Habif at 93 Makes Most of Real Estate

Habif at 93 Makes Most of Real Estate

Habif Properties’ numero uno shares his winning philosophy with a unique perspective scanning decades.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

When he’s not walking or working out, Morris Habif can be found on the lake on his luxury boat.
When he’s not walking or working out, Morris Habif can be found on the lake on his luxury boat.

Morris Habif, 93, was born and raised in Atlanta where he attended Commercial High School. He served in the armed forces and went on to school on the GI Bill. He is believed the seventh-oldest member of the Georgia Bar.

Habif credits much of his success for taking the long view. For years all he did was pay mortgages and not take any money out. Then he began selling things that made sense “piecemeal,” one deal at a time.

He eschews investing in the suburbs and residential properties, stating, “Timing is key. When you buy real estate that’s cheap enough, you hold on until things turn around. I look for ‘ugly duckling opportunities.’ In 60-plus years I have never lost money on a single property. Another key is using federal law 1031 when we sell, then roll over, reinvesting and postponing taxes. Selling is rare.”

Morris Habif has decades of success in redevelopment and predicting hot new areas in the city.

As background, Habif founded APD Transmission Parts in 1959. After relocating his wholesale business to downtown Atlanta, he noticed that many of the surrounding garment district buildings were vacated as tenants moved to more modern facilities near the Fulton Industrial district. He purchased these vacant properties, renting them for unique niches such as community theater and light manufacturing.

Habif was a pioneer in converting vacant warehouse space into reasonably priced lofts for artists and small businesses. One of the first was the purchase by Habif and his partners of the Southern Cross Mattress Factory, where he oversaw their conversion into individual studio spaces. The Mattress Factory Lofts helped pave the way for a new generation of developers who unlocked the potential of downtown’s older buildings.

He recounts that one of his business models is to buy shopping centers that are not cash-flowing, perhaps poorly managed, stabilize, and turn them around. “So far, we have not been hard hit by the pandemic, actually doing amazingly well; BUT a big recession could be around the corner. I worry that some of these overbuilt high rises will go into foreclosure.” He’s referring to the property of others.

Versatility is Habif’s middle name. Some of his alternate strategies of clever land use are renting out cell towers (AT&T and Verizon are customers), parking lots, many downtown: by the Georgia Aquarium, Garnett Street by Municipal Court of Atlanta, and Marietta Street.

One can imagine his headspace figuring calculations when he speaks of a truck lease lot parking facility he owns in Lithonia. “Think about it. Atlanta has many truckers who own their own rigs, two to five days in and out, paying $150 a month per truck, 300 trucks…”

Credited with being prescient about his wildly popular Beltline properties around Inman Park and Grant Park, Habif is somewhat leery about the highly touted “up and coming” Bellwood Quarry area. “I feel it’s premature, still depressed and too close to areas with crime.”

The extended Habif family includes five children, 15 grandchildren and six great- grandchildren. He describes his late wife Susie as being “gracious and caring and Cuban.”

Out on his 40-foot-plus boat, Habif put his buddy Bobby Rinzler on the phone. “Morris is the finest, most giving partner. He calls every evening, does all the work and gives me half the money – for the past 50 years!” Some of the successful ventures he has done with Habif are 1776 Peachtree Road, four-year turnover; and the Fountains of Olde Towne turned over after 10 years.

As the consummate family man, Habif, a widower, said, “My secret weapon is son Michael, who is also a lawyer and has been by my side for 37 years. We have a very unusual father-son relationship. He’s smarter, but I have more experience.”

A mutual admiration society, son Michael responded, “On days when he is not walking, he’s working out in his home gym. Every Sunday, I get a call from him while he’s at our office catching up on the week’s action. He really does still work full time (he says ‘part time’ because he only works 12 hours per day). He defies belief!”

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