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Three Brothers, One Industry: Colliers’ Brian, Greig and Brad Lagomarsino on Breaking Into and Growing in Commercial Real Estate

Colliers International, CBRE, JLL, Pacific Union
Image Courtesy of Ben Dutton

By Meghan Hall

Brian Lagomarsino

When Brian, Greig and Brad Lagomarsino first started their careers, the three brothers never anticipated ending up in the same industry, let alone the same firm. Now well-established and known throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, Brad is an executive vice president specializing in multifamily and is based in San Francisco. Greig works as an executive vice president in Colliers’ Oakland office, specializing in industrial, while Brian specializes in the office sector and is based in Pleasanton. The Registry recently spoke with the brothers on how they broke into the commercial real estate industry and their biggest takeaways when it comes to having family in the business.

Tell us about your upbringing; where did you grow up and did you ever think you would end up in the same industry?

Greig: We grew up in Sacramento, California and went to Sacred Heart Parish School then on to Jesuit High School. From there we went to different colleges. I studied political economy at UC Berkeley. Brad was an urban and regional planning major at USC and Brian was an English major at the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

I don’t think any of us ever thought we would return to Sacramento, but we had a strong connection to Northern California. 

Our father was an orthopedic surgeon and our mother stayed at home to raise the kids with an “iron fist.” We didn’t have any familial connections to commercial real estate when we were starting out. 

Brian: While we didn’t grow up directly around the business, our father’s friends were real estate developers so we had some exposure that way. 

How did you guys get into the business? Who got in first, and how did he persuade the others to follow?

Greig: Brad was the first. He’s the oldest. All of us are two years apart. 

Brad Lagomarsino

Brad: I enrolled in an internship for course credit while I was at USC at CBRE, working in the data bank for the downtown Los Angeles office. The following summer I had an internship in CBRE’s offices in Sacramento. After graduation I joined the CBRE Peninsula office and became an industrial broker in North San Mateo County.

Greig: And I followed Brad into the industry. I saw a lot of people at Berkeley including my friends enter the commercial real estate industry around the same time as Brad. It was clearly something that seemed appealing to others so I thought it might have the same appeal to me. 

Brian: For me, watching my brothers’ career paths was a motivator for me to get into the business. I was living in Berkeley while I was working at Greig’s office when he was at Cushman & Wakefield. I first started at Pacific Union in the Napa area. I had an opportunity to join Colliers when my mentor and partner, the late Ted Helgans gave me an opportunity to join his team. That’s how I ended up following my brothers. 

Greig: We owe everything to Brad. 

What made you think you could succeed? 

Brad: We owe much of our success to the way our parents raised us. Growing up, we were exposed to our father’s strong work ethic, and Mom was a huge driver in getting everyone moving in the right direction. 

Greig: Dad worked hard but had an incredible personality, as did our mom. Our upbringing really set us up for careers in real estate between our personalities and our interest in people and communicating. Just for context; Brad is the funniest, I’m the most serious and Brian is a combination of us. These traits in particular I think we got from our parents. 

How did you land in three different areas of industry? 

Greig Lagomarsino

Greig: Brad started in industrial in the San Francisco Peninsula and I soon followed the same path. Brad transitioned from industrial to multifamily as he was living in the City and wanted to focus on income properties versus leasing. 

Brad: Multifamily was a great place to land. It provided the opportunity to  consult with people who have a considerable amount of their net worth in real estate. Our clients are very engaged and it is rewarding to advise a client on bettering or simplifying their situation.

Greig: I thought it was a bad idea but it definitely worked out. 

Brian: I worked with Pacific Union in ’91, then left and worked in a few different sales positions before committing to real estate. The professional services audience seemed like a good entryway into office. Having worked with some of these companies previously, I could leverage my existing relationships or ask for introductions from some of my contacts. The Pleasanton office specializes in office, so this helped as well. 

Greig: Industrial is steady and it hasn’t had huge swings over time. I would say having strong mentors and good partnerships have been important to developing my specialty in industrial. I know my brothers have had these relationships throughout their careers too. I’ve always felt that industrial has always been my niche. 

How did you end up at Colliers? 

Brad: Greig was first. 

Greig: I started my career in commercial real estate at Cushman & Wakefield. I was given the opportunity to build the Oakland industrial business at Colliers, which didn’t exist at the time, and that is how I ended up at the firm. At the time, Colliers was smaller so it was (and still continues to be) an opportunity to be more entrepreneurial and less bureaucratic. It has been great to witness the tremendous growth of Colliers across the Bay Area. 

Brian: I returned to the real estate industry in early ’02. I interviewed with several firms in the East Bay but thanks to a recommendation from Greig, I joined a superior team at Colliers.  

Greig: You’re welcome.

Brad: And I was at Marcus & Millichap with my partner, James Devincenti prior to Colliers. The firm and Greig recruited us. We eventually signed and came over six and half years ago to start the multifamily practice. It’s expanded tremendously since then and has become a big and lucrative part of our business in San Francisco. 

Was it the competitive nature of you as brothers?/Are you competitive? 

Greig: Hell yes. Rankings are checked daily. No, in all seriousness there is no real competition. We are competitive people, but not with each other. 

Brad: We actually hear more about each other reading business and industry publications. We rarely talk work when we see each other.

What’s the best and worst thing about having family in the business?

Brad: Greig. I’ve gotten a lot of leads from him and sold a building to him. Nothing has come from Brian, though. *laughs* Honestly, there’s no downside to having family in the business with you. 

Brian: The name recognition helps even though we specialize in different areas of the business. Clients that know Greig or Brad have helped open the door for me. 

2020 will likely be a year we will all want to forget. What should we look forward to in the remainder of the year, and what are some key items to look out for in 2021?

Brad: Our team has been fortunate and active; quality assets have continued to transact during the crisis. The biggest challenge with the multi-family market is the things that you can’t control.  There are significant ballot measures being voted on in November that could negatively impact value and curtail investment. The dramatic rise in vacancy and downward  pressure on rental rates are temporary.  I am confident that with favorable election results and a COVID-19 vaccine we will start to see San Francisco recover and return to be the vibrant and dynamic city it is known to be. I see things returning to whatever the “new normal” looks like by late 2021. 

Greig: I have a lot of customers thriving in this environment with demands driven by ecommerce and last mile distribution. In this latest cycle, leasing was happening faster than new construction deliveries. We’ve seen this trend temper some. When the pandemic is behind us I have no doubt that things will move forward. Oakland is the center of the industrial market for the East Bay and we are servicing an enormous population. There are lots of people, companies and innovation happening in this region, and always have been. Moving forward, it will be tough to discount that, so I think California’s industrial market will continue to do very well, as well as other segments of the industry. 

Brian: There’s no disputing that this is a really difficult time. Some counties are shut down, but there are deals transacting. For now, people are waiting for operations to normalize. 

I anticipate that office will hit its stride again. There is some speculation that suburban markets will benefit from COVID, meaning central business districts will spread to suburban markets, but this has yet to be seen. At this point, it’s a tactic of control and convenience. We have a short memory. Once the pandemic is over, there will be a return to office and an interest in investing in this area. This sector has been hit the hardest, but that will change quickly once health and safety guidelines and comfort levels ease.  

The urban to suburban trend is playing out with regional offices offering support to employees based in suburban markets via flexible workspace or other rented space. I’m not sure if there will be full scale relocations but surmise that lease renewals will be a factor in this shift. 

Greig: I do miss being in the office and not having the opportunity to collaborate and meet with colleagues. This is something that certainly can’t be replaced. Young people will want this opportunity especially and need it more than ever. 

Brian: My son graduated recently and started his first job. Right now he’s working from home and can’t wait to get into an office. I think young people are accepting that their learning curve will be much slower without having a dedicated office space. 

What are the biggest lessons that we’re learning today that will help us understand the market going forward?

Brad: The COVID “shelter in place” has gone on far longer than I ever imagined.  The effect on the market has been quick and dramatic but staying committed to our daily routine has paid dividends. Those who do not panic but remain patient will be rewarded.

Greig: I agree. Now is the time clients need to hear from us most. We’re giving them timely information so they can weigh their options and make decisions, if necessary. Our clients are relying on their brokers to know what changes are happening in the market and how their assets are being affected. They also expect us to respond promptly while providing excellent service.  

Brian: There are so many unknowns. I would add that keeping clients updated on the latest market activities and apprised of what others are experiencing has been an interesting learning. It helps them stay calm and focused. Also during this time, strategizing has been especially critical. 

If a young broker were entering the market today, what advice would give her/him?

Brad: Getting a brokerage position may be tough at this point, but a young broker should commit to out-working everybody in his office or on his team. If a young broker embraces cold-calling, network  building, understands how to communicate their value and enjoys creating relationships, success will follow.  A challenging market is the best time to develop discipline and hone these tools. 

Brian: It’s a difficult time to get into the industry, but if you can make it through and withstand the downturn, you will be better prepared than brokers that have never experienced something like this before. Office will be especially hard, but it can’t get worse than it is now.