Gary Vandenberg

Gary Vandenberg, S.E.C.

Gary grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was the middle child with an older brother and younger sister. His mother was a keypuncher (or what would be referred to today as a computer data technician) and his father was an excavator. They divorced when Gary was five years old. Growing up, he learned a lot about building roads from his father that would prove to be very valuable later on in his career.

Gary is married to Nancy. Gary has two children, Dan and Nicole, and  Nancy has two children, Jennie and Sam. Gary and Nancy enjoy sailing, music, gardening, cooking, playing with their dog, Jack, and spending as much time as possible outdoors during the summertime at their home in Michigan.

After high school, Gary got an associate’s degree from Grand Rapids Junior College. He attended University of Michigan before receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, Gary got his real estate license and then went to law school. After one year he decided that real estate was a better fit for him.

Gary worked his way through school as a musician, playing bass guitar in a Top-40 band. Interestingly enough, his tenure as a musician led him into real estate through other bandmates and their families’ involvement as real estate professionals. The drummer in Gary’s band loaned him $100 for an earnest money deposit on his first real estate deal where he bought and flipped 60 acres of land in a 90-day timeframe. Gary’s first deal as a broker, however, wasn’t as successful though. He was brokering a 10-acre parcel of land, and there was a dispute between the buyer and seller over the property taxes. Instead of letting the deal fall through, Gary decided to pay the $75 property tax bill out of his commission. Unfortunately, Gary’s commission was only $180. Gary realized there was a better way to do real estate, and he decided from that point on he would rather be on the principal side of real estate instead of trying to be the broker. He went on and focused his efforts on buying land, subdividing it, making improvements, and then selling off the parcels, mainly to people from the city who used the parcels for recreational use. From there Gary started doing commercial land transactions and developing commercial properties. He also started and later sold a real estate company and eventually changed his business model and personally brokered dozens of commercial real estate transactions.

Asa land specialist, Gary earned the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation and served as president of Michigan Realtor’s Land Institute (RLI) as well as the RLI’s National Board of Directors. It was there he met Steve England, S.E.C., who invited Gary to his first S.E.C. meeting in the mid-1990s. He went on to become a member in 2001 and served as president of the Society in 2013. He regularly teaches the Broker Estate Building class through the Society with John Brennan. Gary is also a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).

The formula that Gary likes most in doing real estate transactions is using land as a down payment.  However, Gary’s most memorable deal involved using options to work through a wetlands issue, ultimately allowing Gary to purchase a commercial tract for 20cents on the dollar and further develop that tract.

When asked what his advice would be to a young broker/investor, Gary’s answer was three-fold. 1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES. He calls this “Post-Graduate Education,” where the tuition is higher, the classes shorter, and you don’t repeat the class. Bottom line:learn from the mistake, embrace the mistake, move on, and don’t repeat it. 2. BE BOTH A PRINCIPAL AND A BROKER. You can understand your client better if you own property and fully understand the aspects of ownership. 3. TAKE OTHER CONSIDERATIONS BESIDES CASH AS A FEE. Being the catalyst to make a deal go through brings so much value to the deal, the client, and the relationship.

Moving forward, Gary’s business goals are to represent a few select commercial investment clients and to personally acquire more income-producing properties all over the country with different tenant and asset types. Admittedly, his wife, Nancy, a Certified Financial Planner, has taught him a lot over the years about focusing more on the cash flow of his estate versus the size of his estate. Personally, Gary would like to continue teaching what he has learned and pass on the blessings and lessons that are a result of his career. He will be the first to say that his involvement with S.E.C. has truly changed his life and that the return on investment through his experiences and friendships far outweigh any dollar amount he has received.

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