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For This Southeast Brokerage, Being The Underdog Has Its Benefits


For the last decade, there’s only been one real trend in commercial brokerage: bigger.

The network of regional brokerages that flourished through the 1980s and 1990s have by and large been bought by or folded into a handful of national mega-brands.

But with market volatility at an all-time high, some industry veterans are seeing space open up for smart, agile, independent brokers to carve out roles for themselves in emerging markets.

That’s exactly the model that Jim Anthony is pursuing. Anthony & Co., the brokerage he founded in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1987, has been affiliated with Colliers International for the last 10 years. Now, with the affiliation term in the rearview mirror, Anthony and his team are striking out on their own into markets across the Southeast.

Anthony believes that the two sides of his new company — a brokerage branded as APG Advisors and an investment-ownership group known as APG Capital — will be able to play a more organic, entrepreneurial role in the growth of real estate markets in the Carolinas and beyond.

Bisnow chatted with Anthony to understand more about the push to go independent and why he thinks fortune favors the underdog in today’s market.

Bisnow: Your brokerage was affiliated with Colliers for the last decade. What caused the decision to spin it off?

Anthony: Throughout our time with Colliers, we built a separate business in development and investment. It’s a boutique shop, but it’s grown very rapidly in the last four years. At this point, we’re two businesses under one roof. 

So when it came time to consider what’s next, we wanted to give both sides of our business room to grow. Colliers has pivoted some of its strategy as well. Affiliation is not cutting it for them. They really want to own their markets now. Our 10-year license was up, and we parted ways.

APG Advisors founder and CEO Jim Anthony

Bisnow: How do you feel about going from being aligned with such a huge brand to being independent?

Anthony: Going independent is exciting to us for the obvious reasons: getting our liberty back, being able to be more entrepreneurial, having no boundaries besides the ones we set.

In economics, people talk about the force of fractionalization: the smaller you can squeeze an asset, the more valuable it becomes. It’s certainly true for buying land. But I think that it’s also true for companies.

There’s a cultural shift happening in that regard. Even as our industry has gone through consolidation, there’s an undercurrent of those that prefer to do business with smaller, more agile shops. People are choosing to throw their loyalty toward the little guy. 

Maybe it’s an American thing, we’ve always liked to pull for underdogs.

Bisnow: What advantages do you see in a combined brokerage-development model?

Anthony: It’s a highly symbiotic relationship. There’s a great deal of financial stability that is achieved by having both of these businesses because we can make more countercyclical plays.

For instance, maybe the apartment sector is getting a little too frothy for us to want to play there anymore, we can instead move our interests to where the opportunities are, like industrial or land. Our keyword is agility. Agility comes from our independence and our ability to meet the market on the service side and the equity side.

Bisnow: Are there any specific advantages to that model with the pandemic going on?

Anthony: There’s so much volatility in the market, and things are going to be disrupted for a long time. It’s a big question how much office tenants are going to want to shrink their spaces, and being able to react to tiny local variations in market conditions is going to help us succeed.

Bisnow: What do you see as the best plays for investment and brokerage in this environment?

Anthony: We’re well-diversified across many sectors, but we do have a few we really like at the moment. We’re heavy in the land business, we have six brokers working solely on land, which you need because it’s such a local discipline. We’re also strong in industrial. I see industrial growth continuing long-term because the on-shoring of manufacturing will be a power trend for decades. 

The office market is the major employment asset class in our home market of Raleigh-Durham, so of course we have a footprint there. With multifamily, we are stronger on our investment and development side. This is the hottest residential market the Southeast has ever seen. There’s an influx of people coming from Washington, New York, New Jersey, Chicago and even California. 

Inside the APG Advisors office in Raleigh, North Carolina

Bisnow: Why do you believe in land deals right now?

Anthony: There's a huge appetite for land here, especially industrial and residential land, and developers start planning out projects for two or three years down the road. Industrial land is also a rarity in the Triangle and Charlotte markets since so many single-family and multifamily developers bought up tracts and rezoned them. What we're really good at is finding land aggressively, then marketing sites to our clients.

Bisnow: Do you have any expansion plans now that you’re no longer restricted to playing in Raleigh?

Anthony: There are a number of major metros where we already have an investment foothold and we're looking to bring on our advisory side. Wilmington is the fastest-growing city in North Carolina, and it’s being flooded with retirees coming from the Northeast. The next market we like is Fayetteville, which is set to grow as a result of troops coming back home from Europe and the Middle East since Fort Bragg is the largest military base in the U.S.

We’re looking to expand our holdings in Greenville, the Triad Cities and Atlanta, and possibly move into cities like Charlotte, Asheville, Charleston, and the main eastern Tennessee markets.

We only enter new markets if some strong investment opportunity causes us to plant an equity flag or if we build a relationship with a broker there who fits with our culture. That’s the wonderful thing about being independent. We can let these things develop organically and opportunistically.

This feature was produced in collaboration between the Bisnow Branded Content Studio and APG Advisors. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.