CCIM Spotlight: Rick Gonzalez, CCIM

CCIM Spotlight: Rick Gonzalez, CCIM


It’s not too surprising that Rick Gonzalez, CCIM, carved out a specialty in land sales. He knows more than a thing or two about dirt. Gonzalez found a second career in commercial real estate in 2002, after spending more than 20 years working as an environmental scientist.

After earning a master’s degree in environmental engineering sciences and a bachelor’s degree in soil science, he built an impressive resume working in the private and public sectors, including for the Department of Energy. On one of his last assignments for a private company, he helped to find a new site for a manufacturing plant in Florida. Once the factory was up and running, he realized he had worked himself out of a job.

At that time, he had a six-month-old son and felt motivated to secure a new job to provide for his family. That necessity landed him in real estate. Today, Gonzalez is a Senior Advisor at Saunders, Ralston, Dantzler SVN in Central Florida and an active member of The CCIM Institute community.

“Do you specialize in a particular property type, or do you work across different sectors?”

“When I started in this business, I sold houses for a couple of years, but, early on, I decided to get to know who owned land, who had money, and who were the developers. My educational background was very useful in helping me evaluate land and what could be done with that land. Land sales have been about 70 percent of my business to date.”

“What made you want to pursue the CCIM Designation?”

“In 2008, the local economy was a bit slow, so I was looking for something to enhance my credibility. I saw an ad for The CCIM Institute and decided that the CCIM Designation would help me do what I was already doing, only better.”

“How has being a CCIM helped to advance your career?”

“Before earning my Designation, it was tough to get the ‘big dogs’ to return my calls. But now, they do.”

“Can you share your CCIM volunteer leadership experience?”

“I began volunteering on the Central Florida District Board of Directors after earning my Designation in 2010. Fast forward, I was the Central District President in 2015, the Florida Chapter Vice President of Education in 2018 and 2019, the Florida Chapter Vice President of Operations in 2020 and the Florida CCIM Chapter President in 2023. I now serve as the CCIM Region 8 Vice President.”

“Why do you think it’s important for CCIMs to be active in volunteer leadership?”

“The relationships you build and the people you get to know around the country, if not the world often leads to not only making The CCIM Institute better but also to new business opportunities for yourself. We’re all here because of business. We want to do the best for our clients and make money. Over the past 20 years, I have had the pleasure of completing numerous transactions with other CCIMs and receiving referrals from others. To this day, the degree to which fellow CCIMs will help you still surprises me.”

“What do you see as the biggest challenge in the current market, and how are you working to overcome it?”

“The biggest challenge I see is making projects pencil out. The cost of construction, the cost of land, and the cost of capital all contribute to very tight margins for the best projects. I’m amazed at what people pay for land these days because there has to be a margin for every step of the process. If you have a raw piece of agricultural land and you get it entitled to a certain use, you’ve taken it that far. Before one can get final site plan approval, one has to do environmental studies and get the applicable permits, complete traffic studies, and demonstrate how much will impact traffic patterns. They also have to complete engineering evaluations that document how they will deal with runoff and get concurrency with local school boards, etc. All those steps cost money.”

“Each one of those steps also adds value, but there has to be margin. All too often, people hear what a piece of land is sold for when it’s completely engineered and entitled; they expect to get that for the raw agricultural land, and that doesn’t work.”

“What do you see as the biggest opportunity in the current market?”

“I try to convey to landowners that expecting finished lot prices for raw land is not realistic, and if they want to realize the maximum return on investment (ROI) on their land, they should consider becoming a partner with a very reputable developer to add value to their property and get paid on the back end.”

“In the coming three years, what do you predict will be the next ‘big thing’ to hit the commercial real estate industry that CCIMs should be prepared for?”

“Artificial Intelligence and deciphering facts from false narratives. The use of technology allows me to rapidly supply timely information to my clients. But it’s my job as a CCIM to make sure that information is accurate and pertinent to our client’s needs.”

“Apart from dealmaking, in what other ways do you utilize your CCIM network to facilitate successful transactions?”

“Yes, completely. If I’m going into a market where I haven’t been, I’m going to find a CCIM in that market and talk to him or her to find out – what is the political environment, the physical environment, the social environment, and will a given idea for a project work there? There is a lot of knowledge within the network that we can share and tap into.”

“Do you have any lessons learned over your career or advice for new CCIMs that are just coming into the industry?”

“Do your research before you start making phone calls. Every week, I get phone calls from people who are looking for things that are outside of my market. When I first started out in real estate, I sold houses. As a scientist, I decided to do research and find out where the land was, who the developers were, and, in essence, who had money. And I tried to make a living with that knowledge. There are a lot of REALTORS® who send out a whole bunch of letters and expect a 2% return. I did it more by spending a lot of time in greasy spoon diners, getting to know the landowners.”

“My other piece of advice is to volunteer. I have volunteered for numerous different things over the last 14 years, including the local county planning and zoning board. During that time, I learned a lot about the process, including zoning and site planning. In the state of Florida, every parcel in the state is also subject to a local comprehensive plan, which has to be updated every 10 years. That maps out how the county or the city has decided to grow, and that document overrides local zoning. So, you might have a rezoning, which is possible, but if the comprehensive plan is something different, that’s another layer that you have to alter, which is a lot harder. Volunteering is another source of information and knowledge that you can use to better serve your clients.”

“Was there anything else that you wanted to add?”

“I’m truly proud to be a part of The CCIM Institute. Being a member means being surrounded by individuals with expertise, integrity, and a wealth of knowledge. These traits have all helped me make more deals and more money in my career.”

About CCIM

“CCIM stands for Certified Commercial Investment Member. For more than 50 years, CCIMs have been recognized as leading experts in commercial investment real estate. The CCIM lapel pin denotes that the wearer has completed advanced coursework in financial and market analysis, and demonstrated extensive experience in the commercial real estate industry.”


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