CRE Future Leaders: Rick Ofman, Kiser Group
As an advisor with Kiser Group, Rick Ofman specializes in the sale of multifamily investment properties on Chicago’s North Side. Since joining the firm, he has brokered over $90 million in multifamily real estate sales.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and went to school at the University of Illinois.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
Like every young boy growing up in Chicago in the 90s, I wanted to be a professional basketball player and don a Chicago Bulls uniform. It didn’t take too long to realize that I lacked the height and the athletic ability to play high school basketball, let alone make it to the NBA. Truth be told I never aspired to work in any one profession. I wanted to be everything. By the end of high school I had decided to be a psychologist. In college I worked in a neuropsychology lab where I injected rats with cocaine and studied how it affected their learning and memory function. That was enough psychology for me, and I decided to follow my passion for working with kids and became a teacher.
How did you get your start in the industry?
After several years of teaching U.S. history, my principal needed me to switch to teaching 8th grade math. I ended up throwing out the textbook half way through the year and designed my own curriculum centered around using math in the real world. At the end of the real estate unit, my students told me that I needed to go into real estate since I seemed to enjoy it so much…the seed was planted, and I decided to make a rather significant career change.
Originally, I wanted to be an asset manager of sorts, but with no real estate education or experience I struggled to find a job. With essentially no barrier to entry, brokerage seemed like the right place for me. I spoke with brokers around the city who specialized in different sectors, and ultimately decided to go into multifamily.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I’ve been fortunate in that my life has been filled with mentors who have helped me get on my feet. My wife, Jenny, tops that list. We have been together since we were high school seniors, and she has been encouraging and supporting me ever since. I tested her when I left teaching and a steady paycheck to become a broker that would likely have no income for a year. Her enthusiasm and support far exceeded anything I could have hoped for.
Outside of family, friends and colleagues at Kiser Group, I’ve found mentors in a place I didn’t expect: clients. Every day, I speak with landlords and developers who have a hell of a lot more experience in real estate than I do, and like any good broker I soak up as much of their collective knowledge as I can. It amazes me how willing people are to take time from their day to help me improve my brokerage and expand my business. I choose to believe it is pure altruism and has nothing to do with the fact that they want me to call them first with the next great deal I find.
What does a day in the life of Rick Ofman look like?
It is both a blessing and a curse that no two days are alike for any broker; however, my day has even less structure thanks to the pandemic and the recent arrival of my second child, Evan. As any parent can tell you, the majority of the day is spent just keeping the little people alive. I spend the first hour or two of my day with my two-year-old daughter Charley. While some may consider preparing a toddler for daycare to be a chore, I find it to be the most enjoyable part of my day.
Once the kids are safely on their way, I begin the workday, focusing on deals that are in escrow. Each morning I check to see where each deal stands and which client, lender or attorney I need to contact that day. My goal each day is to spend business hours interacting with clients, either on the phone or in person. This means I save emails, underwriting, marketing preparation, cataloguing, etc. for later in the evening after we put the kids to bed.
What do you like most about your job?
I like so many aspects about brokerage: from touring and valuing properties to negotiating contracts for my clients. It’s all exciting. Above all else, though, I love the relationships that I form with people. I spend the majority of each day either on the phone or at buildings speaking with landlords. While real estate is always an important part of the conversation, it’s often only a small part of it. Two examples: I recently cold-called a landlord in Rogers Park who I had been trying to reach for months. Before I could steer the conversation in any direction, he wanted to know about my last name and where I’m from. Forty-five minutes later, after learning about each other’s family immigration stories and discussing cultural phenomena in the U.S., we briefly discussed the multifamily sales market in Rogers Park and where we each believed the market was trending.
The second example of the personal connections that I value so much comes with a sale analysis I did for a 90-year-old client in Edgewater. She was curious to know the value of her building even though she had no plans to sell as she lived in it. Before touring the property, she insisted I come into her unit for tea. Upon entering, I immediately noticed some black and white portrait of what turned out to be her father in his Nazi uniform. As a young Jewish man whose grandparents were survivors, you can imagine how I felt. Picking up on my shock and confusion, she explained the history of her family and her experiences as a child during WWII. We ended up spending nearly two hours together that day, and we speak regularly to this day. I’ve even been able to help her lease up a couple vacant units. These personal connections with people from all walks of life are more meaningful to me than anything else in the business.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I haven’t dipped my toes in ownership or management of multifamily yet as I have been laser focused on brokerage thus far. I would like to get more involved in the communities I work in. I’m a member in a few neighborhood builders groups, but haven’t taken on any leadership roles yet. I would like to work on finding ways to give back to the residents of Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park, too. While the builders groups work with the city already, I know that I could play a role in ramping up the charitable efforts of these groups. I would love to find ways to help students in the neighborhood schools learn more about the various careers in real estate and get some real-world experience.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
My days of coaching golf and sailing on Lake Michigan as a charter boat captain are long gone. I spend my free time with my wife and kids. I’m the dad that will continue to show you pictures and videos of my kids until you tell me to stop. I recently moved to the suburbs and picked up the game of paddle tennis and am now obsessed. The season runs from October to March, so it is the perfect complement to golf. Another passion of mine is cooking. I love to experiment in the kitchen by creating recipes on the fly—which has had disastrous results. During the pandemic alone, I think I’ve created 20 truly inedible meals.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
Paris, France. I could spend the rest of my life sitting at a cafe there drinking wine and people watching. I would love to do a road trip across the country, hitting up national parks. I’ve always wanted to see Yellowstone National Park.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Alan Cosby with Westward 360.