Tom Ripellino is the Founder and President of Metropolis Apartments. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and confirmed Newyorkophile for over 30 years, he has lived through many changes in the city and the Real Estate market.
“There isn’t a market condition that I have not seen at least a few times. Now when the market changes its déjà vu all over again. I can anticipate what is coming and know when it is time to switch gears”.
TR got an early start in the business growing up in Western New York.
“I started at around 12 years old, working for my father to maintain and manage his rental properties in the Buffalo area. I spent the summers of my youth renovating his houses and apartments. Not only did I get experience in maintenance and repairs, but in working with tenants as well”.
After graduating from NYU’s Stern Business School he traveled and worked abroad, including eight years in East Africa and a year selling Real Estate in Singapore. After returning to New York he worked as a floor trader on the COMEX exchange, trading precious metals options. But eventually he realized that his true passion was Real Estate.
“When you love this business you live it. I bought my first property in Manhattan back in 1993. It was a studio apartment on the Upper East Side which I eventually sold for a 333% profit. Not bad after realizing over a 20% annual Cap Rate on the rental for the 7 years that I held the property. Since that first transaction I have bought and sold many properties as an investor”.
In 1997 TR launched Metropolis Real Estate of Manhattan primarily working the hot rental market at the time.Within a few years Metropolis grew to over 60 agents working in the sales and rental divisions, occupying over 4000 square feet of office space in Midtown.
“We started out with far more self-assurance than experience, but we learned fast and survived those initial lean years. With few connections, breaking into the extremely tight Manhattan rental market was not easy. There was no internet and apartments would rent before they even hit the market. Our landlord contacts were few. Each listing had to be wrenched away from a larger, better connected competitor. We leap flogged from deal to deal and built our company from the ground up”.
In 2001, TR launched the Sales Division, focusing on Condo and Coop Sales, to ride the wave of the exploding market in NYC. In addition to hiring agents experienced in Condo and Coop sales, TR found it easy to train the existing team to transition from rentals to sales.
“In many ways the rental market is a more difficult environment than the sales market. Our rental agents found an easy transition to sales, especially as Buyer Agents. Their skill set for finding the right apartment in the cut-throat rental market well prepared them for the sales search process.”
Around 2001 TR bought his first investment property in Buffalo. Employing “fix and flip” or “buy and hold” strategies, he found a lucrative complement to operations in NYC.
“In the early 2000’s I bought my first rental property in Buffalo. The cash flow far exceeded what one could hope for in New York City. That one worked out so well I bought more. Once I set up a network of brokers, property managers, contractors, mortgage brokers, banks and attorneys—I began to offer my services to my investor clientele—which included many foreign investors.”
After the market “crash” of 2008, TR and his investors took advantage of unprecedented opportunities in Manhattan. Historically low purchase prices, relatively high rental prices and a well qualified tenant pool offered a profitable blend of opportunities at the time.
“With my experience in the rental market I was able to target the properties with the best potential for high rents and low vacancies. Once we made the deal I was able to manage the units and keep them rented for my clients.”
For the past 20 years TR has guided clients from around the world through investment property opportunities in New York City as well as upstate New York.
“Rather than broker a transaction and walk away with the commission I make sure that all the elements for success are in place from the outset and then I manage the investment for my clients. We are a soup to nuts operation. It is a formula that has proved to be a winner for everyone”.
TR launched Metropolis Apartments in 2014 in response to new opportunities in the industry brought on by technological innovations. Leveraging over 20 years of experience with technology enabled a leaner business model focused on customer service.
“By limiting our size I am free to do the job I love—transactional Real Estate. The agents on our team need little supervision, so I am able to oversee everyone’s activities without getting bogged down with minutiae. It is more collaboration than management”.
TR oversees the activities of his agents while representing long-standing clients in Manhattan. The investment properties in Buffalo continue to perform, not only cash flowing but enjoying capital appreciation, far exceeding original expectations.
“The future in New York Real Estate is bright. There is always a game to play. I plan to keep playing for many years to come.”