My First Job

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2004

Richard Zipes, co-developer of the new luxury high-rise condominium, The Metropolitan Sarasota Bay, is founding chairman and CEO of the New York-based Omni Development Company, Inc. Together with Tarragon Realty Investors, Inc., he recently developed the $200-million, 42-story Las Olas River House in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

When I was 18 years old and just out of high school, my dad, who was in the real estate business, didn't give me my first job. Instead he made me work for somebody else, which was probably a good thing. I got a summer job working for Nehring Brothers, a property management company located in Washington Heights, a pretty tough area back then. I shared a desk and collected rents door-to-door and answered tenant complaints. I also chased contractors like electricians, plumbers and painters.

In those days, a lot of the buildings were five- and six-story walk-ups. When I was collecting rent, I learned very quickly to go up one building, then go over the rooftop to the next building and work my way down.

After I graduated from college, I started doing the exact same thing for my dad. He was my mentor. He didn't leave me money, but he left me with something far more valuable: an education, and a "nose" to know when something's right. Most of the 20-odd properties we managed were in Manhattan, Westchester and the Bronx. We also bought and sold a lot of real estate, one or two buildings a week. When I started, I was strictly on the management side, then went into buying and selling, which was much more enjoyable.

My dad and I had a tremendous relationship, and the banks held us in great esteem because we ran good buildings and upgraded them. Managing buildings, I learned how to handle myself. Some of the tenants' issues were legitimate and some of them weren't. I had to learn the difference.

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