Rick Hopwood has bought, sold and developed countless properties in his three-decade career. But perhaps his greatest deal is landing work with his son.
“To be able to work with family is a privilege,” said Hopwood, 63, whose newly formed Hopwood Commercial Real Estate Services sees the Fort Worth executive join forces with his son, Matt.
After a brief sports broadcasting career, Matt, 28, returned home this year yearning to join his father’s profession. A childhood spent admiring his father’s work with Centra Partners, NAI Huff Partners and Red Oak Realty, among other firms, didn’t lead Matt to commercial real estate – at least not directly.
Instead, he earned a broadcast journalism degree from the University of Mississippi in 2011. After graduating, he worked as digital account executive with CBS Radio but soon felt an urge to return to Cowtown.
The Hopwoods wasted no time, launching their business in September. Two months after hanging up their shingle, the duo already is landing deals and looking to the future. Rick and Matt found time to discuss family and their real estate future with Fort Worth Business.
Why start a new real estate business now? Is this your way of saying that the industry has recovered since the 2007-08 recession?
Rick: I’d say that’s a big part of it. Matt came to me in March and said, ‘Hey, I think I want to move back to Fort Worth and get into the commercial real estate business.’ We talked and he decided he would move back and get into commercial real estate.
With the economy the way it is, Fort Worth growing the way it is, and having someone I can rely on and work with to do all things, it was a great idea.
Matt: I thought a lot about what I would say. I played high school golf at Paschal. I ended up graduating from [Arlington] Heights. I was 16 years old and, like anyone else, was out having fun, testing limits. Some friends took out some trucks to go mudding and I flipped off a dirt bike and broke some vertebrae. That hindered the golf, which was always a passion of mine. I went to Ole Miss and got a broadcast journalist degree there before traveling in CBS [Radio] on the PGA [Professional Golf Association] tour, became associate producer for the show in 2011 and the Golf Channel in 2012.
Then I ended up with Circuit of Americas in Austin, a Formula One race track down there. I found my way to marketing from the sponsorship. The last event I did for them was motorcycle races and it seems like ironic and I realized yesterday that I started [covering golf] after a motorcycle accident.
Almost like you came full circle, right?
Matt: Exactly. I approached my dad and knew that sports was a lot of fun and there were a lot of opportunities there, but I wanted to be back in Fort Worth, spending time with family. You don’t get to have that very often. Time with family is important.
Was starting a new business with your dad his idea?
Matt: No, I approached him. I had seen what he had done growing up and it struck a big interest in me. I thought it was a no-brainer. Everything fell into place.
Rick: I’ve thought about it over the last five years or so, and when I was at Red Oak [Realty], I thought about it a lot. Jack Clark [Red Oak president] is one of my best friends and I enjoyed my time there. I have felt for some time that I should be on my own. And with Matt, I saw this as a great opportunity to help some young guys like my son get into the commercial real estate business.
It’s a harder industry to get into than residential. I want to recruit young, smart, sharp guys fresh out of college. Lots of guys want to get into it.
Why is commercial harder than residential real estate?
Rick: Transactions are more complicated and take longer to do and there’s nowhere really where they teach commercial real estate. Licensing and courses are all geared toward residential. There are concepts like load factors, dock heights, ceiling factors that are not addressed in any programs out there.
When you think of Fort Worth real estate, what comes to mind? What are the city’s strongest geographic areas? What are its strongest sectors? (i.e. retail, office, multifamily, single-family residential, mixed-use, health care, etc.)
Rick: It’s phenomenal, Fort Worth. There are so many areas under development now in Tarrant County: Walsh Ranch, Edwards Ranch, Waterside, stuff in Alliance, and the new Chisholm Trail Parkway is the greatest corridor we’ve seen in many years.
Our economy is still somewhat diverse. Oil and gas is taking it on the chin right now but will be back. That provides opportunities for other industries and sectors. Space available downtown means room for growth and other companies to move in to Fort Worth.
I’m seeing more and more guys like Matt. Fort Worth is a great city for its economy, infrastructure, so Matt wanted to be here.
This is for Rick Hopwood, the father. Was there a single incident – something your son mentioned as a boy, a boyhood fascination with construction – that made you realize he might one day follow in your footsteps?
Rick: It happened later. I knew he was very personable and outgoing and could talk with people and was smart with numbers. He chased his passion [sports broadcasting], but this spring, he came to me saying he was starting to have an interest in commercial real estate.
It couldn’t have come at a better time because of where we are in the economic cycle. He’s got maturity now and is going around the country seeing all the differences and realized that Fort Worth is a great place to live.
The local market already is teeming the commercial real estate firms. What makes your company stand out?
Rick: It’s my broad base of experience that I use with every client. I have been doing this for 30-35 years and started out in the banking business and went into development and into construction and I built townhouses and condos in Houston. I built office buildings and retail buildings. I did office leasing with Prentice Properties [between 1989 and 2001]. They moved me to San Francisco and I worked on a lot of high-rises and industrial parks owned by a pension fund.
When did Hopwood Commercial Real Estate officially open?
Rick: September 1.
Where are you located?
Rick: 4330 West Vickery between Hulen and Clover.
How many square feet?
Rick: It’s a 6,000-square-foot building.
Did you finance the company yourself or take out a bank loan?
Rick: We have a loan with American National Bank. We occupy 2,500 square feet and lease out the remaining space. Magnolia Natural Resources is the biggest tenant, and we also have Gateway Natural Resources, both oil and gas [companies]. And Hammett law firm, as well as an individual investor.
Are you in hiring mode, or is it just you and Matt at this point?
Rick: We have a new member who started yesterday: Lawton Denke, an associate, and will be the first one in our training program. And Donovan Solis, director. He helps out with the training program. He’s was an assistant golf pro at Colonial.
Are you filling any other positions?
Rick: We’re looking for another entry-level person and maybe another person.
I realize the company has just started, but have you landed any clients or projects yet?
Rick: We’re hoping to close a deal this week with an existing client.
Are you keeping the clients you had at Red Oak or were you required to leave them with the firm?
Rick: All clients I had at Red Oak, I am keeping. We have about seven or eight clients right now. One is an expansion for GM Financial in Las Colinas. We’re the tenant representative broker.
Do you focus on one market niche like finance or health care projects, or are you more diversified?
Rick: We have an industrial listing in Fort Worth on Stewart Street for an individual. We’re broad-based, but we primarily deal with office leasing but do industrial leasing, too. That is part and parcel to a recovering economy.
Do you and Matt ever argue? In what ways does the father-son relationship strengthen – or perhaps pose a challenge – to doing business?
Rick: I’m a believer in the team system for commercial real estate. You can’t be at all places at all times. To have a team that can help each other in times of need. People look at it and say, ‘They’re not going to split up.’
Matt: We learned how to turn on the work mode and turn off that mode. He’s my father, but in the workplace I look at him more as a person who I can go to and ask questions and learn from. That was a big selling point to me. We can work together in that way and learn from each other and I have been all over the place and have a younger eye.
What are your goals as you start your new business?
Rick: I want to build a sustainable company that allows for entry level young people to have a place to get into the industry that I think is so dynamic and fun. I’d like the business in 10 years to sustain itself so I can retire.
Matt: I want to learn as much as I can. I’m like a sponge at the moment, trying to spend each day learning something new and really shadowing my father and learning what he knows best. It really is great to come in and be able to work as hard as you can and get to spend time with someone you look up to.