Atlanta’s No. 1 Broker Bought Homes for Big Investors From 600 Miles Away

Atlanta’s most efficient residential real estate agent lives in Florida. He hadn’t set foot in Georgia in two years, and he saw no reason why he should.

AJ Steigman runs his own real estate brokerage from his home in Parkland, Fla. From 600 miles away, he’s bought or rented more than 300 homes totaling more than $86 million, according to the Atlanta Association of Realtors. That was the most combined sales and rentals in the Atlanta metro area for any broker last year, the group said.

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While his Atlanta rivals shuttle between home shows and factory “For Sale” signs in front of the lawns, Mr. Steigman’s client base consists entirely of investors. organization, he said. He has no employees but relies on a $20,000 laptop and a proprietary software system to buy single-family homes on behalf of his clients, renting them out to take advantage of the low prices. super high rent.

Mr. Steigman said: “I come into a very classical and regulated industry, and I am very analytical and quantitative.

Based on an average sales commission of 2.5% to 3%, Mr. Steigman will earn more than $2 million in 2021 from deals.

His success is another sign that big investors are flexing their muscles in some of the country’s hottest housing markets, where they compete with traditional homebuyers, who do not have the same financial range and the ability to close quickly. Many in Atlanta are increasingly concerned about investors removing the number of homes available to regular buyers.

Home prices in Atlanta have increased more than 49% over the past five years.


Photo:

Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg News

The major investment firms say their rentals enable families to live in desirable neighborhoods with good schools, in homes whose current selling prices are too high for many first-time buyers. head.

Home purchases by investors large and small accounted for more than 18 percent of home sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to real estate firm Redfin..

But their presence was even more pronounced in the metro Atlanta area, where Redfin said investors bought one in three homes sold there during the same period.

Home prices in Atlanta have increased more than 49% over the past five years and 24% in the 12 months ending February 2022, housing data company CoreLogic said. Rents are also rising rapidly, and rental companies are convinced that high house prices and low inventories will make the majority of the middle class rent instead of buy.

Some investors turned to Mr. Steigman, a 36-year-old former chess prodigy who founded a sneakers startup and worked in investment banking before moving into real estate. He is also helping investors buy homes in Pennsylvania and Florida and said he has sold a total of $130 million worth of homes across Georgia and those two states. He has a broker’s license to operate in all three states.

Mr. Steigman said he is popular with home sellers and their agents, who are often happy to sell to companies that pay cash. “There are people who value immediacy and security,” he said.

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AJ Steigman shows off a photo of himself, in the foreground, with the US Chess team in 1994.

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Steigman’s chess feats, of Parkland, Fla., in one of his home offices.

He and his investors declined to name any of his clients, citing confidentiality agreements. Public purchase and sale filings show one is LaSalle Investment Management, a Chicago-based real estate firm that manages a $77 billion portfolio. Steigman brokered LaSalle’s purchase of a three-bedroom home in Stone Mountain, Ga., for $220,000 in December, according to public records.

Mr. Steigman declined to disclose details of his sales process, other than saying he relies on a system he built and calls “Steignet”, a reference to Skynet, the menacing artificial intelligence network. depicted in the “Terminator” series. His company is called Steignet LLC.

He started building the system in 2017, as part of an accelerator program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He coined this concept as the “Bloomberg Terminal for Residential Real Estate” that can analyze large data sets and identify the best homes for investors.

Mr. Steigman said his goal is to identify qualified homes, underwrite deals and close deals faster than other real estate brokers. He compares it to a supercomputer that plays chess over thousands of matches, playing through all possible scenarios to make the right moves.

Some investors in Mr. Steigman’s company said they had absolutely no idea how the process worked. “There is always a gray box element to this,” said Rama Subramaniam, a partner at Wall Street trading firm Global Trading Systems LLC who has independently invested in Steignet. “We look at the results.”

Other investors in his company include Bruce Chizen, a former Adobe executive Inc.

and professional chess player Hikaru Nakamura, currently number 11 in the world.

Working remotely from Florida was not Mr. Steigman’s original plan. He owned a house and kept an office in Atlanta, where he attended college. But when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, he moved back to his hometown in Florida for health reasons, he said.

When he went to Atlanta to accept the top agent award at the Atlanta Association of Realtors’ annual gala, there were a lot of people there who knew nothing about him.

“People ask, ‘Who is that? Karen Hatcher, president of the trade group, said.

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Mr. Steigman was Atlanta’s top residential real estate agent last year, even though he lives and works from Florida.

Write letter for Will Parker at will.parker@wsj.com

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Edmund DeMarche

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