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Swig’s Strategies for Staying Competitive in a Challenging Market

Many people in the real estate industry predict tough times ahead. How does Kent Swig, president of Swig Equities, navigate such a climate? He discussed his top strategies during a recent fireside chat with Thomas Conoscenti, vice president at Empire State Development, New York State’s economic development agency.

The event took place during the October Global Leaders in Real Estate Summit, which was co-hosted by iGlobal Forum in partnership with EisnerAmper and held at the Sofitel New York. Here are the highlights of that conversation:

Swig attributes much of his success to being a bit of a nerd. He likes to study numbers and really understand the demographics of what’s going on. These variables include population statistics, number of units available, number of units total, square footage within a market and others. “These are critically important to know,” said Swig.   

Swig added that people starting out in real estate also have to learn the different components of the business. Commercial brokers, for example, should understand how buildings, elevators, electricity, and HVAC operate as well as what engineers do. Understanding these component parts provides a fuller, broader exposure to what real estate is all about. 

Swig also emphasized the human element. One of his proudest accomplishments is the high retention rate of principals from companies Swig Equities acquired. Of the 200 or so companies the firm has acquired since 1995, all but two principals have stayed. “Buildings come and go. Things come and go. It’s the human element that motivates me, whether they’re tenants or coworkers,” he stated. 

Real estate executives should pay close attention to non-human elements of the business, too. Adoption of technology, Swig stressed, can confer competitive advantage—if you embrace it and stay ahead of the curve. Swig’s companies have done exactly that, being among the first to use apps that download information to a mobile phone and drones that take pictures of housing.   

He cautioned against overlooking the next step after adopting technology—publicizing the adoption.  “If you don’t tell people what you’re doing on the technology front, then you’re not going out and leading very strongly,” Swig said.

As for the market in general, Swig is sanguine despite the opinion held by many that difficulties are ahead. “We have now the greatest potential economy in U.S. history. We have the lowest unemployment rate since 1963. We have the highest number of jobs in New York City in our history.  We have a growing population.” 

He does concede, however, that prices appear to be too high for super-luxury condos in New York City, a situation that has contributed to the perception of the city’s residential sales market overall as being weak. And although he understands that it’s tough psychologically to enter the market when things seem to be going downhill, he still sees opportunity.  Swig’s overarching prediction: “I would say 2019 is a good time to be buying.”   

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