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.

Tuesday Tip: Adding Leasing to Service Offerings

Is leasing included in your firm’s services? There are several excellent reasons to include leasing as part of your brokerage services. Following are three main reasons:

 Increase market presence  (or, it’s all about signage)

Lease listings provide the opportunity to place many more signs in your market and help establish a visible presence. Your signs promote your name and the SVN brand  throughout your market.

Generate sale opportunities

Lease listings sometimes turn into sale opportunities as they offer built-in opportunities to establish ongoing, long-term relationships with landlords.  When it comes time to sell, you are already “top of mind” for that conversation.

Deepen your CRE expertise

There are a great number of details involved in promoting lease spaces, conducting leasing deal negotiations and transactions, and in creating leasing documents. Mastering this important dimension of commercial real estate contributes greatly to the “encyclopedic knowledge” that characterizes effective advisors.

Neil Johnson

At SVN, we’ve designated June as leasing month, and today’s Tuesday Tip regarding leasing is provided by Neil Johnson, Managing Director of SVN Landmark in Geneva, Illinois, specializing in retail, office, and industrial properties – as well as vacant land – in west suburban Chicago. Neil Johnson has 30+ years of experience in commercial real estate brokerage, investment and land development, and is co-chair of SVN’s Leasing Product Council. Read Neil Johnson’s full profile here.

For more information on SVN’s leasing services, check out our Leasing Services page.

Five for Friday: The collaborator who puts 'multiple eyes' on listings

Neil Johnson of Sperry Van Ness/Landmark Commercial Real Estate in Geneva, Ill. talks about the benefits that come with the team approach – and the move from hitchhiker to advisor in this week’s Five for Friday.  

Neil Johnson, managing director/broker at Sperry Van Ness / Landmark Advisors
Neil Johnson, managing director/broker at Sperry Van Ness / Landmark Advisors

1. What is your geographic market and product specialty? 

The focus of my brokerage work for 15 years has been in Kane County, Ill. and the surrounding suburban areas about one hour west of downtown Chicago. As an office, our advisors handle retail, office, and industrial properties – plus vacant land. We do quite a bit of leasing, which has created relationships for some of our best investment sale opportunities.

2. What’s your latest best practice tip that you can share?

Collaboration on listings with the other advisors in my office has proven to be particularly productive. There are many benefits to the team approach, including better service to our clients.  We get the benefit of multiple eyes looking at each stage of the listing or transaction. It is also more fun to work as a team.

3. What’s been the biggest changeover on how you run your business in the past decade?

We are trying to be more selective on the quality and size of opportunities that we take on. Otherwise, it is too easy to race around chasing every small deal that turns up. We are working hard to increase our focus on investment sales, and larger lease deals, especially now that the market is picking up again.

4. What business book do you like to recommend to your colleagues?

I try to spend some time reading the Bible every day. Scripture can be helpful in addressing the challenges of  human relationships.

5. What’s a fun fact that not everyone knows about you? 

In my early 20s, I hitchhiked more than 20,000 miles, across the U.S. and Europe. To the casual observer, I’m sure I appeared to be a typecast hippie.

*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.