Dominant Queens Broker Stephen R. Preuss Sr. Brings Success to Surrounding Markets for RIPCO

RIPCO’s Stephen Preuss has claimed around 30 to 40 percent of all commercial real estate sales in the Queens market for the better part of the past decade. As vice chairman leading the NYC and Metro New York Investment Sales platform at RIPCO Real Estate, he’s now working on expanding his territory, growing his team, and making those numbers even bigger. Partner Insights spoke to Preuss about his incredible success, and how he plans to keep that going and growing.  

Commercial Observer: Why did you decide to join RIPCO?

Stephen R. Preuss Sr: I was in one seat for the first 17 years of my commercial real estate career, between Massey Knakal and Cushman & Wakefield (which purchased Massey Knakal). A few years ago, I looked at my next steps and wanted more of an open runway without territory restrictions, a more entrepreneurial vision without institutional bureaucracies. It wholeheartedly felt like the right time to join a company that allowed me to expand my business in different markets, and grow my team as large as it needed to be. As someone who traditionally worked the middle markets, RIPCO was a natural fit, focusing as they do on retail leasing in my then current neighborhoods and in the areas I wanted to drive into. I am spearheading their investment sales division, which they really never had before but was an obvious progression for them.

You built your reputation in Queens, where you were the top investment sales broker in the borough. Is Queens still your primary focus at RIPCO?

Yes and no. We have tremendous market share there that we’ve built up over two decades. But we also knew that we could take what we’ve done so successfully in Queens and expand it to Brooklyn, Manhattan, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. The submarkets aren’t as nearly as segmented as they used to be, there are blurred lines in these neighborhoods now as buyers go where opportunities and yields are and don’t stop at county borders to chase them. There isn’t a day that goes by that we’re not executing in Queens, but we are also really focused on expanding our business into other markets at the same high level of execution.

Caption 89 01 165th Street Flushing Photo Cred Vertical Media Dominant Queens Broker Stephen R. Preuss Sr. Brings Success to Surrounding Markets for RIPCO
89-01 165th Street, Flushing Vertical Media

Which sectors are you most focused on?

A good quality about myself and my team is that we’re asset agnostic. At any given time, we’ll have a proper asset allocation across many of the relevant asset classes in our markets consisting of industrial, development, mixed-use, retail, even office and hotel, among others. This is also dependent on market conditions, for example our office exposure is notably down right now and our industrial inventory spiked during the last cycle. Development-driven properties has always been my largest bucket of activity and continue to be despite many headwinds for that sector in NYC. I have been a big part of pushing development momentum in several outer-boroughs neighborhoods, including setting new pricing thresholds along the way.

How many deals do you work on at any one time?

Typically between 60 to 100 exclusive assignments at any one time. We’re one of the busiest capital markets teams and probably the most active middle markets investment sales teams out there. And beyond that, we’re doing about 500 to 600 broker opinion of values annually. This has been a pace we have kept up for nearly the past 10 years or so, we have a fine-tuned machine which allows us to properly handle and execute this elevated level of business.

Let’s talk about your team. What sort of expertise do your clients have access to in addition to yourself?

I’ve built my team from the ground up. I have four junior partners who have been by my side for nearly 10 years, who started out as interns and associates and analysts and have now grown into industry staples. Their specialization & focus areas collectively covers the entire commercial real estate gamut in our targeted markets. Then beyond the partners, we’ve greatly expanded our transactional and support team at RIPCO. While I lead one large silo, each of my partners have their own individual silos and sub-teams. We’ve actually doubled our team so far in our first year and a half here at RIPCO, and we plan to double it again over the next one or two years.

Last year was your first full year at RIPCO, and it was a tough economic year in general, especially the second half. How was the year for you in investment sales overall?

One of our best years to date. We executed well over 60 deals for over $600 million in executed transactions, and laid the groundwork for an even larger year this year. Our uniformed focus, our ability to navigate highly structured & complex transactions, our experience in turbulent times, and finally the easy transition and favorable synergies with RIPCO, in my opinion all contributed to such a breakout year in our first here.

You’ve been the No. 1 broker in Queens for many years. Where did you rank in 2022, both in Queens and elsewhere?

I’ve held the “Most Active Broker in Queens” title for some time —  approximately a decade, maybe a little more, and I don’t plan on relinquishing that position anytime soon. So once again, we led the way in Queens in 2022. Our market share there has escalated well into the 30 percent or more range the last several years, which means we sell or touch about a third of all transactions in Queens, and now with our current business plan we’ve been able to greatly expand into different markets. I am happy to say we currently have over a $100 million, or nine figures worth of inventory in several markets outside of Queens including Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Jersey. We’re very excited about this milestone and that we have been able to hit these goals so quickly.

Caption 138 28 Northern Boulevard Flushing Photo Cred Vertical Media Dominant Queens Broker Stephen R. Preuss Sr. Brings Success to Surrounding Markets for RIPCO
138-28 Northern Boulevard Vertical Media

Talk about some of the top transactions you’ve done since landing at RIPCO.

Over the last several months, we’ve led some of the most notable and complex transactions in the marketplace. We sold a Northern Queens industrial portfolio for $51 million, and were able to staple on the financing with RIPCO’s debt advisory team for another $31 million for an aggregate $82 million transaction. Another major development site we sold was the bus terminal in Jamaica that we executed at approximately $50 million. That took years to put together, as it had many moving parts — it was one of the largest transit-orientated development sites in the outer boroughs for the past few real estate cycles. We also sold a pair of former hotels sites at LaGuardia Airport including the former Courtyard Marriott and former Holiday Inn for a total value of $103,000,000, both of these properties will be redeveloped into much-needed residential housing. We also sold a $50 million development site in Flushing, on Northern Boulevard, which set a development cycle record as it was the first site sold for over $300 per buildable square foot since before COVID.

What does RIPCO offer clients that puts you above your competitors?

Our collaboration offers tangible and a synergistic suite of services. A lot of companies boast that they have different service lines, but they may be in different states, or levels, and end up being disconnected or not truly in tune with each other. At RIPCO, everybody in these offices is working on similar types of products or transaction characteristics with the same landlords and owners which together advocates for relevant interaction and value-add for our clients. Also, RIPCO is the only commercial brokerage of scale that has offices in all the local trade markets: Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut, all filled with seasoned and intelligent leasing and investment sales specialists.

What are your goals for your team for 2023?

To effectively navigate a challenging market and look for the opportunities within that unsettled atmoshphere. We’re a hardworking and dynamic team that’s in the office five-plus days a week advising our existing and future clientele while meeting and exceeding their goals. We want to continue to elevate our opportunities for our clients, continue to mesh within the RIPCO system, and scale. Our goal is to get to over 30 team members by the end of this year, and we’re well on our way. Ultimately, to achieve the market share we had in one borough for so many years and apply that similar dominance and expertise through all the trade areas throughout the tri-state.

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