September’s mentor is David “Buzz” Ruttenberg, founder of Belgravia Group. Belgravia is a premier, award-winning Chicago development firm. There is a distinction to the Belgravia product; a certain artistic flair to its projects.
When I met Buzz in his corporate offices, I witnessed his artistic inspiration proudly showcased. I could have spent the entire day looking at all the different art pieces and unique sculptures. However, I was most excited to interview Buzz and gain knowledge from one of the best developers in the city.
Belgravia is celebrating 60 years of excellence in building architecturally beautiful homes and properties. Everything Belgravia does centers on producing the highest quality consumer product. Belgravia has analyzed the development process from initial concept to handing the keys to the excited new home owners. Honing in on perfecting the process every step of the way and raising the bar of quality is a great way to build a winning company.
Belgravia is all about Chicago. It is one of the greatest contributors to our great city’s landscape. People around the world know Chicago for its beauty and architecture, and Buzz and his team have continued that tradition.
Belgravia’s latest project, 600 N. Lake Shore Drive, has been the talk of the town for the past few years. I have toured the property and envied the units I see, for myself. As a REALTOR®, when I get more excited about a property then my clients, I know the developer did a good job!
Belgravia brings pride to not only those working at the company and associated with selling its product, but the city. Buzz shares his insights on how he has seen Belgravia grow and the success formula behind building a successful real estate development firm.
Me: Is it a good time to be in the real estate developing business?
Buzz: The basic principle of real estate is if you have cash, buy at the bottom. Now is the bottom, and a time we will be referencing in the future. We will have a slow recovery for the next two years. Act quickly and make the right decision now, as the best opportunities will start to go quickly!
Me: Your company, Belgravia, is regarded as one of the top development firms in Chicago. What are your pillars of success?
Buzz: Do only want you know well, and don’t take oversized risks! Pre-leasing and pre-sales are very important in the development business, so having a great sales team is critical. Also, don’t have a selfish attitude. Don’t go into this business expecting a quick buck. Success in development is a long-term strategy not an overnight get-rich-quick scheme. Have a good mentor so you can listen to the right advice. Make your early mistakes affordable and partner up correctly. Always stick to your knowledge base and seek correct guidance in things you don’t know.
Me: How has your strategy developed over time with Belgravia’s rising success?
Buzz: My strategy has not changed, only the size of the deal has changed! The price range is the only thing that keeps changing, and by changing I mean going up. I’m very opportunistic, so a higher price point gives me more flexibility to do so.
(See my notes above about Belgravia’s business philosophy.)
Me: What was a mistake or key lesson learned in your experience?
Buzz: Always protect your downside! Any deal can go bad; there is no sure bet in this business!
Me: I want to be a real estate developer! How do I start?
C.A.R. YPN Past Chair and Managing Broker/Partner, Vesta Preferred Realty