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Luxury real estate and lifestyle brand Nest Seekers International expanded its operations into Tel Aviv, Israel in October, shortly after the Hamas attack on Gaza precipitated war between the Palestinian militant group and Israel. Amidst the conflict, Nest Seekers decided to push back a formal press announcement about the new office until 2024 to coincide with a series of special sales events to promote development projects in the region.
Many might question such a move during a time of upheaval for the country, but Nest Seekers CEO Eddie Shapiro, who himself grew up in Israel and is Jewish, said that investing in the country’s real estate is one of the best ways to show support during the ongoing conflict.
“Helping the real estate industry [in Israel] by showing up and investing and buying a property there, that could be the greatest gift you can give to the country,” Shapiro said during a recent interview with Inman.
Starting on Jan. 25, 2024, the brokerage is hosting a series of special sales events to promote four new development projects in Tel Aviv that Nest Seekers is representing, to show solidarity with the country during this difficult time. Sales events took place on Jan. 25 and 26 in New York City, and will be held on Jan. 29 in Miami, and Feb. 1 in Los Angeles.
In a conversation with Inman last week, Shapiro shared more about the brokerage’s decision to open in Tel Aviv and what it has been like trying to navigate running a business while dealing with tragedy in their new market, to which many of the company’s agents have ties. What follows is a version of that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity.
Inman: Why did you want to expand Nest Seekers International into Israel?
Eddie Shapiro: A number of reasons — to start with, I was born and raised there. So there is some personal sentiment to it because a number of members of our team have some roots there. It actually was part of our business plan, regardless [of the war]. We have spent the past couple of years expanding our presence away from the U.S. further into Europe. We’ve had offices for a number of years in Portugal and in the UK, London and other parts of Europe, and we continue to add additional locations moving eastward.
One destination is Tel Aviv, firstly because of the sentimental reasons, and two, it’s also an incredible destination. It’s a beautiful city that sits on the Mediterranean with very high-end condominium projects, water views and it’s a very interesting destination.
The country itself has some of the most amazing history and places to visit, whether it’s Jerusalem and cities in the desert, and the ancient history throughout the country … but at the same time, it’s also the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. It’s one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to technology, finance and all sort of industries. So it makes sense for us as part of our business plan to split time there. We’ve also dealt with a lot of investors, whether institutional or high-net-worth, who are from there who have always been a seller or buyer on many of the properties we’ve invested in in New York, LA or London.
How do you feel about the timing, having coincided so closely with the attack in Gaza in October?
When the events of October 7th happened, within days and weeks, anyone that comes from that part of the world intuitively is thinking, What can I do to help? How can I support? And as you can see now, months later, it’s almost like a competition for showing support every day, with events taking place around the world, whether it’s on social media, on the streets, you name it. And there is support for both sides, understandably.
That said, it inspired us to make the move sooner rather than later and allocate some resources, focus budgets and energy toward standing with the state of Israel in its toughest moment. Everything is going to get hurt by this thing.
When there’s war, the country is paralyzed — wild rallies, the economy is impacted, real estate is impacted, everything, hospitality. So one of the ways for us to show support, to say, This too shall pass, is we’d like to show support by just coming in there sooner rather than later, engaging with the community, the real estate brokerage community, and begin to showcase to the world its better side. And, particularly if you are of Jewish descent, to send the message that, Now, more than ever, own a piece of this country, own a piece of this land, own a piece of some beautiful real estate. So that’s the reason why.
Tell me more about how you’ve undergone this expansion during a difficult time for the country.
How it is being implemented is on multiple fronts. So obviously, getting ourselves organized over there, identifying the team that has joined us and spearheaded a lot of boots on the ground. We [also] travel back and forth.
There is a tremendous amount of support in the U.S. for the state of Israel. There are actually [nearly as many] Jewish people living in the United States as in Israel, so it made sense to promote in the U.S., more than anywhere, these beautiful new development projects that have slowed down with the war and everything that’s going on. Demand and transaction volume have slowed down slightly, so a way to support it is to rally the communities in New York, LA, Miami, and say, “Let’s keep buying real estate there.” If you haven’t already [invested in Israel] now, more than ever, we need your support.
So that’s how we’re moving things along. Next week we have a marketing event where a whole host of buyers and investors are coming in who will get to meet the developers and sales teams in person, and we’ll have a more “mechanics” presentation showing the options, various projects that we’re promoting, and get into a little discussion on the tax benefits and process itself. We’re hoping to generate sales, and through that, show our support.
What specific challenges have you faced setting up your operations in Israel during this period?
Other than the sentiment, there aren’t any [challenges]. While it seems incredibly awful if you’re just following social media and the news, the country is functioning. It’s a beautiful place. There are flights daily. We go and visit, and it’s generally safe, outside of the areas of conflict. For me, it’s not such a strange thing because I kind of grew up around that — war was constantly coming, every couple years or so. So for me, in some ways, it’s kind of a way of life, but I understand for others, it’s not a normal situation. And for the rest of the country, people have to continue to live.
The challenges are, we get a lot of negative social media any time we promote this, any time we post about it, any time we run campaigns. Dealing with the pushback would be a challenge. And some people say, “What are you crazy? Now? What are you doing?” But, what else can we do? It’s part of the story of survival. You have to fight it and fight for it when things are bad, not just when things are good. When things are good, it’s easy to push, it’s easy to sell. But when things are tough, when it’s complicated, is when you have to show up even more.
In addition to hosting these special sales events, what else do you do to keep the morale of your Tel Aviv team up right now?
It’s hard to explain the sentiment. [We] get on a Zoom call, and we’re talking about the next plan of action, how we’re going to execute this part of the marketing plan and so on, and 30 minutes into it, something pops up on the news and everyone’s energy changes. Ten minutes later, we’re sharing videos, messages, media links of the latest. So it certainly is very emotional; it fluctuates.
We have to carry on, so you go through it there during the moment when there’s a bombing or another event that’s newsworthy, and you have to turn it off an hour later and get back to work. So that’s what we try to do, is support each other with that energy when someone is down. The rest of the group will push them up and say, “OK, let’s get back to work, let’s focus and keep doing our mission.”
The way you support is by doing your job. The first week we were down there, a lot of our U.S. managers and top teams would come to my office and say, “Eddie, what can I do to help? What can I do to support?” and my message to them was, “Always do your part. Always do your job.”
There’s nothing you can do to change what’s happening; it’s bigger than all of us. The way that we can, is by doing our part to show up every day. By performing at your job, you’re making everyone’s lives better, easier. So that’s the message: We just have to carry on. But it does get emotionally, energetically challenging. I think it’s going to make all of us much stronger entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketers.
We just did a campaign with a well-known influencer that has become a huge personality, not only in Israel, but also in Italy, [the Israeli actor Moran Atias]. She agreed to help support the campaign. She’s done some social media marketing for us and it’s interesting to see that 60 percent of the comments on her campaigns are all just negative. It’s awful, but we asked her, “What do you think?” And she was like, “What do you mean? This is how we live.”
We said, “Does it ever bother you? Does it ever get to you?” and she said, “I’m numb to it. Just carry on with a positive message and move on.”
What excites you about the new development projects you’re promoting in Tel Aviv?
They’re some beautiful properties in one of the great cities of the world, all high-quality developments designed at the highest level. We’re excited to be a part of the continuous transformation. The client base, investors, it’s all interlinked with the real estate industry in New York and the UK. Real estate is in the Jewish DNA — it’s a big part of our story.
If you’re deeper into the community of developers and institutional investors and people who are behind some of the most spectacular projects anywhere — New York, London, anywhere around the world — a lot of it comes from [Israel], so it just completes a circle for us now to have a presence there as much as we do here. It all makes sense, not only sentimentally, but also from a business standpoint.
Nest Seekers International special sales events
New York: Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. ET and Jan. 26 at 12 p.m. ET at Nest Seekers International, 505 Park Ave., New York, New York
Miami: Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. ET at Nest Seekers International, 888 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida
Los Angeles: Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. PT at 271 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, California
RSVP to Shellyf@nestseekers.com.
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Email Lillian Dickerson