One of the unexpected benefits of writing the blog has been connecting with old friends over our shared passion for real estate. A few years back I reconnected with a buddy from high school I hadn’t spoken with in years. He was searching for a new job in real estate and reached out to chat.
He landed a great job at a top-notch firm and we’ve stayed in constant contact ever since. I was so impressed with how he successfully navigated the job search and the way that he carried himself, I asked him to share his top tools/tips for real estate job-seekers. Enjoy.
I am 26-year-old young professional who has been working in real estate for approximately four years. I have spent the entirety of my career with the same company to date, in two cities, with my role consisting mainly of property management, asset management, leasing, and development work. I have recently been working to transition from the development side of the business to the financial side and Joe and I felt that it would be beneficial for me to share what I feel are the 5 most important tools for real estate job seekers with the ASotREG faithful.
1. Industry Research
The first step to making myself a well-rounded candidate for an analyst or associate position within an investment firm was to sharpen my understanding of the industry as a whole. I spoke with colleagues and friends and asked them if they had any materials that they used to help with the general understanding of development, finance, market analysis, etc. A lot of my friends directed me to a couple of good sources:
- Stan Ross – The Inside Track to Careers in Real Estate
- William Poorvu – The Real Estate Game (My first read, thanks to Joe)
- Donald Trump – The Art of The Deal
- Nathan & Courtland Collier – Construction Funding
- Charles Bagli – Other People’s Money
- Urban Lands Institute’s Real Estate Development Process: Part I
The Art of the Deal and Other People’s Money are more historical, but outline the process of putting together a deal and the risks taken by Trump in the 70’s and 80’s and Tishman Speyer’s handling of their acquisition of Stuytown in the 2000’s. Construction Funding does a good job of outlining the development process and goes a little more in depth than The Real Estate Game. In regard to the ULI Development Process, I was fortunate enough that a friend of mine had taken the course and he gave me the Power Points for each section. The program covers Real Estate Finance, Site Selection and Due Diligence, Deal Structure and Risk Management and Asset Management to name a few of the areas. I found that these Power Points were a great way for me to identify areas of weakness, in regard to my career to date and allowed me to brush up on some of these areas prior to going into any interviews.
2. Excel Financial Modeling & DCF Models
The majority of my focus throughout the job search was spent on enhancing my financial modeling skillset. Thankfully, there are many resources out there and I spent some time choosing between:
I decided go with Breaking Into Wall Street after speaking with some friends who had gone through the process previously. They have a good Real Estate and REIT modeling programs that walk you through the construction of a basic residential model, the development and sale of an office building, a hotel acquisition and renovation, the operating model of a REIT and how to value a REIT portfolio. The program allowed me to go at my own pace and also helped me expand my overall Excel abilities while understanding how to model complex transactions. Some of it can be a little high level and more than you will need to know when you are starting out as an analyst, but I felt that for someone with real estate experience already it was a perfect speed. REFM and Train The Street also have free materials to help fully understand the modeling and analysis process such as; “Demystifying Excel Pro Formas”, “Understanding Cap Rates”, and “Guide to the Real Estate Business”.
3. Argus Modeling
One thing that surprised when speaking to some of my counterparts who were analysts at some of my target firms, were the amount of them that had no experience in Argus. I took this as an opportunity to enhance my resume and also add another weapon into my modeling arsenal. Fortunately for me, my company had an extra license for Argus Valuation – DCF that I was able to utilize and my roommate asked the president of his real estate club in college if he knew of anyone with a copy of an Argus guide. This led to me receiving a copy of Kahr’s Real Estate Services Guide to Argus Valuation and I was able to take a month to teach myself how to use the program.
I would spend approximately 1-2 hours a night after work going through the guide. It starts with basic instructions such as how to create a new property/file and works you through how to build a basic office model (the general model) and goes on to explain how to build models for a residential building, a hotel and company’s portfolio. I would not say that I am an expert in Argus after going through the guide, but if someone gave me a case study it most certainly taught me how to navigate the program and construct a report in Argus.
4. Real Estate Publications
One of the most difficult aspects of my search was identifying target companies within the different markets where I was looking to acquire employment. Outside of the logical major players (Blackstone, Tishman Speyer, Carlyle, Related, Brookfield, etc), I wanted to also identify any regional or local developers, REITs, or investment firms that could be a good fit (I was coming from a small developer in a small market, so I was hoping my search would get me away from that environment, but I did not want to miss any potential opportunities). The best way to do this was by reading as many publications as I could. Every morning I would get to the office about a hour early to go through:
- Globe Street
- The Wall Street Journal Real Estate
- The New York Times Real Estate
- The Commercial Observer
- The New York Observer Real Estate
- The Real Deal
A lot of the time I would find myself reading about the same players in each market, but every once and while I would come across a new company or firm and would add them to my list of potential companies. This was beneficial for a variety of reasons:
- I was able to stay up to date on what was going on in different markets
- It helped with conversation when I would meet with new contacts or would sit down with other individuals within the industry (to be touch on in the next section)
- It helped with my daily routine of continuing to stay disciplined to finding a new job and continuing to search for opportunities.
There are a variety of sources out there and you never know where your next opportunity may come from, so staying on top of all relevant news and identifying new firms, will allow you to continue to grow your network, meet new individuals and learn some things you may have not known.
Out of the other four things that I touched on previously, the most important thing without a doubt in regard to my job search has been networking. I made it my goal as I went through the job search process to attempt to sit down with someone, new or an existing relationship, every two weeks during my search. The real estate industry is quite small, especially once you get into the specific metropolitan markets in the Northeast, and my goal was to have as many advocates backing me as I could. One thing I touched on frequently in the other sections was the ability to rely on my network to help me enhance my skill set and find new opportunities. I was able to get my Argus guide through my roommate and a relationship he had in college. I was able to get example pro formas, case studies and ULI Power Points from colleagues and friends within the industry who had been through the search before me. I was able to develop new relationships within different markets by researching many of the development firms I was reading about and then finding a way to connect with someone within the company for either coffee or lunch. All of these things have led to me being approached for new opportunities and getting my name out there.
Real Estate may be an evolving field, but business in general will always be based on relationships and people like doing business with people that they like. As my network expanded, not only was I able to grow as an individual and a prospective candidate, but I also got my name out there and you never know when the VP of the firm your applying to may know of someone you met with for coffee and their assessment of you leads to you getting the position. Yes, without the necessary hard skills and general knowledge needed to handle the responsibilities and job functions, networking can only get you so far. But when combined with everything I touched on previously, it could be the difference maker in unearthing the next step in your career.
I hope that you found this advice beneficial and that it will help others who may be going through a job search or transition at this time. I would be lying if I said there are not days that are tough and rejection is never fun, but I believe that the process has allowed me to identify areas of weakness, meet a lot of new people, and continue to grow as a young professional in this industry.
If you have any questions, please feel free to speak with Joe and he can connect us.