Joseph Scarfone is a successful commercial real estate broker whose passion as a creator and a builder converged with his 20 years of financial and business expertise to form One Investment Group—a unique one-stop shop for commercial real estate investors across Florida. As the owner of a firm founded on his own personal motto, “Building Relationships One Client at a Time,” Joe’s long-term relationships with his clients span over a decade, and he’s reaped tens of millions of dollars in returns on their behalf. We sat down with Joe to learn more about his company and how they’re helping investors successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to start a commercial real estate company in South Florida?
I’ve always worked hard. I grew up in New York. My family was middle class, and my mom and dad instilled in me the values of hard work and integrity. I had a landscaping business at 16, straight out of high school. It’s still my passion, creating something from nothing, and really, that’s what I do now for my clients at One Investment Group—rebuilding properties and making something out of nothing.
In terms of the path that led me to open my firm, I was working in financing in New York when a property investor came to me for help in raising money to build a 5-story 93,000 square foot self-storage facility in Miami that was called Americas Attic. I was able to put people together, and then I became a partner, and we started buying commercial properties in Miami. I like to find properties that are undervalued and need work, so I decided that instead of managing people’s money, I’d manage their real estate. I launched One Investment Group with the same philosophy that I’ve had throughout my career—building one relationship at a time. My company is not about getting a listing here or there; it lies, rather, in building relationships with investors.
Tell us about One Investment Group. What do you do?
I opened the company in 2006. We’re a full-service commercial real estate brokerage firm—a one-stop shop. We’re located in South Florida, and we focus on all commercial real estate needs, shopping centers, office buildings, and storage facilities. We handle property leasing, acquisitions, dispositions, property and tenant management, landlord representation—we do it all, from $1 million to $100 million. We currently manage, lease, and own approximately 1.5 million square feet of shopping centers and office buildings across the state of Florida.
For example, for one of my clients of 15 years, I found him a property in Delray Beach for $7.5 million and rebuilt the whole building. Three and a half years later, we were leasing it to high-net-worth companies, and a few years after that, I sold it for $31 million, making my client $22 million in profit.
Can you talk a bit more about your unique one-stop shop model?
We are a true one-stop shop comprised of some of the most professional real estate and sales agents in the industry. Our clients don’t have to go anywhere else—we do it all for them, and we don’t outsource anything. I sit down with each of them to determine what their goals are, if they want to buy, sell, or hold the properties, and then figure out how to add value to their real estate investment. We organize the financing, help with doing a facelift for the property, if needed, handle the property management and leasing.
You place tremendous importance on building relationships. With such a diverse client base, how do you cultivate long-term relationships with clients whose needs can differ vastly?
Every client is unique. It really comes down to sitting with our clients and taking the time to learn what they want out of there real estate investment. Sometimes, an older client wants to sit back and have security with their investment and collect a monthly check with very little landlord responsibility, as opposed to multi-tenant properties that have many landlord responsibilities. These clients want something that is strong and recession proof, and now pandemic proof, such as triple “A” national tenant. Each client is different and it’s important to focus on their unique goals and what works best for their future.
There is another unique aspect to the way that you approach relationships. Can you share this with us?
When I started out, I was working with one of the largest nationwide real estate companies, which was focused on listings, listings, listings, and most brokers at larger companies only think in terms of “right now.” I focus more on the client, not the listing, and not only on today, but 10-15 years from now. Building trust takes time and so focusing on each client is important to me. If you do well by a client, he’s your client forever.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, more investors have been asking for your assistance. In fact, this is the reason that you decided to do this interview.
What are you seeing and how are you helping them?
Because of COVID, a lot of investors are seeing their tenants leaving, and many people don’t know which direction to go in. There is a big need right now for our company to go in and either re-tenant the building or sell the property if it’s in distresses. Right now, you have to be heavily engaged in every aspect of what’s going on, from dealing with the banks to helping tenants defer their rents to keep them in business. Currently, we’re adding a drive-thru for a Panera Bread tenant to adjust for a future with COVID, helping clients adjust for more outdoor seating, and restructuring their retail spaces to add more storage to accommodate the increase in online business.
Broker/Owner — One Investment Group