A look at the top 35-and-under NYC real estate players by Candace Taylor
Jordan Vogel, 32, and W. Aaron Feldman, 31, Benchmark Real Estate Group: The Next Big Landlords
Jordan Vogel and Aaron Feldman met while working at veteran broker Stephen Siegel’s acquisition and development firm, SG2 Properties.
Vogel headed up acquisitions for the company, while Feldman managed daily operations for SG2’s Manhattan portfolio of some 500 apartments. Then, “toward the end of 2008, we realized it was an exceptional time to be buying real estate,” Vogel said.
With Siegel’s blessing, the two decided to go out on their own in 2009, leveraging their relationships in the business to raise capital. They started with a list of 20 potential investors; eight of them agreed to contribute funds.
Since then, they’ve purchased eight properties worth some $70 million, and raised $30 million in equity, Vogel said. Their goal is to eventually own 1,000 New York City apartments while providing healthy returns — 20 percent internal rate of return on a five-year hold — for their investors, he said.
Benchmark’s strategy is to buy rent-stabilized, multifamily residential buildings in prime neighborhoods with 15 to 40 apartments each, then add value by renovating them.
“Our M.O. is, we’re trying to buy the worst buildings in the best neighborhoods,” Vogel explained. Then, they spruce up the common areas and renovate free-market units to yield higher rents. “Six to nine months after we close, you have a renovated, really nice-looking building,” he said.
Recently, Benchmark purchased a 16-unit apartment building at 318 East 11th Street for $4 million, and spent $9.5 million to buy 10 Fifth Avenue, an elevator building with 14 apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail. In early April, they’re slated to close on a $4.6 million purchase of a 20-unit apartment building at 54 Barrow Street.
The key to the strategy is low leverage, and being “very conservative in our assumptions when we’re underwriting,” Vogel said. Benchmark makes sure it can cover its debt service even if no rent-stabilized tenants move out. If they do, it’s “gravy,” Vogel said. “There’s no pressure to vacate apartments.”
Of course, it’s not easy to find deals and beat competitors to the punch.
Vogel said he tours an average of 10 properties a week. Since the duo started Benchmark, which is headquartered in Midtown, they’ve made offers on 160 buildings and purchased only eight.
“We’re extremely hungry for deals,” he said. Still, “it’s a real hustle.”
But the strategy is working: They now have some 60 investors. “We’ve been keeping our promises,” Vogel said. “Investors are very happy and want to ante up for more.”Back to News