CBRE's Holthouser Team Heads to the Southern California Coast

A Daily Look at the Movers and Shakers in Commercial Real Estate

From left: Nathan Holthouser, James Lehigh, Tram Church and Rebecca Canalez have left CBRE to form Coastal Commercial in Newport Beach, California. (Courtesy of Coastal Commercial) 

A Daily Look at the Movers and Shakers in Commercial Real Estate 

A native of California’s San Gabriel Valley, Nathan Holthouser has been committed to working the state’s southern coastline since he started his career in commercial real estate during the Great Recession. 

Back then, he’d commute more than an hour each way to his brokerage office in Newport Beach from Glendora, California. It made for long days that stretched into nights, but the work was worth it, Holthouser said. 

“I knew I wanted to be in the coastal cities, where it is harder to penetrate the real estate market there,” Holthouser said in an interview. “We’re glad we did it because those people really needed the help, and it’s made for a good line of business.” 

Back then, he was working for Marcus & Millichap, which he left in 2015 for CBRE. Less than a week ago, he decided to move again. This time, Holthouser is going all in to start Coastal Commercial, a boutique commercial property services company based in Newport Beach. James Lehigh, Tram Church and Rebecca Canalez also left CBRE for the new firm. Lehigh, Holthouser’s best friend since middle school in Glendora, is a co-founder with Holthouser. 

“So what’s it like to start a new firm during a pandemic when buildings are burning? I’m no stranger to downturns because I started in 2007” just as the Great Recession began, Holthouser said. “I’m not scared. I think it’s good because there’s a lot of opportunity in the marketplace and opportunity to help a lot of people.” 

Coastal Commercial provides services to owners of commercial property from the shoreline to 10 miles inland, from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Its service lines include investment sales, leasing, tenant representation, property management, debt and structured finance and consulting and advisory. 

While Holthouser and his team could offer similar services at CBRE, having their own firm allows them to work with private owners whose individual properties are worth between $2 million and $25 million. 

“Having our own firm really allows us to be hands on with sales, leasing, debt, property management, and advisory without overlapping with other professionals at our previous firm. It will allow us to have more control of the process,” Holthouser said. “We really wanted to help our clients through every step of ownership because we intimately understand how the asset classes work in Southern California, where properties typically are equity rich and sell for a higher price per square foot.” 

Owners of premier properties along the coast typically hold their investments longer, Holthouser said. “I was told early in my career not to work Newport Beach because nobody sells there,” he said. “But if you focus on high-quality real estate, you find these owners are actually underserved.” 

Because they’ve been tracking the Southern California market for more than a dozen years, Coastal Commercial can help owners better understand how the real estate market has changed and how to unlock the true value of the properties, he said. 

One week in, Holthouser said he and his team already know they made the right decision to break out on their own. 

“It feels good,” he said. “It feels like we have more flexibility.” 

Without the marketing machine of CBRE behind them anymore, the Holthouser team has to be aggressive and leverage technology to help build the brand for Coastal Commercial, he said. 

“We’re going to focus a lot of our energy on internet marketing and technology that’s come to the commercial real estate industry,” Holthouser said. 

Church, Canalez and Lehigh, teammates who played a critical role in Holthouser’s success at CBRE, will be key in getting Coastal Commercial established, he said. 

Holthouser decided to get into commercial real estate during an internship after he graduated from Chapman University in Orange, California. In that position, he sourced leads for equipment leases at Greystar and had quick success. That led to several people recommending he move into commercial real estate based on his sales skills, he said. 

He got the job at Marcus & Millichap in December 2007 and has been in the business ever since. Holthouser said CBRE Executive Vice President Joe Cesta has been a great mentor. 

“He was instrumental in teaching me the fundamentals of the business,” Holthouser said of Cesta. When Holthouser let Cesta know it was time to start Coastal Commercial, “he was really cool about it and really supportive,” Holthouser said. 

If Holthouser weren’t a commercial real estate broker, and now co-founder of his own firm, he’d be in the music business. 

“I’d definitely be playing in some bars and coffee shops,” he said. “I love playing guitar and singing. I’ll probably still do that.” 

Specifically, he’s be playing the songs of the late rock ‘n’ roll star Tom Petty, one of Holthouser’s favorites. In fact, at the height of the pandemic shutdowns this spring, Holthouser took to his roof and played a concert complete with Petty songs for his neighbors on the beach. 

“He’s been really instrumental,” Holthouser said of Petty, who lived in Southern California for more than 40 years after moving from Florida. “I’ve learned so many of his songs.” 

Holthouser’s favorite Petty songs are “Wildflowers,” “Free Fallin'” and “I Won’t Back Down,” which has become Holthouser’s anthem as he kicks off his Coastal Commercial during the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

By Tony Wilbert CoStar News 

June 12, 2020 | 09:02 AM @twilbert