For the past four decades, GL Homes has built thousands of homes in Palm Beach County, from starter houses to luxury communities to homes for people ages 55 and up.
Now the Sunrise-based company’s longtime leader, Itzhak Ezratti, has passed the company’s leadership to his son, Misha. The elder Itzhak will continue as chairman but Misha is now president — and in charge of leading the company into the future.
Chances are strong the company’s fortunes will continue to be good. After all, the “GL” in GL Homes stands for Good Luck. But lucky people usually are hard-working and smart. The same goes for GL Homes.
GL Homes is adept at spotting trends, and it was among the first builders to devise ways in which to construct large numbers of homes while still allowing buyers to customize their houses. “We’re one of the pioneers in being able to manage a level of volume and still offer a substantial amount of customization. It’s difficult to do both,” Misha Ezratti said.
GL Homes also has flourished by correctly anticipating that buyers increasingly would shy away from golf club communities, which are expensive to keep up but now are facing declines in membership and interest.
Today’s home buyers are gravitating toward communities that offer perks such as lavish club houses without the high expenses of golf course maintenance. These are the types of communities in which GL specializes.
GL’s newest community, Seven Bridges west of Delray Beach, is an example.
It just opened its 30,000-square-foot clubhouse, which includes a fitness center, group fitness studio, saunas and massage rooms. Outside, there are tennis courts and a resort-style pool, plus a separate lap pool.
Surrounding this elegance are luxury homes priced from $757,000 to $1.9 million. GL Homes has sold 510 out of 700 home sites available in the community, faster than the company expected.
“We knew it would be a success, but even we didn’t realize how big of a success it would be,” Ezratti said.
Most of these sales were before the clubhouse was completed, he said. Buyers are coming from local communities, including from golf and country club communities such as Woodfield, St. Andrews and Broken Sound, as well as from out of the area, he said.
GL Homes also is working to sell mid-level homes at a new community west of Delray Beach, dubbed Dakota. The homes, at west Atlantic Avenue and U.S. 441, are priced from between $450,000 to $585,000. The property is similar to Tuscany, the new GL Homes community on Atlantic Avenue just east of the Turnpike, but on larger lots that can accommodate a pool.
“Sales have been pretty incredible. The demand is overwhelming,” Ezratti said.
In the first three hours they were open for sales in March the home builder took 50 reservations. At press time, Ezratti said GL Homes had sold 73 of 387 home sites.
GL Homes would like to continue to develop in an area known as the Agricultural Reserve, a south-county farming zone where building is limited by county rules.
For example, instead of moving forward with recently approved plans to build a giant development of homes on Indian Trails Grove land west of The Acreage, GL proposes building in the Ag Reserve, and using Indian Trails Grove, outside of the reserve, to meet strict county rules requiring 60 acres to be set aside for every 40 acres that are developed. Land outside the Ag Reserve cannot be used to meet preservation requirements for development in the reserve, so the deal would require changes to the county’s comprehensive plan.
Ezratti declined to discuss the Ag Reserve-Indian Trails Grove swap.
Ezratti said GL Homes increasingly is looking to buy land for in-fill housing, or homes built on land in developed areas. Golf courses are a prime focus. GL Homes is under contract to buy the Polo Trace golf course west of Delray Beach. GL Homes also is buying parts of a golf course at the Fountains Country Club in suburban Lake Worth.
GL is on the hunt for more in-town land. With big plots of land out west running out, “eastern locations and redevelopment has to be a big part of the future of the county,” Ezratti said.
Name: Misha Ezratti
Hometown: I was born in Hollywood and I now live in Miami Beach.
Education: Bachelor of Science from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business with a concentration in finance.
Family: I have been married for five years to a beautiful ballet dancer and have a 2 1/2-year-old son. My entire family lives in South Florida, including my parents and two sisters.
About your company: GL Homes was founded in 1976, and just last year we celebrated our 40th year anniversary. As one of the leading home builders in the nation, GL Homes has designed and built incredible communities with a focus on lifestyle, quality of construction and the best customer service in the industry. In 2016, GL Homes had an outstanding year with $939 million in revenues, while delivering almost 1,600 homes in the state of Florida, primarily in Palm Beach County. We have over 430 employees and are proud to be such a driving force in the local economy.
First paying job and what you learned from it: Summer job working at Ben & Jerry’s scooping ice cream on the beach in my parents’ hometown of Tel Aviv. I learned the importance of accountability, having a positive attitude at work, and how to sell over 50 flavors of ice cream in another language!
First break in the business: When I was 9 years old, I was on a job site with my dad in Miramar. He placed me on his lap while we drove around the site and he taught me about construction and land development. I was hooked.
How your business has changed: Sizable tracts of land in South Florida are few and far between. This has led many developers to shift their focus to smaller pieces of land and redevelopment.
Best business book: I recently read “The Three-Box Solution” by Vijay Govindarajan. I was inspired by the innovative organizational concepts that the book explores.
Best piece of business advice you’ve received: Never ask someone else to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.
What you tell young people about your business: Home building is an exciting career with many facets from construction, sales, engineering, architecture, etc. It’s also a very complicated and risky industry, but when you build a new home and see the joy on the families’ faces when they move in, there is nothing more rewarding.
Many successful people learn from failure. Do you have a failure you can share and what you learned from it? Chinese drywall was a problem that seriously affected home builders and our buyers. GL Homes approached the issue head-on. During this process, I learned that you can turn an adversarial relationship around, and an unhappy customer can potentially become your biggest advocate if you do the right thing for the right reason.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? I believe Palm Beach County is a very attractive place to live and work. I expect growth will continue with the creation of more small businesses and a focus on higher education, healthcare, and technology. GL Homes will be there to meet the demand for housing and services that growth creates.
Power lunch spot: Houston’s Boca Raton
Where we’d find you when you’re not at the office: Boating with my family and enjoying the beauty that Florida has to offer. I love scuba diving and water sports. I am also a big fan of our hometown sports teams the Miami Heat and the Miami Dolphins.
Favorite smart phone app: Pandora music. I am a total music junkie.
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? Measured confidence with the intelligence to back it up.