Families in RE: Bred Into the Business

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By Suzanne Heyn

In June 2007, a month before Arizona’s real estate market crumbled, multifamily real estate veteran Cindy Cooke, along with her son and business partner Brad, were working feverishly to close the biggest multifamily deal in state history. Owned by The Bascom Group, the $427.5 million portfolio included 5,172 units in 12 buildings.

Cindy and Brad’s trademark work ethic was put to use.

The buyer was a morning person and the seller a night person, making 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. business calls and emails common. After a swift 67 days, the deal closed. The news reached Cindy at the airport, who was waiting for confirmation before boarding a plane to Las Vegas to work the next deal.

“I work too hard,” Cindy admitted. “I know I do.” But the relentless Cooke family work ethic has made this mother/son duo at Colliers International in Greater Phoenix rank top among the nation’s multifamily real estate teams.

Cindy entered the industry in 1982, working in multifamily from the start. A single mom, Cindy didn’t have the option to fail. She maximized her time, bringing then 8-year-old Brad to the office and on business dinners when appropriate. “She grew her career and she grew me at the same time,” he said.

Cindy and Brad Cooke
Cindy and Brad Cooke

“My parents instilled in me that I could do anything I set my mind to, so long as I gave it my best effort and never quit,” said Cindy. This proved to be a great recipe for success in real estate. She knew instinctively how to put deals together. “I think it was being young, determined and hardworking and caring about the client and their goals…then forming a strategy to make it happen.”

Brad listened and learned from his mom. “I got to see the pros and cons of the business at a very early age,” he said. “I was just born into it.” Still, he didn’t think he’d enter multifamily real estate as a career.

Instead, in 2002, Brad started working as an office leasing agent. Phoenix’s real estate market began to boom, and he owned his own business spec building luxury homes and buying and selling houses as investments for a few years until the market softened.

Around 2006, Cindy was eating dinner with her mother, who also works in real estate, talking about how she needed a partner. Someone she could trust and who wouldn’t need a lot of training.

“My grandma said, ‘Well, why don’t you talk to Brad?’” Brad recalled. With several years of experience running his own real estate company, he had the requisite industry knowledge. And as Cindy’s son, he knew her high expectations.

The two began working together and months later, closed the historic 2007 Bascom deal. The two complement each other. Brad focuses on client relations while Cindy steers the team’s big picture and helps structure deals.

“I would say it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me without a shadow of a doubt,” said Cindy about the partnership. “He understands my expectations in business,” she added. “He truly gets me.”

In 2007, as the market dove, Cindy’s experience navigating downturns proved invaluable. “This was my first cycle,” said Brad. “She’s been through three cycles. It caught me completely off guard, but she saw it coming, knew how to react to it and could maneuver. That’s a real blessing — to have that type of leadership.”

Despite the downturn, the Cooke team continued to stay on top among multifamily teams throughout the industry nationally.

“When somebody hires me, I make a commitment and I don’t take that lightly,” said Cindy. “So whatever it takes to accomplish the goal, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Brad says Cindy’s dedication to her career translated into an equal dedication to raising him. “The way she attacked a deal was the way she attacked motherhood,” said Brad. Cindy always pushed, worked harder and only accepted the best from herself. She never imagined the two would partner in business, but she always felt Brad would be successful.

Cindy clearly loves her son. Her voice grows soft as she talks about him. “I’m just a mom who loves her kid more than anything on the face of the Earth.” And Brad respects the woman who never stopped working but still took time to coach his soccer and baseball teams.

Clearly delineated mother and son roles have evolved as their relationship has. Brad even calls his mom by her first name. “I’ve never noticed it,” he said, before quickly adding that he calls her “mom” too.

Because even though Cindy and Brad are all business, you can never forget they’re all family, too.

 

 

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Cindy and Brad Cooke
Cindy and Brad Cooke

Specialty/market sector:

Multifamily

 

Year started in industry:

Cindy 1982

Brad 2002

 

Combined years of experience: 42

 

Best advice from their respective parents:

Brad: Learn from other people’s mistakes.

Cindy: Be careful with your money, but be more careful with someone else’s.

 

Standout deal:

Closed a 12-property deal owned by Bascom Arizona Ventures that featured 5,172 units and sold for $427.5 million.

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