Real Estate / High-Rises

Houston’s Luxury Apartment Whisperer — Avi Sheleg Helps People Avoid High-Priced Rental Nightmares

Vetting Your Apartment Choice Can Make a World of Difference

BY // 08.25.21

Our friend needed a luxurious place to bunk last year while her condominium in the swank Huntingdon building was being completed. So she hustled about on her own and leased a penthouse at a prominent rental high rise to the tune of $17,000 a month.

She had no clue that this was the preferred address for boisterous athletes as well as that of serious partiers. Think trails of marijuana drifting under her door frame and the thump thump thump of music going into the wee morning hours.

She was miserably stuck with the lease and the neighbors. What she did not realize, and perhaps many are similarly in the dark, is that there are real estate firms that specialize in vetting luxury apartments serving as high-end apartment locators. They could have saved her months and months of anguish.

One leading the effort is Israeli immigrant Avi Sheleg, who landed in Houston seven years ago with an interest in investing in the city. He soon hooked up with an apartment placement firm and eventually launched his own company. That entity joined Douglas Elliman in December of 2019 with Sheleg taking on the responsibility of building a talented apartment locator team that reflected the high professional standards of the 100-year-old real estate firm.

“The apartment locating industry is a newer niche in the real estate world,” Sheleg tells PaperCity. “Usually you are not going to see a brand like Douglas Elliman having something like this.”

But Sheleg had a vision and a plan, one that Elliman Texas honcho Jacob Sudoff embraced. It is Sheleg’s premise that when you place a client in a luxury apartment you are building a pipeline to future business. The relationship is established so that later on when the client wants a larger apartment or wishes to invest in a home, there is a known Elliman agent to assist.

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Sheleg says that he and his team with 40 agents keep close tabs on 150 or so luxury rental buildings inside the loop and typically succeed in placing 150 renters a month.

“We know all the ins and outs, every unit, every price point, every special, a lot of different apartments offer different specials,” he says.  “You really need to know what to offer and when because the apartment business is a lot like the stock market, things go up and down very, very fast.”

The Elliman team is on properties on a daily basis, he adds. Thus, they know where the break-ins are occurring, if there are maintenance problems, if there have been serious crimes.

“The goal is that you will be my client for life,” Sheleg says. “I want to build a longterm career and I want my clients to be happy. Overall I’m trying to help them have the best experience and make the best decision based on my experience in the market.”

For example, he would not recommend a property “that is really chill” to a young guy who wants “to be living his wild life. I’m going to send him to a property that meets his age and answers his needs.”

The service is free to renters. The apartment building pays the commission.

With the tremendous growth in the Houston population coupled with the growth in apartment complexes, Sheleg advises, “To find an apartment, you can walk in but you won’t know if it’s a good deal, a bad deal, a good building, a bad building.” And that’s where the luxury apartment locator can provide valuable guidance.

Brava by Hines, at 46 floors, will be the tallest residential tower in downtown Houston when it opens in the third quarter of 2022. (Hines rendering)

Sheleg says that a top tier one-bedroom, 800 square foot apartment in Houston starts at around $2,300 per month, while a two bedroom will begin in the $4,000 range. A 500 square foot studio in a luxury building is typically priced between $1,800 and $1,900 per month.

He advised that the rule of thumb is that a renter’s monthly salary should be three times the rental fee.

“You really need to know what to offer and when because the apartment business is a lot like the stock market, things go up and down very, very fast.” — Avi Sheleg

There is no shortage of luxury high-rises on the market and when Hines’ Brava tower opens in the third quarter of 2022 it will be the tallest residential tower in Houston. Sheleg says it promises to be the most luxurious high-rise in the city.

Indeed the Brava website describes the apartments as having “flexible living areas, floor-to-ceiling windows, Quartz countertops, stainless-steel Bosch appliances and wide-planked wood flooring complimenting Italian-made custom cabinetry throughout.”

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