On a bustling block in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, above a pharmacy and a bagel shop, sits the unmarked office of My Ideal Property. The long blocks outside are punctuated with Russian Cyrillic signs. Rego Park and nearby Forest Hills are home to a tight-knit community of Bukharians, first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants from Central Asia who migrated to the area after the Soviet Union collapsed.
The men, who called Serhant in 2015 with a deal, grew up in this diaspora. One of them, Isaac Aronov, graduated from Forest Hills High school in 2004. Public records show he landed a job as a mortgage broker at an office in Rego Park. It was the heyday of the boom. Housing prices were higher than they’d ever been. But the frothy market he entered was already heading toward disaster.
After the crash, Aronov, like Wall Street, was nimble enough to recognize that there was opportunity in distress. In 2008, he started My Ideal Property with some friends from the neighborhood. They were young, ambitious, and willing to work hard. With what one former partner described on his website as “zero experience or financial support,” they began buying homes in some stage of foreclosure.
They gravitated toward the majority black and Latino neighborhoods that were hubs of subprime lending before the crash, and later accounted for over three-quarters of New York City’s foreclosure filings. Taking out short-term, high-interest private loans from wealthy backers in Manhattan and Long Island, they bought fast.
It was a lucrative time to be buying, and investors across the city were busy. A recent analysis by the nonprofit Center for NYC Neighborhoods found that, between 2014 and 2016, more than 5,800 homes were “flipped,” or bought and sold within a year. Half of them were in some stage of foreclosure. Within this rush, the men behind My Ideal Property carved out a significant niche. By 2016, the company had done more than $250 million in deals and employed over 100 people, according one founder's website.
But that aggressive move into troubled neighborhoods has come at a cost for their inhabitants.