Photo by Toshi Tasaki
As president of RM Friedland, Sarah Jones-Maturo has her fingers firmly on the pulse of the economy — and plays a pivotal role in the industry she loves.
A summer internship sparked Sarah Jones-Maturo’s love for commercial real estate. Today, she runs a firm that has sold more than $3 billion in commercial properties.
When Sarah Jones-Maturo was a student at College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, MA, she thought for sure she wanted to be a lawyer — until she did a summer internship, after which she decided to go in a different direction. “I was determined to be happy in the career I chose,” she says.
The following summer, she interned with CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm — and that’s when a fire was lit.
“I just fell in love with it. That office, the industry… I just fell in love,” says Jones-Maturo. “There was such a great energy there.”
Fast-forward to 2015, when Jones-Maturo proved that love often leads to success: at the tender executive age of 33, she became the president of RM Friedland, in Harrison. The eponymous company, founded in 1970 by Robert Friedland, is the largest commercial real estate brokerage company headquartered in Westchester County. Specializing in retail, industrial, office, and investment real estate, RM Friedland is supported by a team of 30 professionals, who have sold close to $3.5 billion in properties in the firm’s half-century history.
Jones-Maturo describes herself as “competitive,” a trait she thinks she inherited from her athletic parents: Mom was a pro tennis player, while Dad was a basketball standout at Yale. Jones-Maturo was a varsity athlete in high school, but it wasn’t until her career in real estate that she began to feel the burn of competition.
“I was 22 when I began. At the time I joined, I was one of a small handful of female brokers at CBRE — and I really wanted to succeed. During deals, I was able to look a 45-year-old man in the eye and not be intimidated, and that, I believe, propelled my success,” she says.
On a day-to-day basis, Jones-Maturo may not spend a great deal of time thinking about being a woman in a historically male-dominated industry, but when she started, it was hard not to, and that fact also fueled her drive.
“It was really an all-male environment, and I wanted to prove myself,” she says. “I may have been a chick playing a boys’ game, and they may have looked at me that way. Over time, I changed their minds, and in this business, you either produce or you don’t.”
“I was 22 when I began. At the time I joined, I was one of a small handful of female brokers at CBRE — and I really wanted to succeed. During deals, I was able to look a 45-year-old man in the eye and not be intimidated, and that, I believe, propelled my success.”
—Sarah Jones-Maturo, President, RM Friedland
Those who work closely with her agree that Jones-Maturo’s signature drive and competitiveness are keys to her success. “She brought a whole new vibe to the company,” Jean Marie Manning, RM Friedland’s director of operations, says. “She’s always ready to listen and works well with brokers who have been around the block a few times and others who are just starting out. She’s a great role model.”
In addition to the competition the industry brings, Jones-Maturo finds that commercial real estate both fascinates and intrigues her, even after nearly 20 years in the business. To her, it isn’t just about making money; it’s about having your finger on the pulse of the community.
“I think the enticing thing about commercial real estate is that you’re really on the front lines of the economy,” she says. “Where and when a developer breaks ground is indicative of growth in a specific geographical region or industry. You learn what’s happening across every business sector.”
Predicting the economy during the pandemic is not a simple task. Yet, Jones-Maturo can already see trends that are likely to reveal themselves in commercial real estate. It isn’t reading tea leaves; rather, it is making a measured prediction based on people’s wants and tendencies.
“Locally, we have seen tremendous demand from urban and suburban developers for large swaths of land in more traditional suburbs. These developers are looking to capitalize upon a recent COVID trend of people who want to move out of the city,” Jones-Maturo points out. “Prior to COVID, many Millenials were having children and insistent upon staying in an urban environment. With everyone working and schooling from home, that has shifted. People said, ‘I need a yard and some space!’”
It isn’t just the residential developers who may see a boon. Jones-Maturo believes other sectors are likely to experience an uptick due to the specific effects of COVID. These aren’t sure things, but if the variables continue to line up, the economy is likely to go in a clear direction.
“Industrial real estate will continue to be hot,” she predicts. “Not just in traditional areas, like the Bronx, but also in all the areas proximate to New York City, like Westchester, Fairfield, and Rockland counties.
“Retail will come back toward the end of this year. The end of the eviction moratorium is going to have a dramatic effect on landlords and tenants alike. The commercial real estate market is in a state of flux. The role of a broker is to advise clients how to navigate their way through this evolving market. This advisory role is more critical now more than ever,” Jones-Maturo adds.
RM Friedland is well-positioned regardless of the economy’s potential vicissitudes, she notes. It represents a diversity of commercial real estate, so if one sector declines, it is likely another will soar. Diversification throughout the New York and Connecticut regions in a variety of sectors may be a challenge to manage, but it provides a bit of business safety for RM Friedland.
“We are well represented among the different asset classes. RMF has very skilled industrial, investment, office, and retail brokerage teams,” says Jones-Maturo. “During COVID, the urban retail team was shockingly busy because that is still a cash economy and not as affected by e-commerce. The suburban retail environment was a bit slower, and our industrial division was incredibly busy. It really helps that we are so well represented.”
As much as it seems she has the commercial real estate world under control, Jones-Maturo is like the rest of us mere mortals when it comes to navigating the rest of the COVID world. Since the fall, she has taken turns with her husband in the morning (before going to the office) to homeschool her two kids — Lucie, 9, and Timmy, 6. In the afternoon, they go to school. The hybrid format hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot to keep all the plates spinning as she runs from business to school to home management.
“You know, there have been times when it seems under control and very doable, and I think, I got this. Then, the next day, it feels like a dumpster fire, and I want out. I’m not the most patient teacher. It has been challenging,” she says of the pandemic routine.
Overall, however, Jones-Maturo reports that her home team has responded well to the pandemic. Her spouse, Francois, who works in advertising technology, has been working remotely since the start of the pandemic. “Francois is a great chef, and I love spending time with the family,” she shares.
But Jones-Maturo knows she is very much in control when it come to her life at work: “I like being the master of my own destiny and getting out what I put in. That is what attracted to me to the industry to begin with — and I love that.”