Throughout 2014, UMD will feature rising stars in the global Macedonian community and conduct interviews with them as part of a Macedonian professionals series to be published on our website, as well as in future issues of UMD Voice magazine. The first in the series of interviews is with Blaze Dimov and Bojan Peovski. We hope you enjoy the interview below.
Washington, D.C. is one of the United States’ fastest-growing real estate markets, and Realington, and its capital-raising arm, Realington Capital, are the new faces imprinting their names in D.C.’s real estate investment and development scene. At the head of the Realington family are two Arlington residents who immigrated from Macedonia, Blaze Dimov and Bojan Peovski.
Blaze Dimov, the President of Realington and Principal of Realington Capital, is responsible for property acquisitions and dispositions as well as overall investment strategy. A graduate of George Mason University, Blaze began his career in the construction and real estate industries seven years ago and for the last six he has been a licensed real estate professional and an active investor, specializing in short sale and foreclosure transactions. Blaze holds a Distressed Property Expert Certification (DPEC) and Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource (SFR) certification.
Bojan Peovski, the Managing Partner of Realington and Principal of Realington Capital, is responsible for the financial strength of the company, technology, operations, and new ventures. Bojan’s key competencies are project planning and financing and day-to-day operations to ensure a healthy business. A graduate of University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he began his career in the IT industry at Sapient Corporation. Bojan has accumulated more than five years of experience in project planning and financing in both real estate and technology sectors and has been in the real estate business for the past three years.
With offices at the National Harbor, D.C. area’s newest landmark development, Realington is focused on acquisition of residential, condominium, and multi-family properties located in the Washington metro area, covering D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Years after the housing market crashed, recovering communities continue to grapple with a glut of vacant properties, which drag down property values, attract vandals and drain public resources. Blaze and Bojan together with their team are helping to rebuild communities affected by the crisis, offering ready to move-in homes to a new generation of responsible homeowners.
The author and founder of Jobenomics Chuck Vollmer had this to say about their work “I endorse Realington as a model company in the Jobenomics Real Estate Initiative that is focused on small business creation related to renovation of distressed and foreclosed properties. Jobenomics plans to use the Realington model in other cities across the USA.”
UMD: In just a short period of time, you have established yourselves in the Washington metro area. What prompted you to leave Macedonia and immigrate to the United States?
Blaze: My departure from Macedonia was mainly prompted by the desire to continue my education abroad. The U.S. was my first choice. I obtained a visa in 2001 and arrived here the same year. I was surprised by how expensive the education in the U.S. was when I arrived. The first few years were a real struggle because I attended school full-time while working full-time simultaneously. Of course, the cultural shock is a big burden at the beginning, but with time you adapt to the new environment.
Bojan: Even before arriving to the U.S., I had already spent significant amount of time living outside of Macedonia. I grew up in Poland, spent several months in the UK, was an exchange student in Seattle for a year, and subsequently studied in Spain for two years before arriving in the U.S. So, it came fairly natural for me to continue living abroad and to further challenge myself to achieve more and to pursue success. The U.S. was a logical choice in that sense.
UMD: Blaze, can you tell our readers more about your beginnings in the real estate market? What made you transfer from construction to real estate, and why property acquisition?
Blaze: I actually entered real estate by accident, a real accident. In the fall 2007, I was playing tennis and got injured. Staying home for more than a month, I got bored, so a friend of mine gave me the idea to get into real estate because in his words “real estate was doing very well.” I took his advice. I got licensed and entered the real estate business the next year. Looking back, the timing was probably not the best, as a few months after I formed my first company the biggest financial crisis hit since the Great Depression. The next year was even worst, but I didn’t pay too much attention to this. I worked the hardest I could and stayed focused. It paid off. While there were few decades-old companies in real estate that were going out of business, my company managed to survive and increase its business. In 2010, I partnered with Bojan and business became even better. A retired business owner, and a friend of mine, later told me that it was maybe better that I started in real estate during a recession because I could not afford mistakes and that was the best training one can get.
Construction was only a temporary position for me because the work schedule suited my school schedule well, and helped me pay for my education. Although, a temporary position, it gave me the beginning knowledge for my future work, particularly since our current operation is a mix of real estate investments and construction.
When I first entered real estate sales, I realized there was a small problem – I was a terrible sales person. Whenever a property was not worth buying, I would be frank with my clients. Somehow that attitude didn’t work well with my bosses. It was soon after I decided to start my own business in property acquisitions.
UMD: Bojan, you made a leap from IT to real estate. Why the change? Why the decision to go into an industry that was probably hurting the most due to the crisis?
Bojan: I always had an innate appreciation for real estate, but it wasn’t until Blaze and I did our first investment that I really got hooked, and it all happened by accident, if you will. Blaze was helping me as an agent to find a condo to buy in Washington, DC. I was disappointed with the available inventory, and when Blaze suggested that we instead buy an investment property, I didn’t think twice. IT products and services, and in particular software, tend to be intangible — they cannot be touched or grasped in the physical world. In contrast, real estate is something that’s very tangible, and it’s that aspect that attracted me to real estate initially.
I’m going to start by quoting Warren Buffett: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” When it comes to investing, it all depends on what side of the equation you are on. We were able to spot the right opportunities, in the right locations, at the right time. In some sense, that was a better market to invest in then it is now as there were more deals to be had, because of the large depreciation in real estate prices. Every market brings its unique opportunities and challenges, and it’s a matter of positioning oneself to best take advantage of the opportunities and successfully navigate through the challenges.
UMD: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in doing business in the D.C. metro area?
Blaze: The Washington Metropolitan area is different than many other areas in U.S. We have a high presence of U.S. government jobs here that makes it a liquid market. It is a more stable market compared to the rest of the country, which makes investors more willing to invest here. Some real estate based businesses can grow with higher rates compared with the rest of the country because of the high circulation of people. On the other side we have higher competition because some of the brightest real estate business minds in the country have a presence here. In my opinion, this is good because competition makes you stronger.
UMD: The economic crisis substantially hit the U.S. real estate industry substantially. As young and accomplished investors in real estate, what is your take on the current state of the real estate market? As we are slowly moving out of the storm caused by the housing bubble, do you see more opportunities in commercial or residential real estate?
Bojan: The opportunities will always be there. It’s a matter of recognizing them and taking the action that will help seize the opportunities. And where there are opportunities, there exist limitations on resources, information, and knowledge to recognize such opportunities. The constraint on resources usually comes in the form of capital, but it may also be related to human resources — finding the right people to help you realize your goals. The real estate market, like most markets, is cyclical in nature. Since the housing bubble, home values have increased or stabilized in most markets. During the crisis, there was a pause in construction and purchasing activity and now that real estate is making a come back, construction and purchasing activity is on the rise, helped by historically low interest rates. I think that trend will continue into the next year. For us, as the market continues to stabilize, the opportunities in residential real estate may shift away from distressed properties to new construction, multi-family and condo conversion projects.
Blaze: The worst is over, however, there is a great political divide in Washington. This situation translates to uncertainty in the business community as well. I think that the American people will not tolerate status quo for a long time. It is not in their nature. Large political and economic reforms are on the horizon. When these reforms occur, in a few years in my opinion, it would be an ideal time to have a business presence in U.S.
UMD: According to a recent survey we conducted of UMD members and supporters, the number one priority is to see Macedonia improve economically and attract direct foreign investments. Have you had any previous experience of doing business in Macedonia, or with Macedonian companies? If you have had any previous experiences, how would you then compare the business climate between Macedonia and the United States, and what would your recommendations be for further improvement of Macedonia’s business climate?
Blaze: So far we haven’t done any business with Macedonian companies. However, our plans are to start doing business with companies from our motherland. We want to do it in two main directions: First, to hire design and architectural firms from Macedonia who would make designs for contemporary new homes built here in the U.S. Most of the homes built in this area have a colonial design. Through Realington, we would like to introduce new energy efficient homes with a contemporary European design. Second, to open a Realington office in Macedonia and hire talented people that would work there.
Bojan: Starting and operating a profitable business takes true grit — courage, resolve, and strength of character — as well as professional ethics to resolve problems that arise in a business environment. Macedonian businesses should focus on establishing stronger ethical principles when it comes to conducting business. That should help create an environment of greater trust in which to conduct business in. Doing business without confidence in both the application of the law and your business partners is very difficult. Part of this responsibility lies with the government, but an important part also lies with the businesses themselves.
I’ve had previous experience starting a company in Macedonia, and it was a real challenge getting the business off the ground. The primary challenge had to do with the overall economic conditions, the general lack of options to obtaining financing as a startup or small business, and even as simple as difficulties collecting payments on unpaid invoices. The most successful businesses in Macedonia today rely heavily on export of their products and services to companies abroad. For businesses that rely solely on the Macedonian market, it can be very challenging. The key to improving the overall business climate within the country lies somewhere between putting in place more favorable conditions for business to borrow money to grow and expand, more uniform application of the business law, and improving the overall economy.
UMD: Does Realington plan on expanding outside of the D.C. metro area, and what are your future plans/goals?
Bojan: The strength of the real estate market and the investment opportunities in the Washington, D.C./VA/MD region have been an important factor in our success to date. Readers must be familiar with the expression “location, location, location” when it comes to real estate. Knowing your real estate market is critical in making good investment decisions. That said, our plan is to continue investing exclusively in this area within the next two years to further establish us in this market before considering expanding to other markets.
Realington has been growing organically every year since inception. In 2013, we introduced Realington Capital, a private real estate fund, to raise capital for projects in the area. As the local real estate market continues its recovery, investments may also include multi-family units, condo conversions, and new construction of single-family dwellings.
UMD: Finally, what would you say to our readership about the American dream?
Blaze: We call it the American dream here, but it is pretty much the same dream around the world. The rules for success are universal. In business, it is extremely hard in the beginning. But this fact makes the whole journey more interesting. In my opinion, the combination that is needed for success in business is idea, hard work, integrity and persistence.
Everything starts from an idea. I would like to encourage anybody to dream big and work hard. These days a young person with an Internet connection in Macedonia has the same access to information as any young person in the U.S. That is power. I understand that the financial means to start business are much more limited in Macedonia, but one can start small and work with what one has. You never know when and where you will get your break. An idea will only stay an idea if it’s not supported by hard work. One should also understand that there are many failures in business. It is an inevitable occurrence when you try something new. But the most important thing after failure is how fast can you stand up, dust off, and try again.
UMD: Blaze and Bojan – thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer these questions. UMD wishes you the best of luck and success with Realington, and we hope to see your names pop up more in Washington, D.C.’s real estate investment and development market.