As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Abe Eilian, director at Essex Realty Group. He concentrates primarily on asset valuation, market research and transaction analysis, assisting clients in the acquisition and disposition of investment real estate throughout the greater Chicago metropolitan area. To date, Eilian has been involved in the underwriting and sale of over $100 million in investment real estate.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, going to private school up until 8th grade, followed by Buffalo Grove High School, and then Illinois State University, where I majored in finance with a focus in real estate.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, and one that specifically designed single-family homes. The idea of designing spaces that families could call home seemed very fulfilling and satisfying to me. (It still does actually.)
How did you get your start in the industry?
As a college student, I worked as a leasing agent at one of the largest owner-operators of housing on our campus. While leasing out apartments to fellow college students, I learned how to price apartments, and why pricing apartments correctly was crucial. I also learned the value of listening to clients’ needs and wants. Several years after college, I started working towards putting together an investment group to purchase my first apartment building on the north side of Chicago, and through that process, I was introduced to one of the principles of Essex, Matt Welke. After my first meeting with him, I knew immediately what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. After several years of staying in touch, I finally landed an analyst position with Essex.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I have two mentors, Doug Fisher and Matt Welke, that not only helped me get on my feet in the world of investment real estate, but also have taught me many great life lessons along the way. I worked as Doug Fisher’s analyst for three years, while also working in a supportive role to Matt Welke. During that time, I learned to underwrite, value and market investment properties at a professional level. While I often say it jokingly, I truly believe that the three-year analyst program at Essex is essentially the equivalent of getting a masters in investment real estate. To this day, Doug and Matt are still my go-to mentors in many ways. They always have an open door and make time for me when I am at a crossroad and can benefit from some sound guidance.
What does a day in the life of Abe Eilian look like?
It’s always changing, but these days it often starts with my fiancee and I getting up a little early for a workout, followed by a cup of coffee together before getting ready for our day. After dropping her off at the train, I usually head straight to the office and am at my desk by 8:45 a.m. I would estimate that two-thirds of my work day are generally spent at the office, making calls on the buildings that my team has been hired to sell, and the other one-third spent out in the field, touring buildings and meeting with building investors.
What do you like most about your job?
There are so many things I like about my job, but if I had to boil it down, I think it all comes down to the word “trust.” I love the process of working to earn my client’s trust, and how being trustworthy is integral to a person’s long-term success in this business. When I say trust, I mean it in more ways than one. First, I mean earning trust through quality of character—with honesty, integrity and good communication. Second, I mean earning trust through expertise—with experience, competence and thoughtfulness. I enjoy proving myself to my clients, in a field that sometimes can seem oversaturated with brokers that are just trying to “slam” deals together in any way they can. When I am hired by a building owner and asked to represent them in the sale of their property, I know they are essentially putting their trust in me with one of their most, if not, the most valuable asset in their lives. The gravity of this is always on my mind and is taken to heart, which serves as my fuel and motivation to perform and maximize the end-value of my client’s investment.
Pricing a property strategically is the first very important step in maximizing the end value of an investment. I enjoy the process of working with my clients to determine the most optimal list price. From there, I work to build the most aggressive and proactive marketing plan possible, essentially making sure that everyone that is supposed to know about the property, knows about the property. Creating a competitive marketplace for my listings is the key to achieving the highest price and cleanest terms possible for my clients. In a nutshell, the challenge of earning and maintaining my clients’ trust, through performing, is what I like most about my job, and it is what I believe helps fuel both my passion and my success.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
At some point further down the road, I would like to start a syndication and begin acquiring apartment buildings with a group of investors.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
Away from the office, I spend my time exploring the city by bike (in the warmer months) and exploring as many restaurants throughout the city as possible (all year round). I also try to play pickup basketball, snowboard and play poker with friends as much as I can, but also thoroughly enjoy a good TV series binge-session on the couch with my fiancee.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
My favorite place has to be a small beach town in Costa Rica called Playas Del Coco. A few years after graduating college, two friends and I bought a one-bedroom condo located about 500 feet from the Pacific Ocean. We operated it as a weekly vacation rental, but also used it as an excuse for an annual guys trip. It’s a great town that has the perfect mix of small-town feel, and big-city fun. The next place I’m excited about experiencing, is Vietnam and Thailand for my upcoming honeymoon!
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Another rising star in our industry, Vic Ciancetta!