Paul V. Profeta, publisher of Real Estate NJ
Our new Professional Spotlight section has reminded me just how much talent there is in New Jersey’s commercial real estate industry, from attorneys and brokers to engineers and architects.
But it has also revealed something that I find to be quite surprising: Aside from a handful of top players who dominate the business, there is a noticeable lack of commercial mortgage brokers and mortgage banking firms that are based here in the Garden State. How can that be, in a state that has billions of dollars in mortgages to originate and billions more to refinance?
It’s all the more stunning when you consider that some of the top brokerage houses in the world have little to no presence here when it comes their debt and equity teams. CBRE has a small team in Saddle Brook led by James Gunning, while firms like Newmark Knight Frank have no debt and equity team based here whatsoever.
That said, New Jersey is fortunate to have talent like Gretchen Wilcox and Jon Mikula. Wilcox is perhaps the leading mortgage banker in the state with a long list of longtime, loyal developer clients and an equally impressive list of lender contacts. Those contacts include dozens of life insurance firms and other capital sources that have trusted her with their business for years.
Not to mention that her firm, G.S. Wilcox & Co., was the first female-founded commercial real estate mortgage banking firm in the country when it was launched in 1994. That continues to be the case today, even 24 years later.
Mikula is one of the state’s leading and most well-respected mortgage brokers. He leads HFF’s New Jersey1 office alongside investment sale guru Jose Cruz. In other words, the firm is in the middle of the state’s most lucrative transactions, but also has a major hand in arranging the debt.
Our state is also home to firms like Commercial Mortgage Capital, Meridian Capital Group and Progress Capital Advisors. But it still seems to me that the market is underserved. Just consider the deal volume in New Jersey and the long list of institutions that are looking to put their capital to work in our market. Judging by our recent People on the Move section, full-service brokerage firms like NAI James E. Hanson and Avison Young also see that opportunity. Both have added to their capital markets teams in New Jersey with new hires over the past few months.
Will this type of hiring continue? I think it should. Will the big brokerage houses continue to try to service New Jersey from their Manhattan offices? I think that would be a mistake. There is far too much interest here in our home state, from the large funds that are racing to get a piece of the industrial market to investors who are looking to reposition vacant office buildings. I believe we still have room to run — and so do firms that play in the mortgage brokerage and mortgage banking space in New Jersey.
Paul V. Profeta