NAME: Asher Zelig Brodt 

POSITION: President, Imperial Realty, Lakewood, 

NJ ROLE MODEL: My wife 

FAVORITE PLACE: At a kumzitz with my father and brothers

It’s traffic on Route 9 that delays my arrival for my nine o’clock breakfast meeting with Asher Brodt. But the congestion is more than just a nuisance, it explains part of the reason I’m here. 

The CEO of Imperial Realty — a powerhouse in Lakewood’s residential market — carries a last name that merges two generations of Beth Medrash Govoha with an appreciation and respect for the many young families seeking to find homes in Lakewood. Even as he sits in the corner of his busy office, Brodt looks like he would much prefer to be standing, microphone in hand, surrounded by his brothers as they accompany their father, Reb Abish, in song. Part of the Lakewood brand — Reb Abish is a Lakewood alumnus, as are his sons — the family are regulars at Beth Medrash Govoha simchos and all Yom Tov events, yet welcome figures in the great chassidic courts. 

But the world of Lakewood real estate isn’t always as serene as a slow song. It’s hard to connect the delightful Beth Medrash Govoha yungerman in white shirtsleeves with the explosion, the commotion, the dizzying speed of the developments and projects spreading for miles around us. 

“Lakewood is special. There is no model quite like it, in terms of real estate, because, aside from being a flourishing yeshivah community, it also has tremendous internal growth. Families marry off children who settle here. In Yerushalayim, for example, you don’t have that, the married kids move out to Beitar or Elad. Plus, on top of the young families, we have another emerging demographic. In many cases, the parents and even the grandparents of the bnei yeshivah are selling their homes in other communities and moving here or purchasing second homes here. 

“I have a young Sephardic fellow from Flatbush,” he says, describing one of his clients.”Most of his children and grandchildren, bli ayin hara, live in Lakewood and they want to hear what their options are. Some of the grandparents are moving into A Country Place, others moved into Pine River Senior Village or to developments for senior living on the outskirts of Lakewood.” 

Then there’s the kehillah’s core product, the yungeleit. When a peaceful yeshivah town turns into a frum metropolis, there’s an obvious challenge: How can the locals find housing when there’s an imbalance at times of supply and demand? 

Brodt admits it’s an issue.”This town is the yeshivah’s, there’s no question,” he says.”The yungeleit give Lakewood it’s imprint. They’re what distinguishes Lakewood from every other kehillah, and they are our priority. Seven out of every ten homes in Lakewood, and not just the frum homes, accommodate talmidim or alumni of the yeshivah. No other community has such a unique bond with a mosad. 

The yeshivah administration has been tireless in trying to find housing for the talmidim, he says.”And because of their efforts, we’ve made it a priority to help, identifying suitable locations and trying to make these homes as economical as possible. Nothing is more important to us and we have dedicated staff members investing most of their time in working with yungeleit and walking them through the process. So even as others move in from New York — and they are welcome — our core market remains the talmidim of the yeshivah. Interestingly, many of those looking to come back are also yeshivah alumni, whether they are litvish or chassidish, Ashkenazic or Sephardic. 

Asher, who is active in commercial real estate as well, adds another point.”Lakewood is becoming a business hub as well. There was a time when the large warehouses and offices were in New York or other parts of Jersey, meaning a long, inconvenient daily commute. Now, more and more large frum companies have relocated to Lakewood.” 

So as Lakewood demographics change, life changes along with it. Brodt is quick to credit the roshei hayeshivah and yeshivah administration for embracing the newer communities, sharing the example of how the yeshivah worked to expand the local bus service to embrace the small Belz kehillah, which was established on the Tom’s River-Lakewood border. 

“There are plenty of housing alternatives, but Belz chose Lakewood because they felt the deep appreciation for Torah was a draw. They join a long tradition of Lakewood shtieblach, including Stolin, Skver, Bobov, Satmar, and more, all founded by alumni of Beth Medrash Govoha, and filled with alumni and talmidim of the yeshivah.” 

Brodt didn’t choose this career path; it found him when, in the time-honored tradition of yungeleit, he sat schmoozing with some friends about where to live.”It was just a few years after my chasunah and a new development, Whispering Pines, was going up. It was considered far from the yeshivah, a bit risky.” 

Brodt ran through the numbers, arriving at the simple equation that the mortgage payments wouldn’t exceed his rent, so it was just a question of finding the money for the (at the time) modest town payment.”I went around to my chaburah and tried to get some chevreh to join me. That’s when I learned my first lesson: Everyone wants to buy a house. It’s just a question of helping them see it as a reality.” 

He sold a few homes that way, and he’s never stopped. Much like the customer base, the sales staff coming through the busy office is also a diverse crowd. Reb Asher reflects on what he looks for when he hires.”Passion. It’s most important. Feel the excitement of a first-time homebuyer, understand their dream and try to realize it as if it were your own.” 

He clearly feels the excitement.”It’s nice to help people realize a dream and buy a home. It’s nicer still when you can help them settle in a place rich in spiritual opportunity, a place where they and their families can grow.”