CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: Chicago Is His Kind of Town

Multifamily investment broker Joe Smazal is a true market specialist.

Joe Smazal, 32

Senior Managing Partner, Interra Realty

Joe Smazal moved to Chicago in 2009 and spent the last five at Interra Realty where he handles multifamily investment sales. Image courtesy of Interra Realty
Joe Smazal moved to Chicago in 2009 and spent the last five at Interra Realty where he handles multifamily investment sales. Image courtesy of Interra Realty

Multifamily investment broker Joe Smazal is a true market specialist. With most of his deals occurring on Chicago’s north and northwest sides and in and around the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood, he sold more than $100 million worth of real estate last year and, according to CoStar, more $1 million-plus Chicago multifamily deals than any other broker.

This was by far his best year in a career that has included more than $300 million in transactions since 2012.

Smazal learned very early on about the hard work and discipline needed to run a business from his entrepreneur father. But it was his uncle Jim Lorenzen, president & founder of Cornerstone Apartments, that really coached him in the business. “My uncle is really who I used as a sounding board to get into real estate, and he taught me what to expect, the good and the bad in the business,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Iowa in 2009, Smazal took a job in medical sales, a field he had been close to, as several of his family members are clinicians. The job brought him to Chicago, where he switched to real estate, having decided medical equipment sales was not what he had envisioned for himself in the long run.

“I was in my mid-20s, and it really looked to me like a low-overhead way to start my own business. You’re within a bigger firm, so you have the training and the support, but I still look at it as my business—a business within a business,” Smazal said.

The transition to a commission-only job turned out to be an inspired first move toward a successful real estate career. The second was putting in the time and work, and the third was joining Interra in 2014, after nearly three years at Marcus & Millichap.

Biggest Mentors: James Clough, managing partner at Interra Realty, as well as company founders David Goss and Jon Morgan, in addition to his father and uncle. “On a deal-specific basis, whether it’s dealing with an issue or a strategy thing and overall business planning, I still look for mentorship,” Smazal said.

What His Clients Say About Him: “Working with Joe is a pleasure. He is always open and honest with me, whether on the buy or sell side. And I never have a concern about his integrity. Furthermore, whether he is in the position to earn a fee or not, he gives my interests his consideration as a consultant or confidant, and I value his feedback,” said Michael Daniels, COO of Cagan Management Group.
Smazal met Daniels in 2012, while he was cold calling for his first listing. That led to Smazal’s first closing. “Since then, we’ve done 18 deals together, on a mix of his acquisitions and dispositions,” he said of his client.

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.