I recognized him instantly from his Facebook photo when we met early one morning at Bread Co. He sipped his coffee and I prepared my black tea english style, as he explained why he thinks real estate is “pretty cool”. Back in his early 20’s, Nick’s friends were paying $600 in rent, while he was paying $600 total for his house and bills. “I was living the high life, you know, because super cheap bills, I had a house you know? And all that kind of stuff.”
He got his license that year and decided to help other people buy and sell real estate. It was fun. He was good at it. It gave him freedom. He quickly progressed from managing a real estate office, to working at Remax, to becoming the designated broker for Equity Missouri. Now he manages 50 or 60 agents for the company.
You’ve heard of Paul McKee, right? He is a controversial figure in St. Louis, even among those who are unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of real estate. In October of last year $390 million in tax increment financing was approved for his redevelopment project on the north side of the city. McKee has spoken at events hosted by Nick’s SouthSide Investment Club, a group Nick began in 2007 to share information, referrals, and advice (the group now boasts over 2,000 members). Speaking passionately, Nick defended McKee’s work. “We’re a free country, man! You can buy property! Seriously! And if you choose to turn it into The Arch, or turn it into McDonald’s, or turn it into nothing, it’s your call! It’s a free country, you know! If you’re that worried about it, buy from him. Fix it up. You put the $100,000 into that building!”
If you want real estate numbers, Nick is your guy. In quick succession he rattled off incredible detail about the state of the local housing market. Here’s what he shared:
- Interest rates are low
- Supply of homes is dwindling
- Foreclosures are down 40%
- Short sales down to 4%, compared to 9% elsewhere
- Supply of homes for sale is down 40% over the past 3 years
- The number of units sold has increased by 30%
Alright, so what are the economic indicators to look for before you purchase real estate? “We’ve stabilized and recovered without the return of jobs. If those jobs come back, we could have another bubble. If you start seeing 300,000 jobs being added… go out and buy.”
I’m fascinated by people who can look at an industry and see where the holes are. After meeting too many people who had spent thousands on real estate classes but were floundering or even failing, Nick saw the potential for a new type of program/mentorship. He calls it Coaching Circle and the initial class, which included newbies, senior sellers, and people who had already paid thousands for a different course, was very successful.
It’s not all real estate for Nick. There’s also the Oompapa band he’s played trumpet in since he was 15. They play German festivals quite a bit. But don’t get too excited, there are no lederhosen involved, just red vests. I told him I couldn’t write about it. The lack of German attire killed it for me.
When I asked if real estate was something most people get into after college or instead of college, Nick wasn’t sure. “I chose to go the route of being in a rock and roll band and I toured the country for 3 or 4 years. That’s kind of where I got my education.” It’s apparently an excellent education. “Valuable life lessons and economics on how to live on 20 dollars a day, living in your parents basement.”
Valuable lessons perhaps, but be careful because it’s dangerous. “We also almost died between LA and San Francisco on the five.” While driving their van, with trailer in tow, they blew a tire in six lanes of intensely packed traffic. As if that weren’t bad enough, the driver accidentally hit the gas. When they finally stopped, the band smelled smoke, jumped out of the van, and high-tailed it to the curb, managing not to get hit by 60 mph traffic. Although everyone ended up safe, what they didn’t remember at first was the blind drummer who was fumbling across the highway. Nick ran back and helped him to safety.
Clearing his throat, he contemplated his favorite thing about St. Louis. “There’s a lot of things. I like the people, I like the food, um… I like um… I like the familiarity. You know, I don’t really know what my favorite thing is. But I don’t think I could live anywhere else.”
Sign-up for a coffee and I will buy you a chocolate chip cookie. For a limited time. I won’t say how limited.