Rafael Mendez | Orlando Expansion

November 09, 2022   |   Podcast

Inspired by his uncle, Rafael Mendez worked his way from residential real estate to Certified Commercial Investment Member and is now the Managing Director of SVN | SRD Orlando.

The newly appointed Managing Director of our Orlando office, Rafael Mendez, CCIM did not always plan on choosing commercial real estate as the career that would guide his success. In this episode, Rafael discusses his complex journey into real estate as well as future plans for the Orlando market.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Listen above for the full podcast.


What led you into commercial real estate? I didn’t see myself in real estate when I was getting ready to start a career, but I ended up here through talking with family. My uncle was very pivotal in helping me get into real estate. He started out in property management, but over time, he started getting involved in deals and buying through sweat equity. 

Slowly, he bought out his partners and started building his portfolio. When I was getting ready to get into real estate, he was somebody that I leaned into. I started off doing residential, but eventually started doing more and more commercial deals. I did industrial, office, retail, all the food groups in real estate. Now here I am with SVN and getting ready to kick things off in a big way in Orlando.

Residential vs. Commercial Real Estate. It's a different mindset. Different clients that you've got to work with, but I've just always managed businesses. When I was doing massage therapy in the health industry, I was managing the spas, managing different practices, and building those teams. That lends to why I'm moving into the position I am now. When I got into residential, the biggest challenge was that I was used to dealing with businesses. When you're dealing with residential, it's all personal. It just wasn't for me.

Now, I mainly stick to industrial and office. Within the office sector, I tend to work more with attorneys, accountants, or private practice medical.

Why did you choose industrial? [The clients] tend to be very practical and logical. “Is it going to work or is it not going to work? Does this box fit our needs?” If it doesn't, let's just move on to the next one. They tend to be a lot easier

Have you ever sold special-use properties? I've done special uses for churches and daycares and it's pretty interesting. I’ve sold a couple of those businesses as well. It's always fun when you see them rebranding and then selling.

Have you ever worked in Business Brokerage? I was with the BBF previously. That’s the Business Brokerage of Florida and it’s the association for business brokers. It's interesting because out of 100 businesses that go live every so often, probably less than 20 sell every year. For only 20%, it's a tough business.

Why open an office in Orlando? I joined the firm last year and I wasn't anticipating being in this position, but I kept asking when we were going to put an office in Orlando. I was knocking on [Jonathan Barrera]'s door all the time and sending him emails. Eventually he asked, “Well, how about you take on this role and lead us?” I'm excited for that future. We're located downtown, right across from Lake Eola. It's a great location. We're right with the other large brokerages out there. We're elbow-to-elbow with everybody.

It's going to be exciting. We're looking to take off running over there, working with advisors that are mid-tier as well as newer advisors. It's going to be an exciting time building that office.

Have you brought on any advisors yet? We have started to bring on several advisors and some of them are newer to the business. We're also in the process of interviewing advisors that have done incredible amounts of business as brokers in the past and we’re getting ready to crush it. 

Why choose SVN | SRD? SVN had this presence of a fresh brand that has a lot of resources. You could compete with the best-of-the-best out there, yet we didn't have that presence [in Orlando]. One thing that was expressed to me for the next 5-10 years, was to really bring that [SVN] brand, but also the Saunders Ralston Dantzler feel. While the Lakeland folks are crushing it in land, that'll be our right hook for the commercial district. Just looking to take over and explode.

When I was making a decision to come here, there was just something that clicked when I met Gary [Ralston], Dean [Saunders], Todd [Dantzler], and Jonathan [Barreras], it just felt like family. To be part of bringing that to Orlando, that's going to be just tremendous. I look forward to the opportunity of crushing it.

Gary's definitely well known in Orlando. Some of the listings that I've won, the clients knew Gary, Todd, or Dean and they automatically felt that they were in good hands.

What are some of your goals for Orlando? We're looking more to have quality versus quantity. People that are going to not only produce, but produce business the right way. That is a big part of our company standards here. We definitely want to bring that reputation [to Orlando] because we've got some power hitters that stand firm in that business.

I think with our team here, we strive to know what we're talking about. Part of our training, especially for newer advisors, is you need to know your market and your audience. Who are you going after? You've got to know who you're speaking to. We're not going to just push advisors out there. When you come talk to us, you know you're talking to somebody that has the answer or is working closely with somebody that has the answer.

What's going on in the Orange County market? There's a ton of track homes going up in Clermont. When I moved there in 2001, I used to hear stories like, “that used to be a cow pasture” and “that was an orange grove”.

One of the trends that we've seen is that a lot of downtown office space has been vacated, but with the influx of people into Central Florida, we are also seeing office spaces being absorbed. So, offices are weakest, but everything else is on fire. The minute a multifamily deal comes on the market, it's gone. Sometimes even before it hits marketing. In industrial, you can't find anything and you're lucky if you can find something that lasts two days on the market. Hospitality took a hit but ever since our state leadership has allowed for businesses to be in business, we've been doing good. Orange County is where it's at.

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