CRE Midwest

CBRE’s Zubel: A leader in Chicago’s industrial market


In late March, CBRE announced that Chris Zubel had been named managing director to oversee the firm’s Chicago industrial group. Zubel recently spoke to Illinois Real Estate Journal about his career and the Chicago industrial market.

In late March, CBRE announced that Chris Zubel had been named managing director to oversee the firm’s Chicago industrial group. Zubel recently spoke to Illinois Real Estate Journal about his career and the Chicago industrial market.

Here is some of what he had to say:

Illinois Real Estate Journal: How did you get your start in commercial real estate?

Chris Zubel: I started working for First Industrial Realty Trust based here in Chicago as part of their national account team where we were targeting the top 250 national users of industrial real estate.

IREJ: What will you be doing in this new position?

Zubel: In the new position I have responsibility for our industrial team here at CBRE in Chicago as well as our Schaumburg office.

IREJ: What do you enjoy most about this business?

Zubel: It’s a great business because you get to help clients, both on the agency as well as the user side, come up with mutually beneficial solutions for their businesses.

IREJ: What would you say is the most challenging part of succeeding in this business?

Zubel: The most challenging part of succeeding is it is highly competitive. You’re selling a service, and it’s competitive because there are a lot of people out there who are also very talented chasing the same transactions and the same relationships.

IREJ: What kind of personality traits do you have that have helped you succeed in this business?

Zubel: I think most of all I’m honest and I always put my clients’ and customers’ interests ahead of my own, which is really the only way to succeed long-term in this business. You need to be aggressive, have a lot of dedication and be really persistent.

IREJ: What about people who are new to the field, what advice would you give to them?

Zubel: My advice to people who are new in the business is to find a really good mentor who is willing to spend time with you and willing to teach you the ins and outs of the business.

IREJ: Have you had such a mentor in the past?

Zubel: I have had two. Mike Sedjo is one of them. He and I were partners for nine years. He is still at CBRE. And then Pat McCourt was one of my other mentors on the brokerage side.

IREJ: What led you to specialize in industrial real estate?

Zubel: My opportunity to get into real estate was First Industrial. There really wasn’t any true motivation to go into industrial at the time. But one of the things I really like about industrial real estate is each building and each transaction is really specific to a business’s needs. So there are certain functional attributes of buildings that work for some businesses that won’t work for others. It’s really tailoring the solution for a company to maximize their operational efficiency in the right type of building.

IREJ: How is the Chicago industrial market doing so far this year?

Zubel: Last year was a vast improvement over 2011, and I think we’re going to continue to see that in 2013. We see it across user groups. The logistics and transportation folks are very busy and very active. We’re seeing consumer products companies expanding. The food business continues to be a robust one, and we’re starting to see some manufacturing come back to the United States and specifically to Chicago.

IREJ: What are you foreseeing for the rest of the year?

Zubel: I think we’re going to see rates continue to slowly increase. There are a lot of users out on the market now looking to purchase buildings. There is a good deal of institutional capital that wants to buy portfolios of buildings. I think we’re also going to continue to see shrinking supply and elevated demand.

IREJ: What are some of the important economic factors that are determining demand?

Zubel: The housing market is always a big one as well as consumer spending. For users trying to buy buildings to occupy, interest rates are still at a historical low and banks are lending. People can get financing and they can get it for both capital equipment as well as buildings.

IREJ: Are there any other reasons to be optimistic about the rest of the year?

Zubel: One of the big ones is that Chicago typically trails the coastal markets by six to nine months. We’ve seen a great recovery in Houston, the Inland Empire in Los Angeles, New Jersey, Miami and Charleston. So any of the port cities have definitely seen a large uptick in activity, and generally we trail that by six to nine months.

IREJ: What other factors are going to determine success in the Chicago industrial market?

Zubel: The economy needs to continue to improve. The longer interest rates remain low, the more users can be looking to buy buildings. The nice thing about Chicago is that it has always been a core industrial market and the majority of large institutional owners is here and is going to want to be here.