Hasani Steele dropped by to discuss how he morphed from traditional real estate broker into niche renovator and investor with his company Steele Consulting Group. Hasani attributes part of his success to the disciplined he installed by playing college football for Northwestern University. The Chicago Association of REALTORS® has recently named Hasani “Renovator of the Year” and you’ll learn why he absolutely deserves this title by listening to this incredible interview!
D.J. Paris 0:14
Hello and Happy Holidays Welcome to keeping it real. The only podcast made by Chicago real estate brokers for Chicago real estate brokers. My name is DJ Parris. I’m your host through the show. And this is our final episode before the holidays are upon us. And we also anticipate getting at least one more episode before the end of the year. So thanks for listening during your most likely well needed break. So thank you for being listener. Whether you’re brand new to the show, or you’ve been listening from the very beginning, we really appreciate it. And the best way of course, you can always support our show is simply by telling a friend let anyone know who potentially is a might be interested in this information, wants to hear from top producers, any brokers, you know, maybe even in your own office that might benefit from this shoot this, this podcast over to them that really helps us a lot. And also, if you are a vendor for real estate brokers, right, maybe you’re a lender or a real estate attorney, or title company or anyone, photo company, for example, and you want to get in front of about 5000 Chicago brokers, you can sponsor an episode. So reach out to us, you can always do that to our website, keeping it real pod.com. Also download and stream all of our episodes right from there. If you haven’t already subscribed via iTunes or Google Play, you can do that right from our website, too. And drop us a line as well let us know who we should be talking to you have anyone that you think has a great story, or is doing things in a really particularly interesting way that would would make for a great interview. Reach out to us we’re always open to talking to new brokers. And thanks again have a great holiday season and onto our interview with renovator OF THE YEAR Hassani steel.
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Okay today on the show we have a sunny steel with over 16 years and 40 million in sales combined with a proven record of results including 45 day average market time and a 97% list to sales price ratio steel consulting group is led by Hasani steel our guest today who offers real estate consulting, sales and marketing from conception design construction pre sales through delivery. Some call him the market maker. Most are more notable accolades for assignee include 2016 renovator of the Year from car Chicago Association, realtors, and the number one Northern Illinois REMAX agent 2003 for residential sales. He received his bachelor’s from Northwestern and was a member of the 95 to 99 Northwestern University football team, where he where they were consecutive big 10 champions, and he has been to the Rose Bowl in 96. In the citrus bowl in 97. The sun he enjoys spending his time with his wife and their three daughters as well. And I find this most interesting building and flying radio control airplanes. So Sunny, thanks for being on the show. Welcome.
Hasani Steele 3:59
Wow. Thank you for having me. And that was quite an intro. Well, you
D.J. Paris 4:04
have accomplished it. So I was I was honored to read it. Thanks. Thanks for spending time with us. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in real estate. So I know you’ve been doing it for gosh, 16 years now.
Hasani Steele 4:16
Yeah, you touched on my interest and the radio control airplanes. I love airplanes. I thought I was actually going to be a pilot but from a very young age, you know, I was basically looking for opportunities to make money. So I had you know, a lady that worked with my dad that eventually kind of became my, my, my godmother, but she would rehab properties and she paid me you know district wallpaper. You know, just paint I would be glamorous work. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And at the time, I kind of felt like a karate kid was like you know, you’re just trying to get through this stuff. But then over time you start to realize that, you know, you start to you know, I have a vision because you see all these old places and like you’re going through doing all this work, you know, like, what is going on here, you know, but eventually, you know, they were, you know, refurbished and either leased or sold. And, you know, that was just, you know, one of the experiences that now, um, I realized later, you know, that kind of played a role in establishing my vision, you know, in real estate, but I did it at a very young age. And then, you know, after middle when I started high school, I got into football, and I started to do more in sports. But when I went to Northwestern, I majored in computer engineering. So after football, I had graduated and started working for tel labs, and then 911 happened, and then like, you know, a few years into engineering, you know, I was laid off, so I started, you know, just, I’d already started buying, you know, properties and redoing them. But that’s when real estate, you know, I basically had a another round, and, and then I started working part time. And, and then, you know, one thing led to the next and, you know, I eventually started growing my business and, and, you know, helping basically people do exactly what I learned to do. And it’s just led and just constantly grown from year to year, and it, you know, kind of leads us to where we are now.
D.J. Paris 6:28
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really interesting story. Can you tell us a little, you know, I’m always so fascinated by people who played sports in college, because most of us who played sports, you know, petered out in high school. And, and obviously, you kept going, and I always think, discipline, of course, is so critical to anyone who’s who’s playing at the collegiate level, have you found that that discipline that you obviously had back then is that really helped build your real estate practice as well?
Hasani Steele 6:56
Absolutely, I use it every day, sometimes when, you know, work gets really stressful, I’ll have like dreams about football, and I’ll know, you know that, okay, you know, things are getting pretty tough. And, you know, during that time, when I played football, I was studying at the same time, I would do three a day practices, you know, on level, you’re not getting paid. And this is something you know, that you’re pretty passionate about, but you’re putting in, you know, I’ll ton of time, but one of the key, the key lessons that I took from even playing at Northwestern was being fortunate enough to watch the program, you know, the turnaround on the program, because when I was the last recruiting class for Coach Barnett, and I use so many of those same just techniques and discipline, you know, culture building type of skills, you know, in my business today, because we work in a lot of emerging markets. So, you know, we don’t really necessarily get the benefit of the doubt, you know, as we’re taking an area and we’re revitalizing it, we’re having to come in and in, you know, basically deliver something, you know, that’s greater than, than where we started. But I watched that happen to Northwestern, and it just, you know, the attitude, you know, the, the, the goal setting that you have to do, and just the the positive, you know, attitudes and just relentlessness that you need in order to be good, and especially after you win the big 10 one year and then to come back and do it again. And, you know, when when people are really, you know, preparing even more for you, those same types of disciplines and lessons, you know, I use today, you know, because this real estate industry is ever changing, you know, so absolutely, I that is probably one of the that along with my experience that I learned on the construction side early on, is definitely you know, made me you know who I am today.
D.J. Paris 9:06
Yeah, let’s talk about it because you’d have won recently this award with cars as the as the renovator of the year. Can you talk a little bit about that talk about how that relates to your business?
Hasani Steele 9:19
Yeah, so um, the Chicago Association of Realtors, the board, I think every year, gives that award and it’s based on you know, just the number of projects that you’ve worked on and the impact that you’ve had, you know, in the industry and your consistency. So that is one of the things that I’ve really tried to work on and that and that continued effort is as we grow, making sure that the product that we deliver, you know, is just as good or better than the last one because you don’t you’re only as good as you know, the last thing that you do, you know, so the Chicago Association of Realtors, you know, based off of The developments, you know, that we do the number of them, also, what those developments do to impact the market, you know, the surrounding market and the neighborhood, and how it, you know, helps the industry as a whole also is taken into consideration. So, you know, we were given the renovate OF THE YEAR very honored to receive it, you know, and, yeah, that basically summarize it,
D.J. Paris 10:26
can you tell us a little bit about those projects, and because it’s clearly something your team is passionate about?
Hasani Steele 10:31
Yeah, so we, when we’re building a market, going into an area, some of the first properties that are rehabbed are going to be single family, you know, when, you know, it’s just, it’s one property to do, when you’re looking to work with investors, you know, especially when you don’t have the national banks involved. You know, you start with, you know, single family home or, you know, lower density type of property. And those properties in those neighborhoods, you know, the scope of work, is more than just paint. And like surface level finishes, like, you have to get these properties out, like, well, if you go to our website, you’ll see, you know, the properties that we do, they’re basically completely brand new, except for the shell, the shells, like the exterior brick, and many times, even then, you know, we have to, you know, re face the property or things like that. So the properties that we do, when we say gut or rehab, our definition includes, like everything, it’s not like, you know, more surface level, so all of our properties that we do, you know, are completely gutted out. So on the single family home side, we have like a number of properties, without going through specific addresses, but basically 3500 square foot, single family homes, the finish and decor is going to resemble, you know, like a brand or discipline similar to what you might see in an Architectural Digest. So we’re going to pay attention to every detail, the cabinetry, the tile work, you know, we’re creating a spec sheet software right now that, you know, that’s going to allow us to, you know, count every screw in a house, basically, but just the detail and the paint and how you do everything the finished carpentry is really why what our buyers are looking for, you know, our purchasers are purchasing our property for the house, they’re not necessarily looking, or like, they’re not, they’re not purchasing for the surrounding neighborhood, they’re, they want the accuracy in the home, you know, so if I were to describe, you know, kind of the properties, you know, that that one, you know, they would be maybe greystones, or, you know, properties that, you know, from that that’s very accurate, and that match how they were built originally, especially on the exterior, we do a lot of historical places that that many others might shy away from, they take a little bit longer to do, but you know, they’re very accurate. And then we’ll do the finishes with you. There may be gray cabinets, you know, a mixture of that, you know, updated, still stone marble tile that might have some timeless install patterns, you know, but through and through completely gutted, you know, restored the exterior, just like artistic, amazing work.
D.J. Paris 13:36
And if you want to you really should go to Kota Saudis website, which is what a steel with an E, as last name, what is steel.com? And you can see the pictures of many of their developments. And it’s, it’s truly remarkable.
Hasani Steele 13:52
Yeah, you can, you can basically see the process from start to finish, from when the property is originally secured, all the way through demolition, and the complete restoration process to, you know, the final photos and what we started to incorporate now is a new technology that allow you, you can get those Samsung goggles. And you can virtually walk through these properties even at the demo stage and kind of experience, you know, being able to walk through a house that’s in the middle of construction.
D.J. Paris 14:27
It’s truly remarkable what you guys have done. And let me ask you so if we get to the very beginning of the development process when you’re finding these places to rehab, how are you finding them what what is I’m sure through probably lots of methods, but are they are these properties that go on the MLS? Are they typically off market?
Hasani Steele 14:49
That’s a good question. So there it’s a mixture of both the many times it’s like just driving them and doing research in the tax records to work backwards. and see who owns these properties. Sometimes properties can kind of like fall by the wayside, so to speak, if a particular bank or you know, you know owns it, or it might be in a state or something like that, when you’re reaching out to them, you might be reaching out to an attorney, because that person may have passed away, or, you know, you might be reaching out to a family member, and they just had the property for a while it might be paid off. And it’s just, you know, sitting there, so we come across those others might, we will get people that will call in, and they’ll say, Hey, I know, you know, I live in the community, you know, I know the kind of work that you guys do. You know, a friend of mine has his property, you know, you know, and it might just fall in our lap that way. And then we also work through tax buyers, and people who watched the auctions. And many times when those properties aren’t bid on, or anything like that, you know, we’re will actually take them, you know, so we don’t really cherry pick, when you’re making a market, you pretty much know, okay, I’ve got this area, this region that we’re going to be working in, and it’s, it’s quite, you know, it’s more vast than then, than others. And then when the properties pop up, you know, then you just kind of have to figure out, you know, how you’re going to, you know, raise capital or find investor or somebody that wants to come and take part, you know, and work on it. So, there’s a number of ways we get on but, you know, more, more times than not like, we’ll get people that reach out to us. And they’ll just, they’ll see us as being a buyer, and they’ll bring up
D.J. Paris 16:42
Yeah, it’s, it’s truly remarkable. I mean, you’ve done, gosh, you’ve had to have done over 100 of these, or at least right around that number of if, if that’s it, and they’re all just gorgeous, of the interiors of these properties are truly remarkable.
Hasani Steele 16:58
Yeah, we’re, we’re getting excited, because for when we first started, our average price point was probably around 200, to 250. And it’s just like that, sometimes when you’re, when you’re, you know, just trying to work with the amount of capital that you have, and the investor pool that you have now that we’re growing, you know, we are able to take on more, you know, so we’re doing properties, you know, anywhere up to, you know, a million and a half 2 million, even. But what’s nice about that is it’s like when you look on our website, we tell clients that you cannot tell the difference.
D.J. Paris 17:38
You know, that’s, that’s very, that’s I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. But that is absolutely true. Because I went down to one of the earlier properties that seemed to be listed in the low to hundreds, and it looked like a million dollar interior. I was about to say, Boy, that is an impressive interior for that price point. I mean, it’s beyond impressive. It’s amazing. The level of detail. Now, are you involved with a lot of the interior design of the interior architecture? Or do you leave that up to other team members?
Hasani Steele 18:08
Yeah, I, um, started as we’re growing, I’m starting to delegate that. But But yeah, for the most part, you know, it started because when you go into property, you’ve got to order trim, right? So it’s like, okay, what trim do we order, and you and you want to try to avoid having the contractors pick it, there’s nothing wrong with that, but when it’s not in the scope, to have a cohesive type of design, but what ends up happening is you end up picking it. So it’s like, I kind of fell into that role. Because I would, I’m trying to guide my clients, like if I have a developer that I’m working with, you know, I know what buyers want, because, you know, we do brokerage, you know, so, you know, I would start by, okay, well, we got to do this trim, or I would find you know, you know, an article or something, or a photo or a compilation of pictures, and I would pick, you know, the trim the doors, the door hardware, the lighting, you know, and I just turned into, you know, a designer in the sense. And then when we started doing the consulting services, you have to know construction, like you have to know how to build a place to be able to present a project to a developer or an investor, you know, and say, Hey, this is what it’s probably going to cost and this is the, you know, the look that you do, and this is your target buyer, you know, so yeah, we, I basically, you know, do a lot of the design and finish. Now we’re starting to incorporate other team members. And that process as well. And we’re starting you know, as our brand is now you know, pretty established. And so now we’ve got others taking part in participating
D.J. Paris 19:53
how many development projects do you have going on at any one given time?
Hasani Steele 20:00
I’d say involvement can range anywhere from, you know, marketing a property only. And I’d say those are very few are pretty hands on, on on many of them all the way so full, like, you know, management of a project, I say maybe about 15 to 20. And it kind of depends, because when you’re doing consulting, you don’t have to do every aspect of every different job, you kind of fill in and you offer services, in whatever category, that particular client, you know, knees, so we work with people that are just armchair investors, all the way through, you know, established developers, it’s been developing for 30 years, you know, so, you know, depending on the product that we have our involvement, you know, kind of varies in terms of the time, but yeah, I’d say about 15 to 20, at any given time, and it works out well, when you’re, you know, making markets and establishing markets, because you need a constant flow of sales comparables, you know, the buyers that buy from you, they want to know what’s coming next, they want to know, okay, well, what else you doing? Well, what’s going on with this other one across the street, or what’s, so you have to have a pipeline, you know, and it helps, and it works. And that way, by doing the volume in that regard, you don’t have to have projects that like are making like, you know, for lack of a better term hand over fist money, like, the margins are, are, are fair, I should say, you know, and, you know, if I’m talking to an end buyer, if I’m talking to a developer, you know, they’re happy, and they think it’s reasonable, it’s not like, you know, some of these crazy ratio margins that some people are making on these flips, where they’re not putting any money in the house, but they’re taking all the equity, right, you know, so by doing higher volume, and keeping that going, it works out for the buyers, and it works out for the developers and investors, because it helps with our appraisal values. And, and keeps, you know, encourages other competing developers and people in the market to showing them, you know, and providing sales, comparables and sales for them so that they can, you know, do their projects.
D.J. Paris 22:24
Yeah, we have a lot of investors or brokers who are investors who work with investors at our firm as well. And they they’ve always said almost universally, that one of the biggest misconceptions that brokers have about working with investors is finding the investors actually the easy part, it’s finding the deal, that’s the hard part, it’s, it’s getting the numbers to work. And once you get the numbers to work, the money seems to show up. And you in particular, you’ve have such an amazing product that I imagine, you know, that the investors are probably lined up ready to work with you.
Hasani Steele 22:54
The investors are lined up, you’re exactly right, getting the numbers to work. We have we, I basically started by just offering consulting services a while back, just because I would hear certain investors, you know, I’d say, hey, well, you know, we have to use this, this tile, you know, this certain tile on this project, whatever. And, you know, how are we gonna make that work for the budget, you know, and we had to go and, and create accounts, you know, with vendors, and pool a lot of our purchases for all of our investors so that we could even it, you know, save 10% or 15%, you know, and so we actively took on that role, because, you know, we don’t have products to sell, you know, we don’t either, you know, so we, you know, have preferred accounts, with every single item that you find in a house, we’re able to get for the best price, the best value, the best service. So, you know, and that, I think, is a large part in how we’re able to get these buildings built with this amount of detail and have the numbers make sense when you’re developing a market. And, and, you know, maybe there’s enough room, because you might be selling at a substantially higher price point or what have you, you may not necessarily be forced to have to shop or really try to, you know, make those day to day savings on that material. Well, the nice thing about it is when we go to like Linkin Park, but not only are we able to build for less, we can we already have we already are using, you know, top line finishes, we actually ended up coming in and we’re able to, you know, construct a property or put a project together, where, you know, many of our competitors that, you know, don’t really have a business that’s, you know, surrounded around, you know, we’re finding, you know, merchandise, purchases, things like that we’re able to compete against them. and deliver a better product. You know, so the key is making sure that you’re you’re efficiently purchasing all of your material, you can’t just always run to the local, you know, store, you know, and and just get, you know, one of these and one of these, you have to plan ahead. That’s the only way
D.J. Paris 25:19
that it works. Well, I know you, I think you’ve basically said it all. And I know you have a commitment. So we we probably should, should finish up. But I want to make sure that everyone who’s listening can see some of your work which so if you haven’t yet gone while you’re listening to me, you’re not driving go to what a steel.com, which is steel with an E, it’s Saudis last name, and take a look at some of the work they’ve done it is it is truly impressive. What is also the best way if they’re already investors, or potential buyers, or sellers who want to work with you and your group, what’s the best way they should reach out to you
Hasani Steele 25:58
just go on the About Us section on our website and click and just do a submission and just say what it is you’re looking for, if you have any particular passion or goals, and yeah, reach out to us, and then I’ll come to either myself or our manager, mark or Christian. And we’ll reach out to you and set up a call. And that’s basically how it starts. People will call us that already have properties or they might be, you know, attorneys that may want to invest and do something that might be you know, so many of them sometimes our past clients that you know, you know, may want to invest as well or established developers just go to our website, click on there. If you’ve been looking through and you’re clicking on through the site. You know, any page you go on, you can reach out to us and we’ll be in touch. All right, Sandy, well,
D.J. Paris 26:51
thank you so much for your time, and I just absolutely cannot get over how beautiful the interior and exteriors of the property is. But in particular, the interiors are just absolutely stunning. So keep up, keep up the wonderful work. And thank you for being on the show.
Hasani Steele 27:09
And thank you for having me, DJ, we appreciate it.