Mesa resident Steve Bergsman is the first to admit he’s no good at real estate investing.
"There’s guys who invest and guys who write about people who are investing," he said. "I’m the latter."
When it comes to real estate investing, Bergsman lets the experts do the talking. In his newly published book, "Maverick Real Estate Investing: The Art of Buying and Selling Properties Like Trump, Zell, Simon, and the World’s Greatest Land Owners," he leaves the talking to the giants of real estate.
"I took real estate investment and broke it down into 12 parts," he said. "Then I took a look at each of the 12 parts and found a successful real estate entrepreneur who worked this part of the investment well."
Bergsman is a nationally recognized financial and real estate writer, and regularly contributes to the "Ground Floor" real estate column in Barron’s. He move to Mesa from New York in 1976 and became editor of the Arizona Weekly Gazette, which he transformed into the Arizona Business Gazette.
For more than 25 years, he has contributed articles to such publications as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal Sunday and Fortune.
Bergsman was approached by the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, to write the book and was given a six-month deadline.
"It was a race because there were 12 individuals I focused on, so I had to find all of these guys and whenever possible I did the interviews in person," he said. "So if they were in San Francisco, I went to San Francisco, and if they were in Texas, I went to Texas."
Among the titans he interviewed were:
• Donald Trump, longtime real estate maverick and reality TV star.
• Douglas Shorenstein, chairman and CEO of San Francisco-based Shorenstein Co., which owns and manages about 25 million square feet of office property in places like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Miami, Fla.
• John Kukral, president and CEO of New York-based Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, which has completed more than 100 transactions comprising more than 600 individual real estate assets valued at about $13 billion.
• Samuel Zell, chairman of Equity Residential, the largest publicly owned operator of apartment communities in the United States; Equity Office Properties Trust, the country’s largest real estate investment trust; and Manufactured Homes Communities; all are in Chicago.
• David Simon, CEO of Simon Property Group in Indianapolis. As of 2003, the company owned and had an interest in 243 properties encompassing about 183 million square feet of gross leasable space in 36 states.
Today’s real estate mavericks are a mix of those who followed in their fathers’ footsteps and those who entered real estate on their own and created an empire from scratch, Bergsman said.
"For instance, John Kukral . . . his family wasn’t in real estate and he had no gleam in his eye to become a real estate maven," he said. "But he got a job in college and it was in real estate, and he loved it and decided to do it."
Bergsman said he learned a lot from talking to the mavericks. For instance, they may follow the same basic rules as regular investors, but their perception runs deeper and they have longer-term vision.
"Say you wanted to buy a duplex, something very small," he said. "We look at it and really get excited about it, and then say ‘I’m going to go home and think about it.’ That means 24 hours to think about it, then you rush back there and buy the property."
Regular investors’ idea of patience is 24 hours, while the mavericks operate on a much longer time period, Bergsman said.
"A lot of these guys will tell you there’s always a second opportunity in real estate," he said. "So let’s say we rush back the next day and the duplex has already been sold. We’re disappointed and we forget about it. But those guys never really forget about the properties they lose. They keep an eye on it and it comes back. In real estate there’s always a second act."
The mavericks also have a broader understanding of "location, location, location," Bergsman said. They see where good locations can become bad, and vice versa.
"Sometimes the older part of the city gets really run down and nobody wants to invest there, so it would generally be considered bad sites for investment," he said. "But you find pioneering efforts to go in there and invest, and suddenly this old, rundown part of the city becomes the hottest part of town because somebody took the chance to invest there."
Although the mavericks are all wealthy, Bergsman said his book is not about how to get rich by investing in real estate.
"Some people have done it and they’re the inspiration," he said.