How one broker is making his mark selling invisible real estate

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When Brian Strout decided he wanted to join Florida’s real estate industry, he realized his résumé didn’t fit the bill. 

“From the beginning of college, my friends who were interested in real estate had all their internships and course selections for that,” he said. “They were getting all the sexy jobs for high-rises in Miami and Orlando.”

But he was studying engineering.

Strout spent some time working for a developer in rural Lakeland, Florida. He worked for another developer in South Carolina, then he left for New York in 2011 to get a master’s in real estate at New York University. His interest in urban planning led him to start reading about the city’s dense zoning laws and about air rights—the open space above properties that can be sold to nearby developers looking to build higher.

“While I’m researching, I find that Robert Shapiro’s name keeps popping up, and he’s sort of the godfather of [the air rights] industry in New York,” Strout said. “I cold-called him and told him I wanted to talk to him about a set of circumstances surrounding three neighboring properties.”

After discussing it, Shapiro offered him a job. Today 95% of Strout’s business is focused on air-rights deals.

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