5 for Friday with Neil Johnson, Leasing Product Council Co-Chair

June has been designated as leasing month here at SVN, and to cap it off, this Friday we have a special Five for Friday double header, as we interview both co-chairs of SVN’s Leasing Product Council.

Neil Johnson is managing director at SVN | Landmark Commercial Real Estate in Geneva, Illinois. His geograhic area of focus includes the Western suburbs of Chicago, where he specializes in the industrial, land & development, office and retail markets.

Neil Johnson


What advice would you provide to an aspiring advisor who is new to the industry?

There are several pieces of advice:

  • Develop encyclopedic knowledge of a defined product and/or geographic market.
  • Network aggressively and get to know the various local “influencers” in addition to the property owners.
  • Work hard to establish lasting relationships with elected officials, city staff, chambers of commerce, lenders, attorneys, architects, contractors, etc.
  • Finally, be persistent and uncompromisingly ethical.


What does the SVN Difference mean to you?

In our suburban market, SVN represents the unique combination of local expertise and national reach.  Our clients benefit from the depth, resources and network of a leading international company, together with the established presence and relationships of a local office.  I especially value the deep-seated SVN culture of cooperation both within the company and with the entire brokerage community.


What learning tools (book, blog, website, etc.) would you recommend to your colleagues to further their knowledge and enhance their careers?  

 I would particularly encourage every SVN Advisor – regardless of their tenure or success – to take advantage of the wide variety of calls, meetings and training resources within the company.  Attend the various conferences, listen to the speakers, and get to know advisors from other markets.  Participate in and contribute to the specialty council calls for your product interests.  Listen to Solomon Poretsky’s best practice calls and John McDermott’s Saturday calls. Finally, explore the wealth of topical training resources in the System For Growth (S4G).


What was your most memorable deal and why?

My most memorable deal is probably the off-market sale of a 1.1 million sf enclosed regional mall.  It started as a leasing assignment from a cold call.  However, as a result of seven years of prior bank ownership, the tenants had already begun evacuating the property.  The two owners were at odds and the mall was not going to turn around without new ownership.  Joel Miller and I managed to secure a new buyer group.  Part of what made this deal memorable was that one of the sellers died before the contract was finalized, and he did not have any succession arrangements.  Most of his beneficiaries were in China and did not have U.S. real estate experience.  The entire transaction required a lot of finesse and diplomacy to guide through to closing.


List a fun fact to share about yourself – something that people may not know and that they may be surprised to find out.   

There are two things:

1) I hitchhiked more than 20,000 miles across the United States and in Europe during my early 20’s;

2) I worked in the computer industry for over 20 years doing systems design and programming, and founded a software consulting firm in Chicago.

Find out more about commercial real estate leasing as a career choice by visiting SVN’s Leasing Specialty page.