Founding Partner, Bob Elfant, Brings Decades of Philadelphia Real Estate Know-How to the Table

Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to get a ‘no’; don’t be afraid to lose the deal.

Robert “Bob” Elfant is the founding partner of Direct Mortgage Loan Company (DMLC) and its parent company, Elfant Pontz Properties. He also helped found Elfant Wissahickon Realtors--the largest independent brokerage in Philadelphia, title company Northwest Abstract, and he was a founder and director of Valley Green Bank (now Univest Bank).

In addition to growing multiple Philadelphia businesses, he routinely and actively supports the Philadelphia community. Along with his wife, Nancy, Bob and other partners opened the Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy as a neighborhood hub. He currently serves on the advisory board of Face to Face Germantown, leads the Board of Directors at the Arden Theater Company, and supports the Schuylkill Center Wildlife Clinic.

Bob has thrived in every niche of the Philadelphia real estate industry from sales to property management, to development and finance. He got his start in real estate in ‘73, working at his father’s “mom and pop” on North Broad. Here, Bob gives us insight on how he succeeds in the Philadelphia real estate market.

On managing multiple businesses

“My dad taught me early ‘don’t just do one thing,’ and, as a result, I’ve pursued and developed multiple business interests. That’s kept things interesting and certainly challenging. I will say, though, that without amazing business partners, much of my success would not have been possible.”

On partnerships

“My partners are very hard working. They’re incredibly loyal and trustworthy. We have each other’s backs, and I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t do for them. They’re competitive, and they’re better than me at some things. (I don’t care if they’re better than me in a lot of things.) For example, Jared (Jared E. Pontz--President and Managing Partner of DMLC and Elfant Pontz Properties) originally came on board as my assistant and eventually grew into the driving force behind the growth and success of both Direct Mortgage and Elfant Pontz today.”

On Philadelphia

“It's a small enough town where you can know people and be known. And if you do things the right way, it's a town where you can rise up the ladder of success without having to sacrifice your soul, travel great distances, or have millions and millions of dollars. I’m all about Philly--my sports teams, my business, my investments, my charitable involvements.”

On making it in real estate

“Talk to people; find a mentor. Work whatever connections you can. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to get a ‘no’; don’t be afraid to lose the deal. If you make your decisions based on the short term, you’re going to get yourself in trouble. If you make your decisions based on the long term, you’re going to build your business, you’re going to have a great reputation, and you’re going to create something that you can be proud of.”

On analyzing investor opportunities

“You want to make sure that people are going to be successful with your investment dollars. It may sound trite, but you’re really looking for something that’s going to be a “win-win” for everyone involved. If you’re getting into a transaction where the borrower won’t succeed, you shouldn’t be doing the deal. It might work once, but is that person going to come back to you again? I don’t think so. You have to ask: ‘How much are your holding costs? What’s your net profit? Do you really want that amount of risk for that amount of profit?’”

On how DMLC can help investors

“We're fast, we get back to people quickly, we analyze deals quickly. We meet every borrower, we look at every piece of real estate. We can tailor it to the needs of the borrower better than a conventional source of financing because we're making all the decisions, and we're lending our own money.”

On legacy

“In business, you do have to be tough at times, and you have to work hard, and you have to work the relationships that you have to your competitive advantage. But, you also have to be fair. You want to have a good reputation. And I'll tell you, across the board in our business relationships--Elfant Wissahickon, Elfant Pontz Properties, Direct Mortgage Loan Company--people really like us. They speak well of us. And that's important to me. I want my legacy as a business person to be a positive one.”

On growth

“When I first started, most of our business was limited to three or four zip codes. My father was operating probably $400,000 worth of loans (at DMLC). Now, our business is spread out across the Greater Philadelphia and five county area, and it’s more like 40 million (in loans).

As my father used to say, ‘Not bad for this two-bit operation,’ you know?”