Q & A with Walt Frazier III, Keller Williams broker and son of NBA great

<i>Frazier talks about how to score clients, his Chicago portfolio and why athletes could use better investing advice</i>

Sharing a name with your father might make it hard to climb out from under his shadow, especially if that shadow is huge, which is certainly the case with broker Walt Frazier.

His father, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, is the player who led the New York Knicks basketball team to its only two championships, in 1970 and 1973, and who currently provides in-game commentary for Knicks games on the MSG Network.

But Frazier isn’t complaining about being linked with his famous dad. In fact, since 2010, the pair has lived side-by-side in penthouses in a converted condominium in Harlem, at West 129th Street and Lenox Avenue. And a third next-door penthouse serves as an office for Walt Frazier Enterprises, which advises young deep-pocketed athletes how to invest well.

Frazier’s plan is to convince them to invest some of that money in real estate, which is why he recently joined Keller Williams’ new New York City office, after being with the firm in Chicago for the past five years. His five-person team, which is being assembled now, will target athletes looking to buy properties.

And while his father’s celebrity may have the clout to open doors, Frazier has a decent Rolodex of his own, too. A two-time all-Ivy League point guard at the University of Pennsylvania who later played pro in Europe, Frazier bought and renovated about two-dozen homes in Chicago in the last 15 years, many of which he later sold for sizeable profits.

In a conversation with The Real Deal, Walt, 44, talked about his development strategy, what a famous dad can do for you, and why homes are better than nightclubs as investments.

How did you end up in real estate?

My dad always had places [including in the Virgin Islands] and as a kid I would travel with my dad to look at different properties. I took a liking to seeing houses. My dad would always say, “Buy something you can see.” Real estate is a tangible investment. It’s something you can touch.

Professional athletes aren’t exactly known for making wise investments. How will you steer them differently?

There was an article a couple years ago in Sports Illustrated that said that 80 percent of players have no money five years after they retire. If you think of the dollars they are making today, you have to wonder, how would that happen?

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They often invest in nightclubs, which go belly up. If they get into something like real estate, that’s solid over time. And it’s good to get in when the market is slow. Values are down. There are foreclosures here and there. There are a lot of opportunities for investment or personal use. And with real estate, they can even refurbish the neighborhoods where they came from. A lot of them try to give back when they make it big. This is another avenue to do that.

Which clients have you lined up so far?

We have been having some conversations, talked to some guys, but no commitments yet. We are gearing up for this coming season, waiting for the NBA and NFL drafts for next year. We are also talking to people who are playing around the world, like in Puerto Rico [and] Dubai. Right now, they have a good opportunity to put some money away and come back ahead of the game.

How will you land clients?

You have to find some common ground. Sometime all it takes is just making a phone call, which some people are intimidated to do. Sometimes you just tell them what you do, and tell them that you are out there. Name recognition will open the door, but it’s up to you to come in and deliver. My dad’s brand is very strong, he’s been around for 40 years, and he’s done things the right way.

In your career in Chicago, you bought 20 homes, usually adding bedrooms to the attics and reselling them. You paid $52,000 for the first one in 1995, and sold it for $230,000 a decade later. What about rehabbing homes in Harlem the same way?

I think we would keep an eye on that for opportunities. People in Chicago used to ask me, “How do you decide which ones to buy?” and I would say, “If the numbers work.” That was my big strength, that knowledge, and knowing what was available, watching the prices and jumping very quickly. The competition level will go up in New York because of the demand. You really have to be sharp and stay on top of your game.

Another sports star, Emmitt Smith, is supposed to build a Hyatt near you, on 125th Street and Lenox Avenue. Thoughts about what he’s trying to do?

That would be great, because Harlem has a great presence internationally; a lot of people come to look at the history, but there’s no place to stay. It would be a great boon for Harlem.

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