Bruce Zipf, chief executive officer and president of NRT, is a real numbers plumber with roots in accounting and today part of a real estate brokerage company that clocked $204 billion in closed sales volume for 2004.
Zipf, who took the reins of NRT in 2005, is charged with guiding the company’s strategic direction, including finance, acquisitions, marketing, legal and human resources functions.
NRT operates under the banners of Coldwell Banker, ERA and Sotheby’s International Realty nationally, as well as The Corcoran Group in New York City, the Hamptons, and Palm Beach, and The Sunshine Group in New York City and in Palm Beach.
“NRT was built on the premise of associating with the best of the best of real estate companies in major metropolitan markets,” Zipf explained. “We associate with firms in a regional location and we can merge and leverage the assets of each of these companies and the result is that one plus one doesn’t equal two but equals four.”
“If you look at the model that NRT was built on, we have real estate brokerage, a mortgage joint venture, title, relocation services, luxury home marketing. If you think of all the gamuts in real estate, we are a player in each of those dynamics,” he said.
Prior to assuming his current role, Zipf held the role of NRT’s president and chief operating officer, where he was responsible for the business operations and day-to-day responsibilities of NRT’s local operating companies. Zipf also previously served as executive vice president, chief administrative officer and senior vice president for NRT, and as president of NRT’s New York metro region for four years.
Prior to entering the real estate industry, Zipf was in public accounting and was senior audit manager for Ernst and Young, where he served a variety of Fortune 500 companies.
Bob Becker, chairman emeritus for NRT, was most recently the chairman and CEO for NRT before Zipf assumed the role. He speaks highly of his colleague, saying “he is smart and works very hard… he is a good person and that comes across to everyone who works with him.”
Zipf worked for Becker for 20 years, starting as the auditor at Coldwell Banker Schlott and then as chief financial officer. “He doesn’t get flustered and he is able to juggle many plates…When I took over as president in the early ’90s, I brought him on board. He was very involved and had a great rapport with our senior management people. When I became president of Coldwell Banker, I made him president of Coldwell Banker Schlott.”
“He has a calming way about him that commands respect. There are many decent people but he really stands out,” he added.
Cendant recently announced a major restructuring, which Zipf said will not create major changes in the real estate division.
“The break-up of Cendant on our firm will be minimal,” Zipf said. “Cendant was made up of several divisions and we were part of the real estate division. We will be part of the new real estate firm, to be named. If you look at the new firm going forward it is the same as the real estate division that exists today. Our chairman, Richard Smith, will continue in his present position. And the business unit heads, myself and my three peers, will also continue in place.”
Zipf also commented on everyone’s favorite topic, the real estate “bubble,” saying there will be no bursting in this market.
“If you look at real estate in the last 50 years, even during the worst recessions, real estate has always increased in price. There have been regional adjustments. The hurricanes that hit Florida in the past two years have caused an adjustment, but that didn’t have an impact on New York or California real estate,” he said.
“People need to have a roof over their heads,” he added. “The demographic data in the next five years supports the demand for housing. Will there be price adjustments in select markets? Yes. After the horrific events of September 11, 2001, we saw adjustments, followed by a rebound that came back with a vengeance. I believe through 2011 to 2012, the demand for real estate will be very strong.”
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