Nikita Zhitov, CCIM, SIOR
With over 16 years of real estate experience, Nikita Zhitov has acquired over 200 investment properties, developed over two dozen notable projects, and conducted over 500 commercial brokerage transactions for friends and clients of his firm. He is a medal graduate of the prestigious North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, an industry expert, and a sought-after industry and motivational speaker, who has been featured in local business journals on countless occasions. Nikita is also a published author of an industry-specific book for commercial real estate investors, Expandability of Investment Real Estate: A Guide to Uncovering Hidden Cashflows and Equities in Plain Sight, which was recently added to the U.S. Library of Congress.
As the principal owner and a broker in charge of CityPlat, LLC, Nikita leads a thriving firm that has grown six times in less than two years since its inception. Headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, CityPlat is a multi-faceted, full-service real estate firm providing a wide spectrum of real estate services, from commercial brokerage and investment sales to tax appeals and development consulting. In addition to serving as a third-party brokerage, the firm is also active in the development of mixed-use assets and in acquisitions of commercial real estate, primarily focusing on industrial, flex, retail and office property acquisitions in the triangle area, including Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.
We sat down with Nikita to find out more about his flourishing company and his intriguing path to what has been an illustrious career.
Tell us about CityPlat.
In April 2019, myself and two of my close associates started CityPlat, which seems to have been growing on steroids ever since. Our mission is to help change and enrich lives through the power of real estate. Real estate is a very powerful vehicle that can turn any ordinary person, like myself, into a multi-millionaire many times over. Our goal at Cityplat is to show people how commercial real estate can significantly transform their lives if utilized appropriately. As far as our day-to-day business is concerned, we specialize in rezoning and entitling residential, multifamily, and mixed-use projects in infill locations. We also do a good number of adoptive re-use projects, such as converting industrial real estate to retail use. And of course, we invest in most types of value-add retail, industrial, and office opportunities. Since we started a little less than two years ago, we have accumulated around $72 million in real estate holdings in our rental portfolio. Our three-year goal was to acquire around 1 million square feet of commercial space. I think we will far exceed this goal at the rate we’re going. We are also very active in infill development with multiple condominium projects underway with a combined value of $64 million.
What are your primary responsibilities as principal owner of CityPlat?
I work to identify investment opportunities, raise money for our projects and structure financing packages, and lead, inspire, and manage our team of brokers. I spend 20% of my time as a broker for existing clients and guiding junior brokers under my supervision, 30% on developing residential and multifamily subdivisions, and 50% investing in existing properties, such as retail shopping centers, industrial flex buildings, and small office buildings.
You began your career while you were still in high school. Tell us a bit about your experience in the real estate industry.
Yes, I did. It was during my senior year, in 2004. I was 18 when I acquired my first 16-unit apartment building. Since then, I have acquired and/or developed hundreds of properties in the U.S and overseas. My experience includes renovations of historic landmarks, ground up construction of mixed-use and multifamily projects, land entitlements and development, ground up development of single and multi-tenant retail buildings, acquisition and renovation of office buildings, build-to-suit and ground lease transactions with national and publicly traded retail tenants, residential subdivision developments, condo conversions, mineral rights exploitation, mobile home parks, and luxury housing construction.
What drew you to real estate at such a young age?
I attended a boarding school throughout my high school years, got into some trouble, and was placed on probation. Of course, this meant I was not allowed to get into any more trouble, so I maintained good behavior. After completing all my college applications, I had nothing to do but research what I wanted to do in life, so I began researching real estate. I found real estate investors through my high school alumni network and during spring break, I shadowed one of them to learn about investing. That exposure to the real world really got me intrigued. I was living off a weekly allowance of $100 from my parents at the time, which I used for my start-up capital to buy my first apartment building for around $400,000 by graduation, using the creative financing strategies I learned. So I had no money, no credit, and no connections. I had to learn my way around from ground zero. I sold the building for $448,000 within 30 days. It was an eye-opening experience for a high school kid to make that much cash. After graduating high school, I was offered a full-ride scholarship to UNC Chapel Hill, but by the end of my first semester there, I was obsessed with the sport of real estate and creative finance, so I dropped out and have been in real estate ever since.
How did that decision lead you to where you are today?
For the first 5-6 years of my career, I worked as a full-time private investor until the 2008 housing crisis hit, causing a major personal setback. As a result, I started my first real estate brokerage firm in 2010, using my knowledge of real estate to help clients acquire properties. However, I couldn’t build a lot of wealth by just doing a brokerage and trading hours for dollars. So, by 2015, I started shifting away from my brokerage career and got back into the development world and real estate investing. Four years later, we launched CityPlat.
To what factors do you attribute your success?
I attribute my success to being persistent and humble. I spend lots of time on personal and professional development, so you can find me in finance and negotiation skills classes every week. I am also a voracious reader. In fact, I commonly read 50 books per year to improve my insight, knowledge, and skills.
Nikita Zhitov, CCIM, SIOR
Download the magazine to see Nikita's feature on page 28.