Like many people's lives, Brad Lippitz's has taken some intriguing twists and turns. In this case, it was a switch from law to ( ultimately ) real estate that changed his life.
Lippitz, a luxury real-estate broker at The Brad Lippitz Group at Compass, told Windy City Times he started practicing law at two firms ( Sachnoff & Weaver, Ltd.; Schiff Hardin LLP ) before opening his own real-estate brokerage in 1994. In particular, he praised Sachnoff, saying, "It was a terrific firm. We did a lot of progressive public-interest work and pro bono work, and there were a lot of smart, credible people who believed in the public interest. It was a good match, and I don't think I could've been happier at any other firm."
However, Lippitz still didn't feel quite as fulfilled as he thought he should. "Law didn't seem like a long-term thing for me," he said. "But at the side of my desk I kept a file called 'Project H'and it stood for 'Project Happiness.' At the time, I was doing fairly complex real-estate transactions, and all that's required of lawyers to become brokers is to take the exam. So I took the exam, and I got my brokers' license."
At this point, Lippitz decided to take a leave of absenceand revealed yet another pursuit while discussing his life: "I'm also an artist as well, and I opened a studio in Fulton Market, where Yoni [husband Jonathan Pizer] and I lived. I made furniture and accessories that I shipped around the country, and I also did art shows. However, it started feeling too much like a company, and it just wasn't as enjoyable anymore.
"So I started focusing on real estate. I helped a few friends look for houses and, before I knew it, I had this thriving business, thanks to [word of mouth]. It just grew organically. At that point, Yoni and I moved to a modest townhouse that's across the street from where I live now. But we didn't have kids at this point [he and Pizer have two teens now, along with a dog, Astro] and little debt, so I figured this was the time to take a chance. I decided that if I could live with the worst-case scenariothat I failed at everything, including law, and living a simple lifethat I could live with anything."
And, regarding real estate, "I was pretty much considered the 'un-broker,'" Lippitz said. "I was never pushy and I didn't consider myself the typical way. I worked out of our house for a long time. Then a friend of mine, Gary Zickel, suggested we get an office together. I eventually got the space at 3323 N. Broadway; there have been a few awnings on itbut this is the last one."
There were also twists involved when it came to dating Pizer. "I wasn't out at all [in 1986], and Yoni had just moved to Chicago from Wisconsin, and he was living in Hyde Park," Lippitz related. "At that time, I was at law school at the University of Chicago. I actually was in a comedy troupe; I was living in Lincoln Park and I decided to have the members of the troupe overand there was one guy there who I really hit it off with. I wasn't out to anyone, and I didn't know if he was gay." What ensued was Lippitz pursuing Pizer when the latter worked at Marshall Field's and a dinner in which they "spent the entire night dropping hints about our sexuality," Lippitz said, adding that there was one slight bumpPizer had to break up with someone he was briefly dating at that point.
Obviously, that split worked in Lippitz and Pizer's favor, as the couple have been together for more than 30 yearsand have even worked together for several years. ( They've married twice, in 1995 and 2003. ) "This just happens to be our family business now, even though he had his own business for many years," Lippitz said.
And regarding their interests, one of them is politics, with the couple hosting fundraisers for politicians ranging from presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg to Chicago's own chief executive, Lori Lightfoot. Asked if their political leanings have ever conflicted with business, Lippitz replied, "Occasionally, my clients' politics won't [mesh] with my ownbut, to a large extent, I don't care. Politics and making a difference in the world mean more than money. In the end, I care about the world and justice, and you can see that on my social-media accountsso if someone's going to hold that against me, then so be it."
Regarding what Lippitz does, what exactly constitutes luxury real estate? "That's such a good question," said Lippitz, who works in areas such as the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park. "Luxury real estate is more of a state of mind. You can have a luxury condominium for $3 million or for $300,000, depending on how it's presented. It's just marketed expensively."
As for the best and worst parts of his job, Lippitz said it's the same thing: technology. "It's the iPhone," he said. "The worst part is that you have to be available 24/7/365. To be one of the top-10 teams, you have to be responsive. But on the flip side, I can do a deal from anywhere. I was biking in Cambodia recently, and I was calling and texting; I can be in the bathtub or at my son's piano lesson now."
Asked if there are any myths about the real-estate business, Lippitz immediately came up with one. "Even though the barriers are pretty low, I think it's short-sighted to think you're going to make a quick buck," he said. "Yes, I shifted gearsbut when I started, there was no internet and you had to flip through books of listings. The perception now is that it's easy, but it's not an easy business."
Lastly, does he have any advice for real-estate newbies? "Be realistic and be patient," said Lippitz, who added that he sees himself manning the company for quite some time to come. "And understand that you're taking on risks. Be sure to look at the worst-case scenario."
The Brad Lippitz Group can be reached at 3323 N. Broadway and at www.bradlippitz.com .