Up Close with Ryan West
Earlier this year, HFF senior managing director Ryan West predicted Houston would see a record volume of retail investment sales. His team is doing its part—they’re on pace to top 50 closings this year, a personal high-water mark for Ryan. His path to that success may not be quite what you’d predict.
Most people don’t know that Ryan studied architecture and designed houses in Dallas after graduating from Texas A&M. He tells us he got tired of sitting behind a computer on AutoCAD, so he started looking for a job that’d get him home to Houston and out talking to people regularly. He’d grown up with Jason Baker and his family (Jason’s like a big brother, Ryan says), and Jason and Kenneth Katz hired him at Wulfe & Co in 2000 to do retail project leasing. Jason’s dad Johnny gave Ryan his first assignment, leasing up 100k SF Mason Village. (A yoga studio was his first deal.) That property remains one of his favorite ever, especially because he came back and sold it for Johnny last year.
But the retail landlord rep market, which at first only had a handful of brokers competing for listings, became really crowded. (Plus, Ryan was getting a little bored with 1,500 SF nail salon deals.) Jason and Ken saw a new opportunity, though—there was really only one dedicated retail investment sales broker in Houston. Ryan turned to sales in 2006, closing 20 centers that first year. Here's Ryan with CBRE's Graham Horton, Morgan's Carter Bechtol (Ryan's brother-in-law), Amegy Bank's Jeremy Newsome and a non-industry friend headed to The Bugle Boy in La Grange to see Ray Wyley Hubbard.
Ryan’s been at HFF four years now, and his team is one of the top producers in Houston’s retail sales market. They've closed 28 deals year-to-date, 90% of them in Houston, and expect to top 50 by the end of the year. Some of their biggest deals in 2015 include Copperfield Village, Green Tree Shopping Center and Centennial Plaza in Austin, but one Ryan has been most excited about this year was the Jared and Container Store assignment he has on The Woodlands Mall Ring Road. Pictured here, he thinks it'll close this year. He says the deal wouldn't have come to market if Edens hadn't bought AmREIT, and certainly not in its obviously underutilized state. Ryan says the rents are "grossly below market," and the real estate itself is pretty amazing.
Architecture is still Ryan’s passion. He remodeled his house, serving as both architect and GC, and says if he got fired today, he’d go build houses. They’d look more like something you'd find in Baton Rouge—he says Houston homes aren't well thought out because builders don't understand the importance of details, scale or hiring a good architect to get it right (it drives him crazy that even the most reputable Houston builders dedicate half of the front facade to garage doors). That passion for detail and aesthetics plays out in his offering memorandums, to the frustration of his team. He says he wants them to be accurate but says investors are busy sifting through multiple deals, so he only has a few seconds to get their attention. That means images tend to do more than long write-ups. (Alright, he admits, he might get a little obsessive about them.)
Ryan says he’s pretty adventurous. He enjoys bow hunting, and once killed a black bear standing on the same log as him. Here he’s elk hunting in Idaho this August with Granite’s Scott Martin, JLL’s Dan Bellow, CBRE’s Graham Horton, Republic Ranches’ Tallon Martin and NAI’s Randy Wilhelm. Ryan believes in going right out and doing something rather than building a bucket list, but he does say he’d like to take each of his four kids on a one-on-one trip, and take his boys to the World Series one day.