Mitch Muroff started in hospitality. Now he sells it in Lake George.
By Robin K. Cooper – Reporter, Albany Business Review
Jun 22, 2022
Broker Mitch Muroff spent a lot of time throughout the Covid-19 pandemic negotiating real estate deals with manufacturing executives, tax analysts, financial advisers and hotel owners as Adirondack Mountains resort properties became a safe haven for investors looking for a place to park their money.
Last year, Muroff brokered the sale of five hotels and motels, including three on Lake George — the Flamingo Resort, Lake George Suites and Country Cottages & Motel. The purchase prices on those properties ranged from $6.5 million to $2.75 million.
“The Lake George market is as strong as I have seen it,” Muroff said. “This a drive-to-leisure destination not unlike Cape Cod, Ogunquit, Maine, and the New Jersey shore, where people felt like they could vacation safely during the [pandemic] without having to get on a plane.”
Smaller leisure markets like the Adirondacks fared much better over the past three years than larger urban hotels and convention centers, many of which have yet to recover, Muroff said.
Despite rising interest rates and escalating material and supply costs, the number of potential buyers looking to purchase hospitality property does not appear to be slowing.
Muroff is under contract to sell two more resort properties, one in the Berkshire Mountains and the other on Fire Island off the south shore of Long Island. And he has offers on two other hospitality properties that the sellers have not yet accepted.
What was your first introduction to the hospitality industry? I grew up on Long Island and started working as a cabana boy and helping out in the kitchen while working at beach clubs on Atlantic Beach while I was in high school and college.
You chose a different path when you started your career. I always had an analytical mind and thought a career in law would make sense. After graduating from American University, I went to law school at New England Law in Boston. Then, I moved back to New York and started working in a general practice firm focusing on real estate, corporate, estates and I did a lot of matrimonial and divorce work.
How did you end up moving back into hospitality? My wife Marjorie’s dad was a prominent hotel owner in Boston. We lived in New York while I was building my law practice and every time we went to visit her family, Marjorie’s dad would talk to me about coming to work for him. Eventually, I agreed. We moved back to Boston and I joined her father at Sage Hotel Corp., which owned and operated six hotels in the Northeast.
What was that transition like? It was a great experience. I was brand new. It was important to work in all of the departments. I spent time on the front desk, worked in housekeeping and sales, and learned about the restaurants. I worked my way up to director of development before becoming executive vice president and general counsel.
We grew a lot and ended up owning the franchise rights for Howard Johnson’s in Canada and expanded our company from 14 to 35 hotels. We had limited partnerships with the individual properties and after about 25 years there, some of the partners wanted to get out so we started selling the hotels one at a time.
Is that what prompted you to make the transition to starting a brokerage focused on hotel and resort sales? It seemed like a natural progression. I knew hoteliers all over the country. I understood the mechanics of owning and operating hotels, so I could explain the strengths and weaknesses of each property. Starting Muroff Hospitality Group was a way for me to combine my negotiating skills, my experience selling hotels and my law degree and build something new.
You were living near Boston, how did Lake George land on your radar as an area to focus a lot of your practice? I had some connections here. I knew a couple of hotel owners and approached them to see if they were interested in selling. It grew from there. Muroff Hospitality Group is located in Newton, Massachusetts, but the major focus is selling hospitality property in Lake George and the Capital Region of New York state.
How have the last few years impacted financing and mortgages for investors buying hotels and motels? Financing has gotten better as we slowly come out of the pandemic. But the requirements are different than they were five or six years ago. You are seeing more instances where you need to put in 30% or 35% equity now. You used to see a lot of deals that were in the 15% to 20% equity range. Banks are looking a lot closer at operating numbers. They want to see a proven track record of the business and they look seriously at the experience of the buyer.
Interview has been edited and condensed.
Who he is: Founder and owner of Muroff Hospitality Group
What they do: Hotel, motel, campground and resort sales focused heavily in the Adirondacks, Lake George, the Berkshires and upstate New York
Where he is from: Born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island
Where he lives: Newton, Massachusetts
Education: Bachelor’s in political science from American University; law degree from New England Law in Boston
Family: Wife, Marjorie; they have two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren