Meet Jacob Sudhoff, Houston's Condo Ambassador
Q&A BY PAUL TAKAHASHI firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacob Sudhoff began his real estate career when he was just 16 years old, helping a Realtor sell homes in his hometown of Corpus Christi.
Today, the founder and CEO of Houston-based Sudhoff is the king of Houston condominiums.
After helping Pelican Builders Inc. sell through Highland Tower, a 16-story, 93-unit luxury condo tower, during the Great Recession, Sudhoff helped Interfin Cos. develop Belfiore, a 26-story, 46-unit luxury condo tower in Uptown. Soon thereafter, Sudhoff began partnering with condo developers on more and more projects.
Sudhoff, a development services company, is currently working on nine condo projects across the Bayou City, including Giorgetti Houston, the city’s first luxury branded condo.
“Condos, that’s our specialty,” Sudhoff said. “That’s our niche.”
The Houston Business Journal sat down with Sudhoff to find out how he became the ambassador for Houston condos.
How did you get into real estate? I have always loved real estate. When I was a kid growing up in Corpus Christi, I used to ride around the neighborhood on my bike and go to all the open houses. When I was 16, I started helping a local Realtor sell luxury homes. Back then, there were real estate books with all the listings. I had a photographic memory, so I memorized the listings. I did real estate as a work program in high school and when I turned 18, I got my real estate license. At the time, in 1998, I was the youngest Realtor in Texas and was featured in Texas Monthly. Four years later, at the age of 22, I started my own brokerage.
How did you end up moving to Houston? I moved to Houston in 2010. We were killed in the Corpus Christi market in 2009. I felt it was my opportunity with the market being down to go to a bigger market and build from scratch. I visited a lot of cities and met with a lot of brokers. I looked at Dallas, Houston, New York, Miami and Atlanta. I chose Houston because it was the most inviting place and the easiest place to penetrate the market.
What about Houston attracted you specifically? This city gives everyone an opportunity. You just have to prove yourself. I came here practically with nothing. I was in town for less than a week, but I found myself in Dan Duncan’s living room. I was introduced to some of the wealthiest and powerful families in Houston, like the Cullen family. Everyone was so accommodating. The people here are what makes this city different. In my seven years here, I was only asked once who my dad was. It’s an open-door policy. I believe that this is a city of opportunity and you just have to ask.
How did you break into Houston real estate? Rohe & Wright Builders was under construction on some patio homes near Rice University when the bank called the note in 2010. I wanted the listings. They told me, “You get me an investor and I can give you the listings.” So, I took the deal to my business partner, George Lee, who bought the note from the bank and partnered with Rohe & Wright to finish the project. For brokering that, I got the listing. That was my payment.
You’re now helping to develop nine luxury condo projects across Houston. Why did you decide to get into the condo market? Selling a four-story townhome for $2.5 million used to be our bread and butter. But about five years ago, we began to hear from buyers and prospects in the market the need for a lock-and-leave, single-floor living. I realized if people could live on one story, it would be in demand. We took all the objections to a condo and came up with solutions: low homeowners association fee, outdoor kitchen, larger units, dog and pet friendly. Our buyers, mostly Baby Boomers who are downsizing, they don’t need as much space in their home but they want nicer goods and finishes.
Houston, unlike other cities like New York or Miami, isn’t known for condos. Is that changing? Condos of past are different than condos of today. As we start to deliver these new types of condos and people see it and walk it and live it, I feel it’s only going to make the market deeper. They’re going to see a lifestyle they’ve never seen before. This is just the beginning. Condos will become something that is much more in demand. Right now, Houston needs more condos. I will be sold out of most of my condo inventory by the first quarter.
You’re working on Giorgetti Houston, the first luxury branded condo project in Houston. How did you get the high-end Italian furniture maker to come to the Bayou City? My husband, Jerry Hooker, and I fell in love with one of Giorgetti’s chairs, the Progetti chair. We just appreciated the design and attention to detail in their products. We got introduced to a local dealer in Houston and found out that Giorgetti was launching a kitchen line. That’s when we decided we have to do a Giorgetti condo. We broached the idea to their North America rep, who called us three weeks later on a Tuesday and asked us if we could come up to New York that Thursday. We said, “Sure,” and we met with the CEO Giovanni del Vecchio, who used to be with Prada. We presented our idea, and he took a large leap of faith with us. We’ve pre-sold about 45 percent of the units in Giorgetti Houston, and we hope to start construction by the end of the year.
What’s next for Sudhoff? Some people think I’m still a traditional Realtor and ask if I can show them a house this weekend. I’ve evolved. Sudhoff, my company, has evolved. Although we started as a brokerage, we’ve evolved into a development services company. We’re not the developer, but we partner with developers, investors, brokers and landowners and provide them with a slew of services to help them develop projects. With our partners — architect Mirador Group and private equity firm Acacia Tree — we help developers develop. We can design and paper develop new projects, we can help with the equity and help people source the debt, we can work with commercial brokers to underwrite a potential deal, and we can source materials and finishes. As a developer or builder poses issues, we provide solutions. We’re expanding, working on multifamily, hospitality and mixed-use products not just in Houston but Austin and Dallas as well. At the end of the day, we want to get that project up.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Founder and CEO of Houston-based Sudhoff
Hometown: Born in Florida, but raised in Corpus Christi
Education: Mary Carroll High School in Corpus Christi
Family: Husband, Jerry Hooker. They plan to have their first child soon.
First job: Helping a Corpus Christi Realtor sell luxury homes
Favorite hobby: Traveling
Current condo projects: Giorgetti Houston, The Wilshire at River Oaks District, The River Oaks, The Revere, Mimosa Terrace, The Sophie at Bayou Bend, The Mondrian at The Museums, Moderne Rice Village and Mandell Montrose