Weekend Interview: The 'Canvassing Queen,' Azor Advisory Services CEO Beth Azor
Beth Azor has been nicknamed the "Canvassing Queen" for her penchant for knocking on doors to get the best deal for her clients. She has authored two books on retail leasing, hosts a podcast, trains commercial agents and consults with landlords nationwide on effective strategies for keeping their properties leased.
She is the founder and CEO of Azor Advisory Services, a Weston, Florida-based commercial real estate firm that owns, manages, leases and develops retail properties across the South Florida region.
The following is lightly edited for style and clarity.
Bisnow: Baron Rothschild once said the “time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets.” Where is the blood today?
Azor: Outside of the “smile states," those states that stretch from California to North Carolina in the southern half of the U.S. In my mind, the blood in the streets can be found in the New York City office market where there is 100M SF of vacant space representing 25% of the market. There is no blood in any street in South Florida.
Bisnow: What is your most controversial CRE opinion and why are you right about it?
Azor: That South Florida will be insulated from any potential recession. Our domestic migration has significantly propped up retail sales, housing, new offices, and rental apartments. Because of high construction costs and high interest rates, retail development will be sparse or nonexistent for the next three-five years. There isn’t enough supply to meet the high demand we are seeing, which pushes rents higher and values to increase. Hurricane Ian’s rebuilding will put additional pressure on construction costs as there is a low supply and high demand for trades. I think as we get closer to the 2024 election, interest rates will adjust lower.
Bisnow: If you weren’t in real estate, what path would your career have taken?
Azor: I would have had a career in marketing, PR and event planning. I actually started my career out of college planning events for a local nonprofit, but did real estate sales on the side to supplement my income. In 1986, after two years working seven days a week doing both jobs, I went into commercial real estate full time, and it has been my passion ever since.
Bisnow: If you could make one change to the industry, what would it be?
Azor: Compensation for younger associates who want to get into the business. It’s very hard to enter a “commission only“ industry unless you have access to additional resources to support yourself. If younger associates aren’t lucky enough to get financial support from their parents, they are more likely to take a job that gives them the security of a steady paycheck. I think we are losing a lot of potential talent because of our traditional compensation model.
Bisnow: What is one thing you would do differently from early in your career?
Azor: I would have invested sooner. My first boss in real estate gave me several opportunities to participate in deals, but for a variety of reasons I turned him down. It wasn’t until he personally took me to the bank and co-signed a loan that I finally made my first commercial property investment.
Bisnow: As a leader, how do you decide who is worth mentoring and who is simply not a good fit?
Azor: I look for someone who is hungry, who listens and who is coachable. They need to show me they are ambitious and willing to learn. If they exhibit those qualities then I am always willing to share my knowledge and expertise to help them succeed.
Bisnow: What are your thoughts on the metaverse? Does it have any relevance for CRE?
Azor: I think it could be relevant for the office sector. EXP Realty is trying it out with zero offices around the country. Instead, their associates log in to the metaverse each day. We’ll have to keep an eye on them to see how it’s working out. We could see others following suit if it does.
Bisnow: What do you see as the lasting impacts of the pandemic on CRE?
Azor: In the retail world, the lasting impacts are “buy online and pick up at the store." Also, curbside pickup, which started during the pandemic, is here to stay as many consumers like it as an option. We are also seeing more restaurants and other users adding drive-thrus, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find that space, in South Florida at least.
Bisnow: As you know, there is a massive conversation underway regarding advancing more people of color and women into the C-suite. What are you doing to address those voices and that movement within your own organization?
Azor: All our employees are female with a mix of diverse racial and culture backgrounds represented. Also, part of my mission has been to support and encourage more females to get into commercial real estate investing. Each year, we host a Women’s Real Estate Investment Summit to address the fears women have and the steps they can take to get started. I didn’t realize how much interest there was until we started this outreach.
Bisnow: So, this is the weekend interview. What’s your typical weekend routine?
Azor: On Saturday, I start out by drinking my fair share of coffee and reading two newspapers. I then walk 3.5 miles with my dog, get a 90-minute massage, play golf and eat lunch with my one son, and go to movies with my other son. On Sunday, I attend Mass and then watch football and cap off the weekend with a home-cooked meal Sunday evening. It is very fulfilling!