CREN Member Spotlight – Russell Simmons- Texas Area Properties

For the first installment of our CREN Member Spotlight, we are pleased to introduce you all to Russell Simmons with Texas Area Properties! Russell has been an integral part to CREN’s success over the last several years. From participating on the Clay Shoot Committee, to serving as President, there is nothing Russell won’t do for our organization. Continue reading to learn more about Russell and his career!

Russell Simmons- Texas Area Properties

Russell was born and raised in Houston Texas, and has been active in real estate since buying, his first property in Wimberly, TX at the age of 16. Russell began taking real estate courses while in college, and was licensed at 21. He bought his first home a few months after. Throughout his career, Russell has acquired a working knowledge of real estate and construction while renovating many properties for rental and resale throughout Houston, but primarily in the historic Houston Heights, where he was named “Renovator of the Year” in 1993. This experience has enabled Russell to build a private portfolio of over 350 apartments in the Houston area that he has owned and operated in addition to several office buildings and industrial properties.

Russell is an active member of the Houston Association of Realtors since 1981 and is currently serving on the board of directors as the commercial board member 2020-2021. Russell has served in many capacities with CREN for the past 18 years and was honored to be the CREN representative on the University of Houston Executive Advisory Board for the Bauer College of Business for several years, since he graduated from U of H in 1979. Russell has been married to his wife Jene for 35 years, has 2 grown children, Garrett and Kelsey, and has just welcomed his first grandbaby into the world in the past 2 weeks, “Avia”.

Interview with Russell:

  1. How long have you been involved with CREN? Since around 2004
  2. How did you originally get introduced to CREN? I was working on purchasing a warehouse in the Heights that Michael Butler was the listing agent and he invited me. I have been an active member ever since and have made many lifetime friends and received a lot of great advice about life and real estate along the way.
  3. What are some of your favorite things about CREN? Like minded individuals, with mostly small companies that are willing to help each other be successful in commercial real estate. CREN members are friendly, unpretentious and genuine. CREN has the best speakers!
  4. How long have you been involved in brokerage/what made you choose this career path? I got my license in 1981 so going on 40 years though I bought my first property as a teenager in 1976. Land was cheap in Wimberley so I was able to buy 5 acres with $2000 down and $140 per month owner financed which seemed like a good deal so I was hooked. I started selling residential in 1981, progressed to buying and selling for myself almost immediately which enabled me to purchase a building, warehouse and apartment complex while getting my brokers license. The experience I gained representing myself gave me the confidence to start representing clients in commercial transactions. Most of my clients are investors like myself that I have made a living helping them build a solid real estate portfolio.
  5. What advice would you have for someone just starting off in a commercial real estate career? My advice to anyone starting out in residential or commercial is to own your own home because in all aspects of real estate controlling your own destiny is so important. You have to live somewhere so building equity as the home appreciates is the stepping stone to building wealth, and that wealth gives you the ability to sustain your self during the ups and downs of real estate. A commercial real estate career like any other is about people and how you treat them, help them and add value to their lives. Meet as many people as you can and tell them what you do. In all dealings in real estate be kind, honest and helpful even when it does not seem to be in your best interest and you will never lack customers or repeat customers. Remember that real estate is not only a career but a lifestyle, so when in doubt buy real estate which is the secret sauce to a successful brokerage career. Many of the properties I own are because I felt they were amazing investments and since I couldn’t find a buyer I purchased them myself when possible. 
  6. If you had to pick a defining moment (good or bad!) in your career, what would it be? In 2004 when my business partner in the apartment business died unexpectantly and I was left with several unfinished projects and a lot of debt. I worked hard and under a lot of pressure for 4 years to get our properties sold to pay off all the debt but at the same time was able to get involved with CREN to plan the next chapter in my career. I feel blessed to have survived that time but feel like I am a stronger person, more grateful and giving due to that experience.
  7. If you weren’t working with Texas Area Properties, what would you want to be doing? I would be giving mostly free, inspirational presentations to young people about real estate and life. Sharing about the risks and rewards of a commission only existence in real estate and how you balance brokerage, investments, faith and family to live the best life possible.
  8. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Traveling, mountain hiking, reading, and working on the ranch. My passion is time with my family and friends.
  9. What is one thing people might be surprised to know about you? I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and like to test myself and my abilities. I have jumped out of many planes, been a private pilot, run 3 marathons, scuba dived around the world and have many solo mountain trips climbing fourteeners in Colorado under my belt.