Upon returning to his hometown during 2007 after more than six years working for a national telecommunications provider in Denver, newly licensed commercial real estate broker Andrey Trinidad was ready for a career change.
He joined Hoff & Leigh in Colorado Springs, where his brother was working as a commercial broker. What he didn’t expect, however, was a two-year recession that would make it difficult for a new father of twins working on commission to make ends meet.
“My wife and I were excited to move back — and I’d always thought it would be great to get into commercial (real estate),” Trinidad said. “The first year you expect a learning curve. Then the bottom fell out. That occurred just as I was getting in.”
By spring 2009, he felt growing pressure to find a new way to make a living.
“Fortunately T.W. [Time Warner] Telecom, my former company, approached me about coming back,” Trinidad said.
So far, the decision to return to a business he enjoys as a customer relations specialist has been a good one.
“I manage about 250 accounts along the Front Range and make sure they’re getting quality service,” he said. “Since I already had the background and understood the language and the nuances, it was a natural transition.”
Now on a salary plus commission in a familiar field, Trinidad considers his two years with Hoff & Leigh as a “valuable experience,” but is no longer interested in brokerage.
“It works for some and not for others,” he said. “When the water’s flowing in commercial real estate, you can make money hand over fist. In a way I was fortunate — I never experienced the really big times, so I didn’t miss not having deals when the recession hit.”
And there’s something to be said for working for a stable employer in a healthy business-to-business industry.
“I think I could have been a success (in commercial real estate), given time, but in this economy I feel very fortunate to be where I am,” he said.
Bill Hurt, owner of ERA Shields Real Estate and president of the Pikes Peak Board of Realtors, said there is plenty of opportunity for new brokers, but they have to be willing to put in the time and ground work to build their business.
“If someone is determined, organized and ready to learn, real estate offers plenty of potential,” he said. “And there will always be another up cycle.”
For some — especially brokers who have entered the residential market since 2007 — leaving the market at its toughest is not an option.
Re/Max Properties’ broker Jeremy Isaac became a broker “just as the marketing was tanking.”
While he has watched other new brokers leave after a few months or move laterally to the title insurance or mortgage side of real estate, Isaac has chosen to build his business using the Internet and his strong social networking skills.
Not only does he rely on his wife and business partner who is a successful blogger, but he also is building and expanding client relationships through Facebook, texting and Twitter.
“I’ve sold eight houses in the past 12 months — and expect to do even better next year,” he said. “One good thing is I wasn’t in the market during the boom, so I really don’t know what I was missing. My Plan B, if you want to call it that, was not to have a Plan B.”
On the commercial side, young brokers like Lester Colodny, who just joined the London Real Estate Group, also aren’t giving up on the industry, despite forecasts from Loopnet.com and Grubb & Ellis that have predicted little improvement until 2011, 2012 and beyond.
“My backup plan was to make a move that would provide me with a better opportunity now and in the future,” Colodny said, adding that his new company provides him with a better compensation structure and the opportunity to do what he does best.
“This is a good group of guys who I believe are interested in my success — it’s a win-win move,” he said. “I knew going back to sitting at a desk and getting a paycheck every two weeks was not an option.”