In sharp contrast to the forthcoming metropolis that will abut the Tesla, Amazon, and Samsung plants, Yariv Bensira was born in a kibbutz in Israel. If you’ve never heard of a kibbutz, it is a small village with a population of less than ten thousand. And if you’ve never heard of Yariv Bensira, he’s the farm boy-turned-founder and CEO of Verdot Capital who is developing the eagerly anticipated “city within a city”—Northpointe.
The setting for Yariv’s Northpointe project is Pflugerville, Texas, and although it’s a world away from his birthplace, the terrain is very familiar, as this suburb of Austin is not only reminiscent of Yariv’s youth, when he worked in cotton and corn fields, but an example of what one man can achieve with just hard work and a vision. Most would have seen a huge field of hay, but even before Northpointe’s famous neighbors took occupancy, Yariv saw an opportunity . . . and seized it.
Perhaps it is his breadth of experience. At one point in his career, he amassed close to 5,000 multifamily units. Or his knowledge of finance. It could be that he is an entrepreneur at heart or that he has an uncanny ability to see what others don’t. Decidedly though, he has put his many talents to use, and clearly, he is head and shoulders above others when it comes to investor relations, deal sourcing, debt structuring, and raising equity, both locally and internationally.
The vehicle through which Yariv indulges his many proclivities is Verdot Capital, a real estate development and investment company with a focus on multifamily and mixed-use properties. Verdot Capital targets opportunistic assets and executes tailor-made strategies that yield strong returns, such as the forthcoming Northpointe project—a mega-complex, composed of 4,000 multifamily units, about three million square feet of office space, and specialty retail components such as restaurants, cafes, and retail shops. And while Texas is a current focus, they are also very active in Miami, Florida, where Verdot Capital is participating in the redevelopment and modernization of Little Havana.
Yariv’s incredible journey, from his humble beginning on that kibbutz in Israel to the purchase of his first property with a $15,000 loan from his parents to his ascension to a major-league developer, was one that we had to know more about. We spoke with Yariv to find out how he did it, why he did it, and what is to come.
Yariv, what compelled you pursue a career in real estate investing and development?
After serving in the Israel military, I came to America and settled in New York. I put myself through college while working full time and got a B.S. and a M.S. in business and finance. When graduated I was already 30 years old and could not imagine starting in banking with my boss being 10 years younger than me, so I decided to go into real estate. I had business acumen but no knowledge of the field. I understood the principles and that’s all that mattered at the time. My parents received a monetary compensation of $15,000 from the German government after the Holocaust, which I borrowed to purchase my first, very inexpensive property in 2006. I renovated it with bank debt and flipped it. Little by little I purchased more and more homes and started a business. I became the contractor, the acquisition guy, the manager, and the bookkeeper. After acquiring my first few properties, the market crashed and the housing market with it. I was a bit green, but I recognized this as an opportunity. My wife and I moved to Indiana, and we started buying foreclosed homes in bulk with equity from friends and family. In 2008, nobody wanted to touch those assets, so we were buying homes at 25-30 cents on the dollar. When the market started to turn around again in 2010, we sold all our properties for a profit. Then, in 2011, I switched to the multifamily sector and bought throughout Indiana, then expanded to other states such as TN, KS, MO and AR. Some years later, we moved back to New York, and I founded Verdot.
Tell us more about your flagship project, Northpointe.
Right now, we are still growing hay on the land, but everybody in Austin is talking about this project because it’s right next to Tesla’s factory, Amazon’s biggest distribution center in the world, and Samsung’s new chip factory 13 miles north—a $17 billion investment. We contracted the land in 2016, before these companies decided to set foot in Texas. We saw where the wind was blowing in the market and where the expansion was. I was initially looking for land to develop a 250-unit mixed-use project, not 120 acres. When we bought it, I didn’t even know exactly what we were going to do with it. I thought, “We’ll buy it, we’ll hire an architect, we’ll sell some portions of it, etc.” Then I realized, “Hey, we might be able to do this—build, in essence, a small city within a city.” Some six years later, we’re planning to break ground with our Phase I in summer 2022, which includes two projects, one senior living center and a multifamily building.
Tell us about some of your projects in the redevelopment and modernization of Little Havana and South Florida.
The Miami market always attracted me and when the opportunity to purchase a condemned property with a lot of history in the middle of Little Havana came by, I jumped on it. I am a big believer in workforce housing and Miami is in big need for it. The options available in Little Havana and other up and coming neighborhoods in Miami are very limited. You either have a new, very amenitized property at higher pricing or if you cannot qualify or afford it, the next level is a run-down property. We tried to set Verdot in that niche in between, offering nice product at fair pricing. We completed renovations on that property in the middle of COVID and had concerns with leasing. In less than 30 days, we went from zero to 100% occupancy, which was mind blowing. We replicated the concept on another property in Miami Beach and reached the same results. We actually just sold it and set the record for the highest price per unit in the area. We continue to be active in Little Havana and plan to begin working on new developments later this year, on land we already own.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I like envisioning something and then seeing it come to reality. I love putting all pieces together, from deal sourcing to equity raising and debt structuring. I built Verdot to become a real player in the industry with staple projects that will be spoken about for decades. To be able to develop projects for others to enjoy and benefit from is something I find beautiful.