As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Noah Birk, senior director at Kiser Group. Birk focuses on the disposition of apartment buildings on the south side of Chicago and since 2014, he has sold more apartment buildings than any other broker in Chicago.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I come from a big family. I have two brothers, two sisters, four step-siblings and too many cousins to count—not a lot of personal space as a kid. I grew up in Lemont, Ilinois, and I went to Carthage College where I majored in business and played on the football team.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
Much like my childhood hero, Mr. Jordan, I was going to be the starting shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. When my height didn’t line up with my dreams, I settled on the point guard spot with the Bulls. When I finally came to terms with my lack of basketball ability, I decided I’d just sell apartment buildings. That being said, I am a free agent if any NBA scouts are reading this.
How did you get your start in the industry?
My cousins and I played a lot of Monopoly when we were growing up. I may have taken it a little more seriously than them. When those amateurs were busy just trying to “pass go,” I had Boardwalk cross-collateralized with Marvin Gardens and a couple of hotel developments in the works that would make your head spin.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
When I started in real estate, I was fresh out of college. I didn’t know which way was up when it came to apartment buildings. Lee Kiser really held my hand during the early years. They say “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but I’m sure Lee would beg to differ if he reflected back on my first few deals. I still bug Lee on a weekly basis for advice.
What does a day in the life of Noah Birk look like?
I start the day with a combination of emails, phone calls and wrestling matches with my 1-year-old son (I’m undefeated so far). After the wrestling, every day varies greatly. I am constantly monitoring the status of deals and touching base with clients. As my business has grown, there have been a lot of logistical challenges that have come with the growth, so I do spend a lot of time touching base with my team and making sure everyone is on track throughout the day.
What do you like most about your job?
If you don’t have a competitive nature you’re going to struggle in commercial real estate brokerage. I love meeting building owners. I love hearing stories about their business. I love checking out new buildings, but mostly I just love the challenge of selling a building. You have to be passionate about what you do. If you’re not, you’re going to be passed up by somebody who is.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
At some point in the future, I’d like to focus more on building my personal portfolio of apartment buildings.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
Currently, I spend the vast majority of my time outside of the office with my wife trying to keep our heads above water as we navigate the newer world of parenthood. I also try to pick up some weights or get a run in every day. I do a lot of cooking, and I love getting out to try new restaurants.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
Generally, I don’t like to venture north of Bronzeville, but I was in Maui a couple weeks ago. The weather was slightly better than what the south side of Chicago has to offer in the winter and the food was awesome.
My wife was born in Colombia, I’ve never been down there so I would love to check that out.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I’d love to hear more about Pat O’Brien and his rapidly growing business at Moher Properties.