Who is really doing it successfully? Technology companies. Healthcare. Mental and behavioral health. They have grown their business because of it.”

Away from the world of office leasing, Whitwer socializes with his fellow young professionals. In and out of the office, he said, he finds they all have everyone’s best interest in mind.

“We meet their families and do what we can in the office and out of the office to make their life better,” he said. “That makes me passionate. That makes me want to work with these young brokers. Plus, you have mentors who want to see you succeed. NAI has created the ideal environment.”

Logan Crum, Investment Sales

It helped that Logan Crum, 25, already had a solid background in commercial real estate when he joined NAI Horizon almost 4 years ago. In college at the University of Arizona, he said he shifted gears from majoring in biology to majoring in real estate.

“One of my fraternity brother’s dad was in commercial real estate,” the Washington native said. “I saw how successful you could be. I consider myself a people person. That’s a big part of it. But there was also the planning aspect. Working in different cities with different clients and co-workers. It all fell into place for me.”

Upon joining NAI Horizon, Crum was placed under the tutelage of Lane Neville with the Investment Services Group. Crum said Neville taught him numerous valuable lessons and allowed him to progress at this own rate. Their team investment team specializes in the sale of multi-tenant office and retail properties.  Two years into his collaboration with Neville, Crum helped close on a $14 million, 128,500 SF retail center in the Deer Valley submarket and a $10.25 million, 82,200 SF medical office property in Scottsdale submarket.

“When I met Lane, he possessed over 30 years of knowledge in all property types,” Crum recalled. “I had zero. I made my contribution to the team by working hard and leveraging my efforts to closing transactions.  I am now proficient in database management, mapping and aerials. All these elements are crucial for listings and site selection assignments.  We have worked well bringing all of them together.”

“With COVID-19 this year, in investment sales, our initial reaction was that things are not going to be the same,” Crum said. “But we exuded confidence. Lane has so much experience that helped me weather the storm and figure it out. We knew this should be something temporary, and that we had to have our 1031 Exchange buyers ready to go. We didn’t stop working and kept our focus, both were big factors as we also gained new listings over the past six months.

“NAI Horizon helped me prepare to take on that challenge. Remember, people my age have only seen a good market. It was invaluable to see how those in the office reacted to the tough times. Lane knew what our strategy had to be and had a plan based on his successes during the recession in 2008, which is tough experience that I get the benefit of knowing how it may play out,” Crum said.

Crum said he enjoys seeing new faces in the office, especially those of professionals his age.

“We have a great culture here,” he said. “We all get along and enjoy seeing each other out of the office. Victoria, Dylan and I hang out on weekends. In the office, we sometimes refer deals to each other. I just did a referral on a deal with Patrick. What counts the most, though, are the mentors we have here.”

Drew Eisen, Industrial

At 23, Drew Eisen is the youngest among NAI Horizon’s youth movement, but no less experienced. Or less competitive. He was a member of the ASU men’s swim team while in college, and that’s where his interest in commercial real estate began.

“Kids grow up with dreams of being a rock star or a fireman. My father was a businessman and that’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to own a company,” Eisen said.

In college he began purchasing items in bulk and sold them online. It was then he realized he needed a warehouse to store his inventory. It sparked an interest in commercial real estate as a career; one in which he could work with other business people and help place their products or services into an appropriate space.

“I started my job hunt after college and landed an interview at NAI Horizon,” he said. “They did a great job breaking down the mentorship program. I knew it was the best place for me.”

Eisen’s mentor is industrial property veteran Isy Sonabend. Eisen’s role is to source new clients and build a pipeline of new business. Just this past summer the pair negotiated $4.4 million sale of 48,000 SF industrial building in Phoenix.

“Industrial activity has not changed a lot since pre-COVID-19; we’re chugging along with our deals,” Eisen said. “Investors are looking to put their money in a hard asset and get out of the stock market. The e-commerce boom, with retailers selling online, has been great for the industrial market as well.”

Like NAI’s other young professionals, Eisen wasn’t around to feel the impact on the industry of the Great Recession. The fallout from COVID-19 is giving him a taste of how tough times can get.

“At first I was a little panicked since I was just starting out in the profession,” he said. “Isy kept us on a ‘think positive’ approach. Plus, we knew that industrial had a leg up on the other property types. It was, and still is, a daunting thought of what our industry is going through.  I know my sector will continue to do well as many industrial users are growing as businesses continue to want to relocate to Arizona.”

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