Pearlstone Partners is featured in the Top 100 People in Real Estate magazine
Austin, Texas was ranked the number one metropolitan area in the country to live by US News and World Report. Yet, as is typical for thriving metropolises, as more people flock to them, housing becomes less affordable. Fortunately, for the residents and future residents of Austin, Pearlstone Partners, founded by Robert Lee, Emily Lee, and Bill Knauss, is deeply committed to the economic expansion of this ‘Top 5’ U.S. real estate market as one of the largest infill real estate developers in town. They have earned a reputation for creating high-quality, market-sensitive, and profitable real estate development projects for the better part of the last century.
Pearlstone Partners is a longstanding real estate development firm that identified Austin’s potential long before the city was considered “trendy.” The Lee family matriarch was featured in an article by the Austin American-Statesman, “Rita Lee: From War-Torn China to Life’s Rewards.” Her brokerage and property management company were entrusted to Robert and his wife, Emily, in 1990, and they grew it into a full-service real estate enterprise. By 2014, Robert and Emily had joined forces with real estate veteran, Bill Knauss. A few successful projects later, and Pearlstone Partners was born in 2018.
With over 100 years of combined experience, Robert, Emily, and Bill focus on attainable housing and solutions that reduce urban sprawl, providing greater taxable revenues for community amenities and services. Pearlstone has already completed more than $300 million in locally developed real estate and has more than $700 million actively invested—all while keeping housing costs competitive and providing the infrastructure needed for a growing city with limited space. In the process, they’ve accumulated some impressive honors, including Austin Business Journal Texas 100’s, Influential Professionals to Watch in 2022, the 2021 Business of the Year Award from the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, and the 2021 Most Influential Diversity Champions from Austin Black Business Journal, among others.
Robert Lee, partner and CEO, is known as the “Crystal Ball” because with over 40 years of experience in commercial real estate and a reputation for foreseeing hurdles before they arise, his colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs look to him for advice. He is able to predict and navigate the Austin real estate market with a natural ease, and his track record of successful projects attests to his confidence when bringing unique solutions to the table. Robert has completed over $500 million in transactions and supervised the development, construction, and sale of product types ranging from single-family, multifamily, condo, and office to light industrial. In 2013, Robert supervised the completion of 21 Pearl, a student housing development in Austin’s West Campus neighborhood. The 135-unit, 272-bedroom property, located just blocks away from The University of Texas at Austin, encompassed over 100K square feet of residential space. It was the company’s largest project to date and a huge milestone, providing major exposure and the means to advance operations. Robert’s vision is, and has always been, to serve what he calls “The Missing Middle.” “This segment of the population is often left out of political dialogues and economic development planning. Financially, this demographic is not served through affordable housing models, nor are they wealthy enough to afford luxury developments,” he shares. “We are proud to be at the forefront of attainable housing and will continue developing products for this demographic while also exploring hospitality, retail, and creative office spaces.”
Emily Lee, partner, came onboard during the Lee Properties days and has amassed 28 years of experience in property management, ownership, sales, and leasing services. She is relied upon to oversee daily operations and to build and maintain strategic relationships with investors and businesses. She has assisted with the management of a $500 million portfolio and residential projects totaling more than 1.5 million square feet. Her firsthand knowledge of both commercial and residential properties at varying stages of the investment life cycle provides Pearlstone Partners with a unique and valuable perspective, qualifying them to sustain a long-term market position for themselves and their clients. Emily has also guided Pearlstone Partners’ charitable donations to the tune of over $1 million, leading to their recognition as a fixture in the community. A licensed broker and REALTOR®, Emily is a member of the Austin Board of Realtors, Texas Board of Realtors, National Board of Realtors, and the MLS. When asked about her personal ambition for the company, she shares, “My hope is to leave a thriving business to my children and future generations. I come from a modest upbringing, so I’m proud to leave a legacy—one that gives my family the opportunity to pick up the ball and run with it.”
Bill Knauss, president and partner, oversees development, strategy and execution. A real estate veteran with over 20 years of national and international experience, he’s had his hand in the development, design, and construction of more than $2 billion in real estate assets, including over 3,000 multifamily residences, resort and boutique hotels, office space, retail, and manufacturing facilities. Bill’s primary focus is leading the successful execution of projects that deliver results for investors and buyers. You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Bill credits Pearlstone’s success to the talented team of industry experts they have assembled. His laser focus was acquired through many years executing projects in the U.K, the Caribbean, California, and Texas. “I am extremely proud of what we have built together at Pearlstone Partners. We have an incredible team of people who work tirelessly to find creative solutions to the housing problem Austin is facing. Like the communities we serve, our ownership represents diversity, which is important because diverse companies are at the forefront of change,” he shares. Through trusted relationships in the community and industry, Bill and the Pearlstone team have built an integrated project delivery process that sets them apart and has investors and partners choosing to work with them repeatedly.