Max and Abraham Ginsburg are two young Austinites poised to become the next generation of real estate superstars.
When I met them recently at a South Austin Starbucks that has become my reliable respite from the summer heat, the brothers had their own story about that particular location — South First and Oltorf streets.
It was where they signed their first deal — buying a residential property that would become a new infill residential development near the fledgling St. Elmo creative district in South Austin.
Delivering boutique infill development in South Austin is a very tough game. Some of the most veteran residential developers and homebuilders in the city have fought tough battles trying to find suitable lots at reasonable prices — and then surviving the city’s brutal development processes.
Many of my best resources for stories come from that pool of talent, including Wes Peoples, Robert Lee and Anthony Siela.
So how did Max, a recent graduate of the University of Texas, and Abraham, a current student at St. Edward’s University — he’ll graduate in December, get the idea they can make a dent in this competitive sector?
They’ll do it one property at a time starting at 4511 S. Second St. — formerly an older home on a lot with a narrow adjacent parcel, about a half-acre total.
“It was a for-sale-by-owner,” Abraham said. “We were driving around the neighborhood and got out and were taking pictures. The door pops open and a guy in a towel walks out.”
Perhaps a second of trembling ensued.
“He said to us, ‘You guys checking out my property?’”
Thus a rapport began and the door of opportunity swung open. A contract was signed, and then the unexpected.
“It was the day to close and all of a sudden it was stop the presses,” Max said.
There was a mistake in the title — a restrictive covenant that would prevent them from redeveloping the property into four single family homes—urban-style.
Had the door slammed shut? The sellers were beside themselves, having packed their bags for Las Vegas.
“They were crying. We didn’t know what to do,” Max said.
One option surfaced, however, for this intrepid duo. Abraham and Max quickly ascertained that they could proceed if half the homeowners in a certain radius signed off on their redevelopment plan.
“From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. we walked that neighborhood to try and get those signatures,” said Max. “We had 10 days. That was it.”
By deadline they had 15 of 28 owners’ signatures— just enough.
“And we wouldn’t have been able to get one more,” Max said.
With that, the sale was consummated, the existing house was moved to another location, permits obtained, and four homes are under construction. Workshop No. 5, an Austin design firm, is the architect.
Ranging from 1,050 square feet-2,137 square feet, the homes are priced between $450,000 and $695,000. They exude a modern farmhouse vibe.
Offered through the Ginsburgs’ firm, The Sephira Group, more information and inquiries may be made at sephiragroup.com.
The company is looking at another potential redevelopment site nearby. Eventually they will pursue commercial development opportunities, as well — all funded through unnamed private investors.
The Sephira name and logo has been an important aspect of conveying their mission.
“[Our] core idea [is] of always being mindful about the beautiful relationship that exits between our surroundings and ourselves when developing real estate,” Abraham said. “In our lengthy search for something that represented that ideology, we came across ‘sephira,’ which represents just that.”
The stylized green symbol — inspired by the tree of life — reflects the delicate balance of people and planet.
Throughout the 18-month process of creating The Sephira Group and building the first project, Max and Abraham have met with dozens of local brokers and investors — gaining knowledge and perspective from others’ experiences.
To further the camaraderie, the Ginsburgs have created the Finance, Investment and Real Estate Society of Austin, FINRES for short. The new membership-only organization is designed as an intimate platform “for up-and-coming leaders in our community,” they said.
More details about membership and events are available at finres.org.
Like so many others, Max and Abraham came to Austin for college and they found a deeper connection beyond the academics. Though they stay in close touch with family in Mexico City and a brother attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, they are committed to being active participants for years to come in Austin’s economy, cultural sphere and philanthropic communities.
“This is just a beautiful place to be, and it’s so impressive the people we’ve gotten to know,” Abraham said.