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The Real Estate Philosopher

The Real Estate Philosopher Has a Thought About the Coronavirus

Mar 16, 2020

This is a very short article.  This is advice from someone who has been around the real estate world for getting on close to forty years now.  During that time I have seen booms and busts.  The tech bubble bursting.  The Russian debt crisis.  9/11.  Hurricanes.  The Global Financial Crisis.  And so much more. 

The markets go up and they go down, as we all know.  And when they go down sometimes they go down with vicious force.
Sometimes these are purely economic events – like the Global Financial Crisis – and sometimes they also put our health and safety and even lives at risk – like 9/11, hurricanes and this terrible coronavirus.

It is during those times that we are truly tested, and I don’t mean just economically tested, I also mean reputationally tested.

This is when we learn who are men and women of honor – and who are not.  Those who stand by doing the right thing with integrity – and those who care for little but self-aggrandizement and short-term opportunism.

And our behavior during trying times is much more meaningful than our behavior in good times.  Indeed, I have an informal saying that I made up – admittedly not as pithy as if, say, Churchill had coined it:

“Anyone can be a person of honor when times are good – it is when there is blood in the streets that the real honor of a person is proved.”

in this respect, I am mindful that our actions today will be reviewed by others, not only today, but in years to come. 

I have a – new – client – a major player in NYC real estate – whose CEO said to me at our first meeting:

           “Bruce, our reputation is everything.”

Then at our second meeting, different people from this same client said to me:

           “Bruce, our reputation is everything.”

And you know what they said at our third meeting?  Yes, you are right, they said:

            “Bruce, our reputation is everything.”

I have another client whose mission statement is:

             “Do the right thing.”

And I have another client – that I have represented for close to 25 years now  – which during its entire now 30 year existence has a perfect – yes perfect – track record of universally honest and honorable behavior.  They started their organization with that devotion to honor and integrity and have never swerved from it.

Indeed, I am proud to say that all of our clients are good people who care about their reputations.  I like to think it is because we have the same values as these clients, so we naturally gravitate to each other. 

My favorite saying is:

            “Do the right thing even when it hurts.”

Which is one of our core values.

So, I only have one piece of advice to the members of the real estate community – including myself – which is to keep all of this in mind as we all make decisions to try and navigate the current market situations.

Finally, my best wishes go out to everyone and their families.  I hope you are okay and, if not okay right now, I hope that you will be okay shortly.  It is a scary time for us all but I am optimistic that at some point – and I hope it is soon – we will come through this and emerge stronger for it.

Best to all – and stay safe.
Bruce M. Stachenfeld
a.k.a. The Real Estate Philosopher®

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As the Chairman of Duval & Stachenfeld – a law firm in mid-town NYC known as The Pure Play in Real Estate Law – I am inviting you to join The Real Estate Philosopher™. This will consist of my thoughts and also thoughts of friends and colleagues.

It will not be published in any traditional media – it will go only to friends of our firm. The purpose here is very simple – to put forth thoughts in the real estate world that are different, provocative, and challenging of accepted wisdom. Hopefully, nothing said here will be mainstream thinking.

You may be wondering how I am qualified to write on these topics since I am “just” a lawyer. However, I have an unusual place in the real estate world. As the Chairman of The Pure Play in Real Estate Law (one of the largest real estate law practices in NYC), I interact with an incredible number of real estate players. This ranges from small real estate shops with nothing but a gleam in their eyes, to some of the largest real estate institutions in the world, and everything in between. This gives me a unique and global perspective and allows me to act as an amateur philosopher in the real estate world. This has always been my hobby and it is what I love doing.


Bruce Stachenfeld
a.k.a The Real Estate Philosopher™

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