SANTA BARBARA, CA: April 24, 2023 — Thirty years ago this month, commercial real estate broker Steve Hayes left a large firm to start a private brokerage with colleague John Blair. They set up shop in a small office at the Balboa Building on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

In some ways the industry was very different in 1993, prior to the proliferation of real estate websites and internet-based tools. “We bought our first computers when our doors opened,” Hayes recalled, “and we were still typing listing agreements on an IBM Selectric Typewriter.” Nevertheless, today the essence of the process is much the same: lots of phone calls, meeting with clients to present data and discuss strategy, showing property to prospective buyers or tenants, negotiating terms, and executing transactions. “The tools of the trade have evolved in amazing and exciting ways, but the core of what we provide is expertise and trust, which stems from the diligence and talent of our people, rather than technology.” Hayes added.

Blair departed in 1997 to pursue a different business, at which point Hayes teamed up with Francois DeJohn, then a broker in his mid-twenties who had started doing commercial real estate deals while still an undergraduate at UCSB. The two have been partners ever since, completing over $3 billion in transactions together and earning their places in the top echelon of brokers in the tri-county region. Along the way, they have also managed the firm’s growth from a two-man “boutique” shop to a full-spectrum firm with fourteen brokers and four staff.

Hayes and DeJohn have always promoted a unique team approach within the firm. The industry norm is for brokers to work alone or in two- or three-person units, even when part of a larger brokerage. Whereas, at Hayes Commercial the brokers team up in various combinations to market properties for sale or lease. “We share ideas and expertise across our whole firm, which has many benefits,” Hayes said. “It gives our team members a broader awareness of the market and strategy; engenders teambuilding with better morale and loyalty; adds an element of variety that makes the work even more engaging; and most importantly, gives our clients access to a deeper pool of expertise.”

The results speak for themselves. In terms of production per agent, Hayes Commercial has consistently led the South Santa Barbara County commercial market over the past 15 years. However, building a successful brokerage has been a long and challenging process. Hayes and DeJohn learned the hard way that the team approach requires choosing members with care. “It’s tempting to bring a broker on board just based on their book of clients or their specific expertise,” Hayes said, “but over the years we have learned to prioritize compatibility and personality as we add to our crew.”

Among the current Hayes Commercial principals, Kristopher Roth, Michael Martz and Dan Moll joined in the mid-2000s when the market was relatively strong. The financial market crash of 2008 and its aftermath had a major impact on commercial real estate, and coincided with substantial additions to the firm, including Greg Bartholomew and Christos Celmayster coming aboard in 2009. Liam Murphy joined in 2011, bringing expertise in corporate leasing portfolios to the team. The past decade has brought several associate brokers and agents into play, including Dylan Ward, Caitlin McCahill Hensel, Rob Adams, Toni Floyd, Jason Liehr, and Nolan Tooley. Hensel–who celebrates 15 years with Hayes Commercial this month–started as an intern while an undergrad at UCSB, and stayed on to learn the business as a transaction coordinator before becoming a full-time broker in 2015.

Hayes Commercial has developed enduring relationships with clients running the gamut from Fortune 100 companies to local “mom-and-pop” businesses. The firm represents many of the area’s most active property owners and real estate investors and has completed many of the largest commercial transactions ever signed on the South Coast, including the $61 million sale of the 165,000 SF AppFolio office campus on Castilian Drive in Goleta, the $50.6 million sale of the 195,000 SF flex campus at Storke & Bollay in Goleta, and the $44 million sale of the 120,000 SF Procore office campus on the Carpinteria bluffs.

“I’m a people person, and for me this business has always been more about people than properties,” Hayes said. “When I look back over these three decades, rather than feeling nostalgic, I’m excited about the team I get to work with and the clients that we serve. And to have had a hand in building this team from the ground up is the icing on the cake.”

Today, Hayes Commercial Group is a team of 18 brokers and staff. (photo Mehosh Dziadio)


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