This fall the National Association of REALTORS® hosted its inaugural C5 Summit in New York City, bringing together experts on topics ranging from post-pandemic office demand to new sustainability mandates. We followed up with three REALTORS® who attended the summit to learn about their business and their conference takeaways.
T. Dallas Smith is president and CEO of T. Dallas Smith & Co., the largest African American-owned commercial real estate firm in the U.S. focused on exclusive tenant and buyer representation. Based in Atlanta, the company has affiliate offices in Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Short Hills, N.J. Smith is slated to be president of the Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS® in 2023. At C5 Summit, he was on stage for sessions on brokerage success and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
It has been a great year for us. A lot of our clients, because of the nature of their business, have done extremely well during the pandemic—FedEx, AT&T, Microsoft, Airbnb. However, I want to acknowledge that the past two years have been extremely tough for many, many people. In his book The Power of Broke (2016), Daymond John said some of his most brilliant ideas came from the fact that he didn’t have any money when he co-founded FUBU. He had to think outside the box. That was me in 2007. When the recession hit, I was broke. I knew that to succeed, I needed to enlarge my tent. The way I’ve done that is to get licensed in other states. I started in the southeast and grew from there. We’d do a transaction in, say, Tennessee, and the client would come back and say, “Dallas, I’ve got an issue in Albuquerque. Can you help me with that?” And the answer is always yes. Today, we are licensed in 16 states with partnerships across the country.
In 2020, members of my team—Dexter Warrior, Corey Ferguson, Leonte Benton, and Cedric Matheny, and I were blessed to represent Microsoft on a large lease transaction. I recall being at an Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS® meeting in 2019. We were wrapping up the meeting, and I mentioned to John Heagy of Hines, who was board president, that we had a client looking for space. We thought Microsoft would need about 250,000 square feet, and I asked John if he had any inventory coming on the market. He mentioned two spec office buildings, Atlantic Yards, that were being developed by Hines and Invesco Real Estate. Long story short, Microsoft took both buildings — 523,511 square feet.
That shows the value of being engaged in the REALTOR® organization. It’s an interesting dynamic; you’re working with competitors for the betterment of the industry — but you’re also gaining exposure for yourself. That’s also my big takeaway from C5 Summit. When you put yourself out there, you expose yourself to what’s happening in other markets, and you expose others to your company. That’s so critical. My goal, at this stage in my career, is to bring more people who look like me into commercial real estate. I want to be able to say that I helped diversify this industry that I love and that has been good to me for 40 years.
Janet Rodriguez Judd, CIPS, CRS, a broker-salesperson with RE/MAX Results, in St. Louis, has been in the real estate business for 36 years. She was 2021 president of Missouri REALTORS®. She’s a RE/MAX Lifetime Achievement Award winner and part of the RE/MAX Hall of Fame. In 2022, Judd will chair NAR’s REALTOR® Safety Advisory Committee.
I work primarily in residential real estate but do some investment work for clients who want to generate income investing in single-family homes. I’m located in West County, a suburb about 25 miles from the center of St. Louis. This year, the market has been really different. I’ve got clients located across St. Louis, and I’m getting more people moving back to St. Louis from other areas of the state. They want to be closer to their family or work from home remotely. Lack of inventory makes it a challenge.
I stay current on commercial real estate in my market through a network of professional contacts I’ve made over the years. Residential and commercial real estate are intertwined, but you have to make the connections. If we’re selling houses in record numbers, those homeowners need new refrigerators, lawnmowers, carpets, drapes, and so on. Those businesses are leasing or buying space from our commercial colleagues. So, it’s kind of like a team sport.
As Missouri REALTORS® president, I traveled across the state talking to legislators about issues important to our commercial and residential members. (As a former police officer, I also make it a point to talk to our members about safety.) At our state association conference, I had the opportunity to interview the governor of Missouri, Michael L. Parson. I didn’t want him to stand behind a podium and give a political speech, so he graciously agreed to an Oprah-style interview. We talked about how he started his first gas station, worked as a sheriff, and ended up in the cattle business. He was scheduled to talk for 20 minutes but stayed for an hour. He later invited me to go on a trade mission trip to Israel and Greece. We’ll be talking to investors, government officials, and business executives about buying real estate and starting companies in Missouri. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the state.
One of the most interesting takeaways from this year’s C5 Summit was the opening speaker, Greg Lindsay, who discussed “15-minute cities”—the idea of people having everything they need within 15 minutes. If you didn’t attend C5 this year, plan on it for next year (Aug. 15–17, 2022). You'll hear from smart, articulate speakers, and I truly believe it will become a vital meeting for our industry.
Kitty Wallace, ABR, RSPS, is managing broker with RE/MAX Integrity in Cle Elum, Wash. She served as president of the Washington REALTORS® in 2020. She’s vice chair of the National Association of REALTORS® Broker Engagement Committee and chaired the REALTORS® Political Action Committee Major Investor Council in 2019.
I sell a mix of residential and commercial properties and vacant land in a rural market east of Seattle. This has been the best year of my career. Employers’ response to COVID-19 has meant that many people can work from anywhere, which means more people are discovering Cle Elum. My sleepy town of 2,000 was named in the top 25 vacation home markets by NAR.
With increased demand for residential comes the need for more commercial and retail options. Our biggest challenge this year is that we lack the commercial and industrial zoning to meet the demand. We are actively working with our local, county, and state governments to get rezones and zoning variants. We need to help our elected officials nationwide understand the needs and lobby for rezoning to meet the commercial needs post-COVID.
I’ve served on the leadership team of Washington REALTORS® the past five years. We’ve had an ongoing goal to bring more value to our commercial members and one way we’ve done that is through participation in the international real estate conference, MIPIM, in Cannes, France. MIPIM’s cancellation in 2020 due to COVID-19 made us look for other ways to bring value. It made sense to participate in NAR’s C5 Summit. For me, the greatest takeaway from C5 was the networking. We loved collaborating and sharing ideas with other states.
You never know where your next sale will come from. While at C5, I connected with speakers who talked about how to leverage social media. After I thanked Kristin Rebeck [vice president of advisory services for Edge Commercial Real Estate, based in the Washington, D.C., area] for sharing great content, she messaged me. When she saw I was from Cle Elum, she told me her brother had just moved there and would be looking for a home. Later, I wrote a social post about C5 Summit, and the CEO of our Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce reached out to learn more. They’ll want to participate in our efforts in 2022.
When you’re going to conferences, either as an exhibitor or as an attendee, be prepared to make the most of your time. As the COVID-19 delta variant raged, we were concerned about how C5 would turn out, but we decided to bring our “A game.” Washington REALTORS® collaborated with the Seattle-area Commercial Brokers Association, the Washington State Commercial Association of REALTORS®, and Greater Seattle Partners on the creation of a website and a project book featuring properties, notable sales comparables, and economic and market overviews throughout the state. Understanding that nobody would want to pack this large data bible, we made the book digital, which allowed us to share a business card with the QR code. We’ve laid the foundation to continue our participation in C5 Summit as it grows in size and influence.