Related Group vice president Jon Paul Perez, son of Related founder Jorge Perez, was drawn to the family business at an early age.
Perez, 29, observed the role his father’s company played in transforming Miami before and during his college years. The 2007 University of Miami graduate lived at Related’s One Miami complex in Downtown when the condo construction frenzy created the urban housing stock needed to draw young professionals to the area.
After graduating, Perez spent five years in New York working for the Related Cos., the parent of Related Group. He got a crash course in financial modeling, construction management and project design. Now back in Miami, Perez is overseeing Related projects throughout South Florida and traveling to India to check in on the company’s developments there. He is also pursuing an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Perez is one of 10 up-and-comers in the region’s 35-and-under crop featured in The Real Deal’s latest South Florida Market Report. He spoke to TRD about making his own name in the real estate world, Related’s experiences in India and whether he shares his father’s passion for art.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Was your dad able to get you interested in real estate as a child, or did you develop a passion for it later on?
As a young kid, I was always exposed to real estate and all the projects he was doing. On the weekends, we would visit my father’s sales centers and leasing offices. From the beginning, it grabbed my interest. Through high school and college, instead of interning somewhere else I was always involved in the company. It was something I always enjoyed. My father never forced anything. His approach was to do anything that makes you happy. I was always interested in the finance [side of real estate].
The best part about having my father here is whenever I have an idea or suggestion I can always bounce them off him. But as part of a younger generation, what I add is knowledge about what newer technology or amenities people my age and other young professionals want nowadays. I look at how to bridge the older generation with the newer buildings being developed. With our generation, everyone wants to have a ‘smart house’ with one little iPad that can control the lights, TV and [air conditioning].
What did you learn from five years working for Related Cos. in New York?
When I graduated from UM, I went to New York as sort of a blank slate. I was fresh and ready to be trained. My biggest mentor was Bruce Beal, the president of Related. He’s a very hard-working person, very smart and very good at negotiating. He understands construction and finance and took me under his wing and taught me the numbers side [of the business]. It was an eye-opening experience. I was Jorge’s son but I was not treated like that in New York. That was the best thing for me.
In New York everyone works from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night. It made me understand what hard work is. When I moved there in 2007, everything was still good. Then all of a sudden the crash showed me the good times and bad times in the real estate world. I got into the acquisitions side, looked at distressed properties. It gave me an opportunity to see not just development, but the other side of the business.
What has the experience of developing in India been like for you and the company?
In 2010, we created a company in India that builds middle-income housing. We have about 4 million square feet either under development or in the planning stages. My role there is to sit on the board with my father. We go there a couple times a year to monitor the investments and bring in the western architecture and interior designers we use over here and help with the marketing brochures. We’re trying to give the Indian people better product than what is currently offered. The stuff there sells for $80,000-to-$150,000 a unit. It’s not luxury. It’s not five-star.
There is a lot of poverty over there. It’s very apparent and in your face. It’s a different culture than what we are used to. People there always say a different holiday is coming up so stuff doesn’t get done. It’s a corrupt market, so you have to be careful about who you partner with. In the U.S. it’s very schedule oriented. We get a project and take [a fixed] amount of time for approvals, then start sales, etc. Over there, it’s very hard to stay on those schedules. You’re always dealing with a person who is not used to the way you do business. It’s a challenge to go into international markets. You have to adapt to their culture and at the same time put pressure on them.
Your father’s ties to the art world are well documented. Have you inherited his enthusiasm for collecting pieces?
I’ve been dabbling in art so far and developing my own taste, which is more about modern and street art. So I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near as passionate as he is. With art, it’s about what you like. It’s very personal and subjective. So I’m not a crazy art person, but there is that little side of me coming out.