David Ellis
Managing Partner, Ellis Realty Advisors
Age: 39
Industry experience: 17 years 

South Shore properties long held by family businesses have risen in value and demand as redevelopment sites, creating a growth niche for Ellis Realty Advisors to advise owners on lucrative exit strategies. David Ellis founded the Norwell-based brokerage and advisory firm after seven years in commercial brokerage for Jack Conway & Co. Ellis Realty Advisors now has 14 employees, including six brokers, and has expanded in recent years with the formation of a property management division, Ellis Realty Management, and Archway Construction, which specializes in commercial buildouts. 

Q: What do you see as Ellis Realty Advisors’ core business niche?
A: Our niche has traditionally been smaller retail and office, and all within the Route 3 and Route 24 corridors, from Quincy to Plymouth and out to Taunton and Norwood. We’ve got a good mix of tenant and landlord representation, and investment sales. And we cover every asset class. In 2019, we strategically partnered with The Business Exchange – that has been a real focus of ours. They sell going-concern Main Street businesses, and there’s always a real estate component, whether it’s a sale or a leased building. We partner with them strategically to cover some more ground: businesses that are starting to age out and not have a succession plan, and need to come up with a real estate strategy. 

Q: Where do you look for talent in recruitment as the firm expands?
A: This is a smaller market, a secondary and tertiary market. South of Boston to the Cape is the geography we cover, and it’s harder to recruit from some of the bigger downtown firms that have training programs. They have the name and the cachet and the downtown Boston address. As a young up-and-comer, it’s a little bit more sexy than being on the South Shore. That’s one of the reasons we went to Braintree [originally as headquarters], to start to recruit. But then we realized: Be true to yourself, own the market and try to be as essential to the market as you can be. We get residential brokers looking to shift gears, or people in construction that know real estate and have the background, whether it’s architecture or finance.  

Q: What types of transactions do you see accelerating in 2023?
A: One thing we’ve always had a focus on is working with end users on purchases. We do a lot of office and retail, and there’s generally an end-user component rather than just an investment sale. We’ve been sort of insulated from the interest rate environment. An end user business owner is not as susceptible to the changes in interest rates. They want to own where they are and have control of their destiny and their space. That’s definitely an area where we’ve seen an uptick. Office has slid a little bit, but we’re a little insulated on the South Shore because there’s not an oversupply. Most of the [office] tenants we’re working with are undergoing some contraction, because they have an element of a remote workforce and are not using the office the way they used to. That being said, there’s always enough to keep the office buildings’ heads above water. When you get into high-density areas like Quincy and Braintree, some of those buildings have needed outside investment, but the market has never really gone up in terms of lease rates. It’s been fairly flat. 

Q: What’s your outlook for retail leasing and development?
A: With Merchants Row Mall [in Hanover] and Hanover Crossing, some newer lifestyle centers are coming online, which is definitely helping the surrounding areas. There’re deals to be done there, and behind industrial, it’s probably been the most active from a leasing standpoint. We’re limited in the amount of land and zoning and infrastructure in some of these towns, and that’s always been the knock on southeastern Massachusetts: towns that don’t have infrastructure, or really tough zoning enforcement. That makes it tougher to develop from a retail standpoint. 

Q: Related to zoning hurdles, how will the MBTA Communities law open up housing development parcels south of Boston?
A: It’s helpful. Massachusetts is very parochial in the way that the town government runs developers’ worlds, and as someone told me, capital is like water. It’s just going to go the fastest, most efficient way and it’s going to flow to those communities that adopt MBTA zoning and expand on their zoning for multifamily by right. And I think the ones that adopt it and are progressive enough to see that housing is needed across the board, and they are going to do well. The challenge we’ve seen on the South Shore is the infrastructure like water and wastewater. Sites like Union Point don’t have the necessary infrastructure to go build another 1,000 units. It’s a challenge and one that’s been thrown up as pushback by some of the municipalities that don’t want the developers in their areas, and almost use it as an excuse. 

Elllis’ Five Favorite Karaoke Songs  

  1. “Tennessee Whiskey,” by Chris Stapleton 
  2. “Wagon Wheel,” by Darius Rucker 
  3. “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Queen 
  4. “Faithfully,” by Journey 
  5. “All for Love,” by Bryan Adams 

Mapping Real Estate Exit Strategies for Main Street Businesses

by Steve Adams time to read: 4 min