The multifamily real estate industry can be a pretty hard nut to crack. Whether business is booming or bottoming out, it's always competitive and fast-paced. You have to pull your weight and then some to keep up, and you need a plan of action for your properties and developments.
These are things that John Hogan knows all too well. At 40 years old, he has worked on more than $660 million worth of development projects, including Novare Group's Metropolis and TWELVE Centennial Hill. Founder and president of Viscaya Development Group based in Atlanta, Hogan is also the founder of SBK Capital, a southeast private equity fund, and has worked for Ernst & Young and Novare Group. Not bad for a guy that once thought real estate was its own “animal” and impossible to get into.
“I didn't have any experience. It was really tough,” Hogan recalls. “Real estate is a very different industry. It's the type of industry where just a handful of guys can develop hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars [in properties], so everybody has to not only hold their own weight, but they have to be highly independent, too.” Luckily for Hogan, he's adept at both, something that his friends in real estate noticed while he was working as a consultant at Ernst & Young. It was through their mentoring and encouragement that Hogan decided to get into real estate.
Novare Group was his starting point. Hogan was drawn to the then-fledgling development firm because of its entrepreneurial focus and goal of developing 10 high-rises in three years. He joined the company at the ground floor as one of a half-dozen employees and worked on the firm's first major development. With his expertise in project management and capital fundraising, Hogan was a quick study and led by example as senior vice president.
“He played a real role in making people believe we could be a fantastic company,” says Chris Kritzman, senior vice president of marketing at Novare. Hired by Hogan as a marketing associate, Kritzman describes his former boss as incredibly patient and well respected and credits him with his transition into the company. “He had me sit in his office for the first three weeks,” says Kritzman, who admits the situation was awkward at first but taught him a great deal. During this pressure period for the company in terms of raising capital, Kritzman says Hogan could be in the middle of preliminary discussions with investors but would stop what he was doing to answer Kritzman's questions. “John wouldn't comment on my work unless I asked him,” Kritzman recalls. “So I would always solicit his input.”
It was during his time at Novare that Hogan learned the product management approach that has defined his real estate endeavors with Viscaya. Claiming to have found his own niche in the industry, Hogan says that real estate development is about understanding what people want. “I've created my product to where I think the market is and where it's going,” he says.
His product? Townhome infill developments in established communities that have all the features of half-million-dollar homes. Jacuzzi tubs, rooftop decks, and two-car garages are standard for every unit.
“I'm not the type of developer that goes out and finds a piece of land and calls an architect and says, ‘Draw me something pretty,'” says Hogan, who plays an integral role in every stage of development. A true entrepreneur at heart, he says that an enterprising attitude was instilled in him at a very young age when he bagged groceries in his dad's supermarket. “You do it because you love it and it's yours,” he says.
Hogan definitely loves what he does. “His drive and passion is contagious,” says Peter Schnieper, Viscaya's CFO. “When people are trying to tell you that's the way it is, or that's just how it's always been done, John just won't take no for an answer.”