Alan Schnurman always has a smile on his face. He is dressed impeccably and ambles with an aura of happiness as he walks into Pierre’s, where we sat down for a chat about his new book. “I Can, I Will, I Must — Buying the Hamptons, Building a Successful Future, Becoming the Best You Can Be,” published by Sagg Main Press, can be purchased through Amazon.com.
Schnurman’s life could have turned out very differently. He came from humble beginnings — a first-generation immigrant raised by a single mother in Brooklyn who drove a New York City cab to put himself through law school. He follows his own version of the “Power of Attraction” to which he attributes his many successes. His attained goals include manifesting a life as a successful lawyer, TV and internet content pioneer, multi marathon runner, Mount Everest explorer, and today he is one of the most successful real estate brokers on the East End.
The “power of attraction” is an ancient recipe for success. Essentially it is about cell frequency and how the universe, of which we are created by its very materials, responds to a certain brain wave state that it is attracted to. Like = Like, is the simple formula. In this state, one imagines with hyper-realistic imagining the things he or she wants, essentially living this desire in real time. The universe responds by making the desired real.
But a major ingredient to the success of this practice is gratitude. Without this ingredient, the universe would not be “attracted” to one’s dreams and goals. And it is gratitude that Schnurman sprinkles throughout his interview with The Independent — his every expression is filled with the knowledge that he is a grateful man whose every dream has been realized.
The title is clearly an affirmation. Is this something you’ve been practicing your whole life? Are you a believer of the “power of attraction?”
I do believe in the “power of positive thinking” and the “power of attraction.” I do not believe in failure. I have challenges. Failure is an end game, challenges are a beginning. Everyone has situations that do not meet their expectations. It is how you deal with them that is a path to a successful life. Optimism and positive thinking started in my youth.
Do you follow a practice of gratitude as well?
I was raised by a single mother who continually told me I could do anything I set my mind to. She gave me self-esteem and taught me to always have a good attitude. I am grateful for what my mother gave to me and try to give back to others as much as possible.
Tell us how you put into daily practice what you write about.
Every morning I re-energize myself by saying three quotes. “Attitude equals altitude;” “I can, I will, I must;” and last, my most important, from Helen Keller, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
You wrote the book with Dan’s Papers’ COO, Eric Feil. How did you two come together to collaborate on this?
My co-author Eric Feil is one of the nicest and talented people I have come across. We met at a Dan’s Papers reception and I must have talked his ear off. We continued the conversation at a later lunch and the die was cast. What followed was a four-year, every Thursday, hourly free-flowing conversation of questions, from my childhood and my philosophy on life to my most complicated real estate deals. Each conversation was recorded and transcribed by Eric that evening.
Are you a religious man?
I am a person of faith. I believe there is a superior force that intertwines life’s web. We as humans do not have the capacity to understand this force. It’s like gravity that holds the entire universe together in organized fashion. Unseen, but keeps all the galaxies, stars, and planets in a continuous order and life cycle.
You have “10 Answers to Why Real Estate.” Can you give us a sneak peek to tempt our readers to consider getting the book?
Real estate fits my personality. It is slow, methodical and reliable. You have to have patience in real estate, otherwise you will not be happy. If you require immediate satisfaction, buy stocks, because real estate will not be for you. Real estate was the road I chose to meet my goals of becoming financially secure, to achieve self-respect, the respect of my peers, and most of all, to be happy.
In our society, financial success is very important, but not the most important. Family is first and everything else is background. My goal is to inspire and motivate others to be optimistic, positive, and with due diligence, to take the risk in whatever path they choose.
You’re a very successful real estate investor, among many other things. You say your book can help anyone with achieving their goals, no matter the industry or calling. Can you elaborate on this?
The goal of the book is to be a model of success and happiness that can be achieved if the reader is provided with the right tools and how to use them. It is no secret that one has to use due diligence and hard work. The book provides a road map to understand and appreciate that self-confidence is required to attain one’s goals. I provide examples how I did it. The idea is to give readers a role model to follow.
You studied law in New York. How and why did you pivot from law to real estate? Or are you still practicing law as well as closing big deals in Hamptons luxury real estate in tandem?
My interest in real estate started at the same time I started practicing law. I had read an article about Forbes’ 400 richest people in the United States. I concluded that a significant number of these very wealthy individuals made their money in real estate. That is when I decided to invest in the purchase of property while continuing a full-time legal practice. I retired eight years ago to go full-time into real estate ownership, management, development, and brokerage.
You’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in terms of global and national economic climates. Yet you say you’ve always made money in real estate despite the downturns. Why is real estate such a great investment?
The rules of real estate investing do not change. They were true 200 years ago, they are true today, and they will be true 200 years from today. It’s about buying the best location that your money will allow, and having the patience to wait out any downturn. Good locations usually get better with time.
I like a little leverage (mortgage), just not to be overly leveraged. If you borrow too much money on a property, when the market turns against you, you may not be able to keep up the payments. Please note, inflation is the real estate owner’s friend by raising the value of your project and rental income.
You have a wonderful story of how you drove a cab to put yourself through law school and picked up Walter Cronkite for his ride home. Did you two chat on the ride? Tell us about how you both met up again years later.
The highlight of my three years driving a cab, when I was in law school, was the time I picked up Walter Cronkite. He was one of the most respected newscasters of our time. I recognized him immediately and started to engage him in conversation. I can’t remember what we talked about, but I do remember looking in the rear-view mirror and he had a smile on his face.
Years later, I met him in the elevator of my building where he had recently purchased an apartment. I reminded him of our conversation some four decades earlier, and the same smile came to his face.
Speaking of driving a cab, you have a very humble backstory. Tell us about your youth in Brooklyn.
If I tell you my whole story, no one will have to buy the book. With that said, I came from a modest background. Both my parents were immigrants. They fled to America to escape the pogroms in Europe. My brother and sister were 17 years and 12 years older than me. My father died when I was seven years old. My siblings were then out of the house and I felt like I was an only child, with the exclusive attention of my mother. She was a seasonal worker in the garment center.
I have vivid memories of going with her to the unemployment office. Every so often, she would splurge and take us out for a Chinese meal. I started working in middle school and continued doing this in high school and college. It was during these financially difficult times, I made up my mind to be successful in whatever career I chose. My mother ingrained in me the work ethic and confidence that every young person requires.
Your life is a lesson in being and doing. You’ve climbed Mount Everest, run marathons. After a lifetime of beating challenges, achieving goals, have you slowed down? Or are you still setting goals?
All my life is all about setting goals. When I retired from law, I told my family that the next 20 years were going to be my best. Since then, I built a spec home and sold it for $18.1 million. I purchased various properties including hotels, mixed-use buildings, and even a farm. My whole existence is about setting goals, and when they are about to be completed, to set new goals. It is the path, not necessarily the achievement, that rewards me.
Did you make summit on Mount Everest? If so, what was that like?
I hiked to the base camp at 17,000 feet. It was a wonderful experience. It was followed by hiking trips to Patagonia and New Zealand. I am now researching my next great adventure.
When and why did you choose Saunders & Associates to be your brokerage? What’s their edge?
I chose Saunders & Associates because I knew Andrew Saunders when he was working as a broker at another firm. He was everything a great broker should be — intelligent, credible, trustworthy, and most of all, a good person. At Saunders, he put together a marketing team that had no equal in the Hamptons. Together with his wife, Colleen, they make an unbeatable pair. I have been there seven years. What a great decision.
Is there a deal that you’re particularly proud of?
I am proud of all my deals. They are like children. You have no favorites. Among the most memorable was a land development deal, 26 acres in Bridgehampton South. We had obtained our approvals for six two-acre lots and a 13+-acre reserve. The market was at a high level at the time and we sold it right after the sub-division was filed. The whole process took 30 months. It was a great deal and exceeded my partners’ and my highest expectations. It was 2008.
At that time, we also purchased 42 acres in Sagaponack South. The great recession hit and it took us 10 years until we sold the last lot and house. That is what I mean when you have to have patience to be successful in real estate.
Can you tell us about any great up-and-coming areas in the Hamptons that you can share with our readers?
Hampton Bays has more waterfront properties probably than anywhere in the Hamptons. It is competitively priced and there are value buys there.
What is the most important advice you give to your sellers?
Price your home at the market or little above. Most sellers remember what a house in their area sold for a couple of years ago and refuse to take less. The market is very efficient. Our buyers are very knowledgeable. If you price the house too high, it is not going to sell. It may sit on the market for an extended period of time and you may take less than you would if it was priced correctly at the start.
How about advice for your buyers?
Currently it is a buyers’ market. There is no urgency in the market. We are over-supplied at various price points. Take your time, see all the houses in your desired location and at your price point. People like to buy when the market is going up. Professionals buy when the market is flat and over-supplied. As an investor, the idea is to buy low and to sell high.
What do you do for fun, when you’re not writing books, closing deals?
My greatest joy is spending time with my five grandchildren. If I knew it was going to be this good, I would have had them first. In addition, I ski and hike. Every day I walk at first light on the beaches in the Hamptons and on the streets of Manhattan when all is quiet and I can see the day come to life.
To reach Schnurman or inquire about his properties, call 917- 991-4076 or email CallAlan@Saunders.com.