Ben Sayles is a Director in the Boston office of HFF with more than 15 years of experience in commercial real estate. He is primarily responsible for investment sales transactions focusing on office, multi-housing and retail properties. Ben Co-chairs the Boston Market Council and Program Oversight Committee for ULI Boston/New England.
- How would you describe your role at HFF?
HFF is a capital markets intermediary – meaning, we don’t have leasing, property management or investment advisory services that could be perceived as a conflict of interest by our clients. Our two primary lines of business are debt placement and investment sales – I’m on the sales side, focusing mostly on office product. I’ve been here just over nine years and have been involved with transaction ranging from the sale of a portfolio of “brick and beam” office assets in the Seaport to the sale and capitalization of high-rise development sites in Back Bay.
- You’ve been active in the Boston real estate market for 15 years. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in that time?
Where to begin? Boston remains one of the top investment targets in the world, due primarily to our diversified economy, natural barriers to entry and highly educated workforce. I’d say in the last three years, Boston’s prominence on the global stage has only increased and today Boston is one of the key focal points for foreign capital. I think back 10, even five years ago, and groups like Norges and Oxford hadn’t made one investment in Boston. Today, each group has a bulletproof portfolio of incredibly high-quality assets.
- Do you see certain trends that are going to leave an indelible mark on the City?
At a very high level, I’d say the concept of urbanization is more powerful today than it has been in the last 15 years. It seems almost every demographic from young professional to young families to empty nesters and retirees want to live in the city. Obviously, not everyone can live downtown so this urbanization is putting pressure (in a good way) on urban areas like Cambridge, Somerville, South Boston, Dorchester, and Watertown.
- Why ULI and how has membership impacted your career in real estate.
ULI has been instrumental in my professional growth. Sometimes our business lives can be so narrowly focused that we miss out on some very exciting pieces of our industry. ULI has allowed me to connect with developers, architects, engineers, community liaisons, government officials and so many more folks that I wouldn’t normally interact with during my normal day-to-day.
- If you could live anywhere in the City, where would it be?
That’s easy, Downtown. Downtown is going through a renaissance that is being driven by residents and retailers, and it would be great to be part of that change. Downtown now has just about every amenity you could ask for, and it has the best access to public transportation. I guess it doesn’t hurt that I’d have a five-minute walk to work either!