Interview: Steve Alter, CEO Real Capital Markets

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

This week’s CEO spotlight profiles Steve Alter, CEO and Co-Founder of Real Capital Markets (RCM1). Since 1999, RCM1 has been the recognized leader in providing online transaction management services to the institutional real estate community. With over 300,000 market participants utilizing the RCM1 Platform, they have become synonymous with successful online marketing and due diligence management. RCM1 is the clear market leader — handling over 25% of all institutional properties (assets with a value over $10 million) brought to market in the last year. Enough of the background, and on with the interview…

Mike MyattSteve, for readers not familiar with your personal background, would you please share a brief summary of your career history?   

Steve Alter: I graduated from SMU in Dallas in 1981 with a  BBA and a Certificate of Real Estate.  Upon graduation I became a licensed commercial real estate broker and then spent my next 19 years working in acquisitions (primarily multifamily properties) across the United States and for such well known firms as The Robert A. McNeil Corporation, The Related Companies, JMB Institutional Real Estate, Heitman Financial and Fairfield Residential.  All the years I spent traveling the country buying commercial properties actually served to reveal a myriad of market inefficiencies and flaws in the acquisitions process. This in turn caused me to believe there must be a more efficient way of handling complex commercial real estate transactions. All of that came together in my head with the emergence of the Internet, and Real Capital Markets was born. 

Mike Myatt: While Real Capital Markets has become somewhat of a household name in commercial real estate, the company is best known for its transaction marketing and management capabilities. Share with us some of the new products that you’ve recently rolled out, and how you envision them making a difference given today’s market climate:

Steve Alter: We have invested heavily in R&D and innovation over the last few years and have consistently rolled out new versions and releases of the RCM1 platform. In fact, in our latest release we expanded the RCM1 platform so that in addition to our virtual deal room and Listing Engine, we now offer a Leasing Engine, a note sales solution, and our perhaps our most exciting new tool is our “Hybrid Accelerated Auction Platform” with confidential online bidding. The bottom line is that we now offer the most comprehensive and robust set of secure, private label, online transaction management and marketing solutions available to the commercial real estate industry.  

Mike Myatt. How has the turmoil in the commercial real estate markets affected your business, and what are you doing to help you clients during these tough economic times?  

Steve Alter: It’s been the most difficult year since first founding the firm 10 years ago because of the massive slow down in the overall transactional volume for the commercial real estate industry as a whole. It’s estimated by Real Capital Analytics that deal volume for investment sales is down between 80% and 90% from the levels of just two years ago.  We feel very fortunate to have not only survived, but that we’ve also been able to adapt to the changing needs of our industry.  We understand that particularly during down markets, that increasing market visibility and shortening the transaction lifecycle is critical for our clients. This is why property owners, principals and developers of all kinds can use our new “Leasing Engine” to help drive tenant and capital demand to their commercial properties. Likewise, our platform accommodates the special asset groups and real estate investment bankers who can leverage RCM1’s secure virtual deal rooms for their ultra confidential note portfolio and distressed property sales, not to mention the use of our new online bidding system to provide them with an increased certainty of execution. 

Mike Myatt: How do you see the commercial real estate markets evolving in the future?   

Steve Alter: I believe we’re in the middle of a fundamental transition within the commercial real estate brokerage market. We’re seeing a major shift to where the more sophisticated real estate investment bankers and their investment sale broker counterparts who made up that top 10% of income earners will be the ones that are both surviving and prospering while the others will probably be going to work for the banks in their special assets group.  As far as the future goes, I’m still very concerned about our economy.   I have a strange feeling that we never did hit the bottom, but rather the banks are only as some of been saying:  “extending and pretending.”  This dam has got to break, and when it does, we are well positioned to provide our clients with an efficient way to mitigate risks,  implement accountability and transparency, and maximize the sales price of any property or note sale.  

Mike Myatt: As a CEO and entrepreneur, what do you see as the most valuable thing you can provide to your organization as a leader?   

Steve Alter: Passion and Vision. 

Mike Myatt: Do you have a mentor, and if so what impact did they have on your development as a leader?  

Steve Alter: I’ve been lucky to have a number of mentors in my life and those included a gentleman named Roy Mers who was in charge of the acquisitions department at The Robert A. McNeil Corporation, and then later a Jim Bachner who is still in charge of the multifamily acquisitions at Heitman.  They both gave me the opportunity to go out there to source, negotiate and to purchase properties where the average pricing was over $20 million. It was that experience that gave me the insights necessary to build out the RCM1 platform.

Mike Myatt: Up to this point, can you point to any single defining moment in your career? 

Steve Alter: While I cannot point to a single event, I can point to a combination of two events: 1.) Having the opportunity to work at JMB  and to be surrounded by such a smart and loving group of people, and; 2.) Creating Realcapitalmarkets.com and building it into a company that has attracted tier one talent. I’m very proud of our people as it is their commitment and ability that allowed us to be named to the INC. 500 list of the fastest growing privately held companies in America, and that have built a best in class platform that provided the online marketing for deals like The Sears Tower and John Hancock Building in Chicago among others. 

Mike Myatt: How do you gauge your success on a day-to-day basis? 

Steve Alter: Profitability. 

Mike Myatt: What is the toughest part of your day?  

Steve Alter: Maintaining my focus on being the RCM1 brand evangelist. I try to make sure that I’m always calling to try and educate real estate investment bankers, brokers and principals about how they could be leveraging the power of the Internet to enhance their businesses. 

Mike Myatt: If you could give any advice to our readers what would it be?  

Steve Alter: Always remember that your family is number one, and to thank God for what you have right now. 

Mike Myatt: What’s next for Real Capital Markets?   

Steve Alter: We’ve  provided the virtual deal room and confidential online marketing for portfolio transactions in Europe, Canada and Mexico.   Now it’s time to go global and include the Middle East,  the Far East and extend our international brand.

Conclusion
:
I have known Steve for several years, and over the years I have been a client of Steve’s and he has been a client of mine. Steve is a visionary leader who not only has  strong sense for how the commercial real estate industry operates, but he is someone who can be counted on to honor his word regardless of circumstances.

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