A Billion-Dollar Listings Guy

October 16, 2008
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He is “one of the best SVN Real Estate advisors in America.”

Those words appeared in the Jan. 16 edition of the Wall Street Journal and weren’t attributed to a Manhattan, Los Angeles or Washington D.C. agent. The tribute was about someone who works and lives right here in River City.

Pete Colvin, a senior advisor for the Sperry Van Ness Silveri Co., was ranked in May as the seventh top SVN producer on the company’s worldwide list of Top 100 Producers — and those top performers came from a field of nearly 1,100 agents who work for the firm.

Colvin is the only Michigan advisor on the list.

“Pete is an amazing guy. He is a gifted salesperson,” said Glenn Turek, managing director for SVN Silveri, who has been in the local real estate market since 1979.

Colvin, who joined SVN Silveri in April 2007 and has spent the past quarter-century in the industry here and in the San Diego area, has sold more than $1 billion worth of commercial and residential properties in more than 1,000 transactions. He recently sold a $7.5 million apartment complex to a Southern California investor and a $9 million shopping center to a real estate investment trust based in Arizona.

“I really focus on getting listings instead of working just with buyers, and I try to list really clean investment real estate that are worth $1 million or more and are ready to be sold. I focus on marketing the product, so I am a listings guy,” Colvin said.

“For example, I will meet with the owner of a shopping center to help them establish if it is a good time to sell, because the world is changing and people are selling good real estate now like never before because they want cash. Instead of trying to sell real estate, I try to help people meet their goals.”

His sales strategy has worked especially well with retail properties and apartment complexes, the areas he now focuses on the most. Colvin said he recently sold an apartment building for a local couple who wanted to retire, and then helped them invest their return into products that require little management. One investment to which Colvin regularly directs his clients is buying a smaller, occupied building, often leased to a retail business.

“Something that already exists that is real high quality with good credit and a good cash flow, so they can retire and have money coming in without managing a property. Those are called absolute-net deals, which mean the tenant takes care of everything and the landlord doesn’t have any responsibility. So it’s like a sure thing,” he said.

“People who own management-intensive buildings right now, they are good candidates to sell.”

Colvin’s clients have expressed appreciation for his efforts on their behalf. Larry Bratschie is one. Colvin sold an apartment complex for him

“From the moment of initial contact throughout the entire process, Pete was a valued team member in selling the property and then finding opportunities for reinvestment of the proceeds. Pete always puts his customers’ needs and desires first knowing that the more beneficial and appropriate the transaction is for the customer, in the long run everyone, including himself, will benefit,” said Bratschie.

Allen Vander Laan is another. The CEO of Kent Companies and A&H Development has worked with Colvin on a number of transactions.

“I have known Pete for several years and I can say, as a real estate professional, he knows how to get the job done. Pete has helped us market multiple properties with very satisfying results every time,” said Vander Laan.

Colvin said having that high ranking has its advantages, one of which, perhaps the most important perk, is that other top SVN agents want to co-list and market properties with him. For instance, a Chicago broker recently asked Colvin to join him in the effort to sell a retail mall in southwestern Michigan that is going for $12 million. He needed someone in the state to co-list it and called Colvin because he is the firm’s top guy in Michigan.

“Your business just grows, and grows quickly,” he said.

Colvin, who admitted to being competitive and disciplined, said he puts his business plan together at the beginning of each year and then follows “it to the T.” That plan includes property listings at every price point so clients who sell a small building through him also buy a bigger one with him, if they wish.

“It’s like a big food chain,” he said of his plan. “When I sell one, I have to go replace it. I try to keep $25 million worth of product listed at all times, and I turn it over four times a year.”

But Colvin, who said the culture at SVN matches his personal philosophy, doesn’t put that plan together by himself. His 23-year-old son, Chris, does the much of the digging as his personal marketing assistant.

“He helps me find the investments. I’m grooming him so he can take over for me.”

Being rated at No. 7 this spring wasn’t the first SVN honor that Colvin received. Last year he was listed in the company’s Partner’s Circle, an elite group that is open only to the firm’s top two percent of sales advisors.

“That’s where I was featured in the Wall Street Journal as one of the best real estate advisors in America. This year I’ve gone up and now I’m in the Top Ten,” he said.

In his usual down-to-earth attitude, Colvin took satisfaction in his recent ranking, but still managed to downplay his accomplishment. Rather than basking in a floodlight of glory, he turned his attention toward figuring out how he can remain on that lofty perch.

“It’s great,” he said of the ranking. “My goal was to make the Top 10 this year and there is some stiff competition because there are some huge markets that some of those people work in; New York and Southern California and places like that. Now that I have made it, I have to stay there.” CQX

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