Jun 13, 2017
Interview with Daniel Gershburg
Hosted by Nate Pfaff
Daniel Gershburg started his own law firm right out of New York Law. After growing up in south Brooklyn, Daniel started his company in Sheepshead Bay and later moved his office to Downtown Manhattan. He’s covered every angle of real estate transactions, which account for 95% of his business. He came to focus primarily on real estate because he saw an opportunity to represent people that are really excited to buy or sell their home and build strong relationships with clients.
He observed an opening in the real estate attorney field because he saw most attorneys looking for volume and speed as opposed to fully committing to their clients and taking them through each step of the buying or selling process. He says that many clients don’t look past the price, but there are major differences between different attorneys and it’s important for a client to inquire about availability and be clear about whether or not the attorney will be fully accessible.
In terms of investing in New York real estate, he sees anywhere in Brooklyn as a smart location to park your money. He knows developers who are pushing into south Brooklyn and he still sees the established areas like Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg as good options. He thinks the best investment is one where you buy and intend on living there for a long time. He doesn’t see buying on an interest-only mortgage as a wise option.
If he could go back to the beginning of his career, he would love to be a real estate broker because he sees the entrepreneurial, service industry as doing really well over the coming decades. He’s noticed that successful agents have no ego and are quite humble. The really good agents are completely honest with their clients and tell them why a deal may or may not be good for them.
Regardless of what field you get into, Daniel sees hustling as essential for success. He also sees real-world reviews as much more valuable than online reviews. Building honest, meaningful relationships are at the heart of his business model.
Some of his favorite restaurants in Brooklyn are Randazzo's for seafood, Roll-n-Roasters for sandwiches, and L & B Spumoni Gardens pizza, which he says is “the best pizza in the world”. He highly recommends the books of Nassim Taleb, as well as Letters From a Merchant To His Son, published originally in 1901. He also recommends reading the annual letters of Warren Buffett.
[1:32-1:53] Intro: Local expert, Daniel Gershburg, is the owner and president of Gershburg Law. He was born and raised in New York and started his law firm right off New York law. He has covered every angle of a real estate deal from the 100s of transactions he’s done.
[1:54-2:52] Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you specialize in? I'm a native New Yorker. Went to New Jersey for college and returned back home after that. I went to law school in New York Law and right after, opened a practice in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. 5 years ago, I moved my practice to Manhattan. 95% of what we do are real estate transactions.
[2:52-3:54] Any favorite restaurants or night spots in South Brooklyn? Randazzo’s is an awesome seafood restaurant that’s been around forever. Roll N Roaster on Emmons is great for roast beef sandwiches, and L & B Spumoni Gardens restaurant serves the best pizza. I got to these places all the time.
[3:54-4:48] How did you get into law? In college, I had to choose between working at Blinds To Go and going to law school. I chose law school. I enjoyed law school and had an entrepreneurial spirit and right after law school I combined those two. I started the law firm because I wanted to work for myself.
[4:48-5:56] How did you come to focus primarily on real estate? I always had a desire to get into real estate. When you were a one-man show, at the time, real estate had very little red. You were able to take care of clients and do closings. I started off with nothing but will and no money. In law, a lot of it is contentious unlike real estate where you're representing sellers and buyers who are always excited to make the deal. This is the reason I got excited to try it out.
[5:56-7:39] How have you done things differently from the rest of the field? I never wanted to do volume. I saw that clients, when buying, really needed a trusted resource to give them honest details on a practical level. For us, we handle the experience. Everything from making sure the building is okay to when they should apply for a loan, to whether the mortgage commitment is okay, what fees they're going to pay, or what they should look for in a walk through. All these weren’t being addressed when I began. I wanted clients to find value in what I did.
[7:39-9:34] Where are the hottest places right now in terms of overall activity and growth for real estate? Anything Brooklyn and Bronx is realistically a great area. There might be some sort of a slow down with the high number of units in the market, but there are a lot of people coming to Brooklyn and loving it. Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg and Greenpoint are great options but you have to be going South Brooklyn.
[9:35-12:09] What have you learned about cycles in real estate business? I've practiced consumer bankruptcy so I've seen things from both sides. I have no idea when the next burst or boom will be. I've learned that the people that have done the best are the ones that buy a place and buy to live there for a long time. Chances that you're going to do just fine despite the cycle are quite high.
[12:09-13:01] What would you do differently if you went back to the beginning of your career? I’d become a real estate broker. I love the idea of finding and servicing people’s needs. In future, the economy will be sales and value-driven versus the industrial jobs. I’d either work in technology or in a sales area.
[13:01-14:33] What should someone look for in a real estate agent? The real estate agents I work with are really humble and lack ego. They know an area really well and you can tell that. Really good agents are ones who will tell you if a property is not right for you. They should give you candid opinion as to whether or why a particular place works for you. Interview various brokers based on referrals, reviews, or online search and have a face to face meeting with focus unto why you think you’ll be right for each other.
[14:33-16:24] What advice would you give someone looking for an attorney to represent them in a real estate transaction? I would have a conversation about availability and who will be handling the file. Clients don’t work past the price sometimes and they anchor their decisions based on how much they pay.
I would talk to the real estate attorney not just about how many files they’ve done but who’s going to handle the entire transaction from beginning to end and make sure I'm comfortable with that. Also, I think personal references should come way before online reviews while looking for an attorney.
[16:24-17:17] Stay in touch with the podcast by subscribing to the mailing list. Text Brooklyn to 66866.
[17:17-19:48] What advice would you give to somebody starting out as a real estate attorney? I would say if you're at your desk most of the day when you're just starting out, you're doing something wrong. If you're coming home before 5 PM, you're doing something wrong. I would go out to meet brokers and introduce myself pointing out what I can bring to the table. I would try and understand a particular neighborhood and what their needs are. Basically, try and educate yourself in the best way that you possibly can to know your product, client, and service.
[19:48-21:27] What is the biggest difference between doing a condo and a co-op deal? You're doing due diligence on both of them but you're dealing with a board when dealing with a co-op. The biggest difference is timing but attorneys in both really look and do due diligence with you on what’s going on with that building. Recently, some condos have become significantly strict in terms of who they allow in while co-ops are being less restrictive because they're being replaced by condos. However, on the purchase side, there's a lot of differences.
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