RESA Member Spotlight: Michael Feldman, Owner of Choice New York Management

How long have you been in the business and how did you get started?
I started in real estate full time in New York City in 2003. I started Choice New York Management in 2009. People ask me why I started Choice New York and I typically respond facetiously: “unbridled desperation & unabated fear.” But there is truth in jest.

In 2009 my boss at the time informed me he had to take me off salary, put me only on commission and suggested I take a year to travel the world until the economy stabilized. The economy and more precisely the commercial mortgage backed security world had grinded to a complete halt – which happened to be the core of our business. My personal income was zero. So I resigned from my job in part figuring if I was going to be purely on commission I might as well do my own thing. I moved into a small office on 8th Avenue (I ran into the Owner of a company in a parking lot off route 46 in New Jersey who offered to give me a space for free) and started Choice New York Property Management. The catch: I had minimal experience starting or running a company, virtually no experience in the Property Management arena, no infrastructure other than a 6 year old Dell desktop computer and a blackberry, limited capital, no clients, no prospects for clients, and no idea on how to start to be in a position to get a client. One thing I did have was a simple premise: to be part of a company that provided a superior level of service as a 3rd Party Property Management Company.

Tell us about yourself.
Fortunately, fast forward to present, Choice New York Management has 109 buildings under contract for Property Management across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and most recently Long Island and Northern New Jersey. We are moving into a much larger space this Fall. Over the years we have expanded our client service offerings and have a total of four entities. They are: CNYM (Property Management), Choice Listings (Owner rep. res brokerage), Maintenance by Choice (Super/Porter/Handymen) and Concierge by Choice (Concierge/Doorman/Security). In the last 18 months we have also acquired 7 buildings by partnering with a couple of our long time clients.

I grew up in Washington DC and then Bethesda, MD in a close & happy family. I met my wife Erica in 2008 and have been happily married throughout the past 7 years. I have many wonderful Partners in business but she trumps them all. I genuinely view my professional success as a shared success with all my business partners, clients & staffers; but most of all I share my professional success with my wife. It truly is one big team effort. We bought a great house two years ago in a great town in NJ and we have connected with a great number of nice people quickly. To this point, we love the community. In sum, I consider myself to be a really lucky guy.

What advice would you give to yourself if you were at the beginning of your career again?
Never doubt yourself. The world is even much more competitive than you think it is.

What do you find most hopeful in NY’s real estate industry? What do you find most concerning?
Most hopeful would be that such a high degree of the many individuals meet have a perpetual passion for our industry.

Most concerning is the unjust demonization of the industry and the various results – most prominently the over taxation and compliance warfare.

If you were to do anything else, what would it be?
Dream job: Point guard in the NBA that wins all-star game dunk contest. But Real life: Trial Attorney.

How do you think the business will be different in 10 years?
Technology is going to severely disrupt the industry at an extremely accelerated pace.

The world is going to change drastically in the next 10 years. The industrial revolution ended roughly 30 years ago with the advent of the computer and so began the computer revolution. So we are only at the beginning of the computer revolution. Historically, our industry has been notoriously anti-tech for some legitimate reasons however, the biggest reason we have been slow to adapt technology is because the decision makers in our industry were largely raised in a different revolution and are largely luddites. With time, an increasing number of individuals who are more prepared for the computer revolution are replacing their predecessors and taking their predecessors decision making roles.

The technology already exists and will continue to improve rapidly. The decision makers have already started to adapt some of the countless products coming into the industry. The first example of this is what I call the “institutionilzilation” of the multifamily Asset. Now we are already starting to see larger groups come into smaller scale investments due to the efficiencies technology is already currently providing. Unfortunately the unsophisticated mom/pop investor – at least in the current form connotation – will become obsolete.

If you choose not to get on this bus you should expect to get shoved off of it (by a robot).

What’s your favorite quote?
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” ― Christopher McDougall

What was your first job?
Ocean Lifeguard/Swim Instructor. Best. Job. Ever.