A Student of the Real Estate Game


ASotREG Interview: Dr. Peter Linneman on Real Estate Careers

Jul 20, 2015 | Asset Management, Career, Development, Entrepreneurship

Last week I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Peter Linneman for the blog. For the few who may not be familiar with Dr. Linneman, he is one of the top minds in the real estate business. He has a unique perspective grounded in both the academic and professional world. He’s the Chairmen of the Wharton Real Estate Program, on the board of a number of public real estate companies, and founder of Linneman Associates, a premier real estate consulting and research firm.

I reference Peter’s work a lot on the blog; his textbook Real Estate Finance & Investments is one of the best resources for learning real estate fundamentals, I’m an affiliate for his Bisnow Interview Series,  and I constantly reference his quote on building relationships.

I utilized my call with Peter to ask a few of the real estate career-related questions that I get over and over again. Every answer is jam-packed with great insights and actionable advice. I spliced the audio and pulled out each answer one-by-one below along with a few scratch notes. You can listen to the full unedited version of the interview below the post. I apologize in advance for the poor audio quality, I recorded from my iPhone while outside in Madison Square Park in the middle of the afternoon.

Enter Peter:

Real estate is a popular career choice right now and a lot of undergrads think they’re interested in real estate. What are some signs that real estate is in fact the right career choice for them?

  • Real estate has a lot of dimensions and room for many different types of personalities.
  • The role you play depends on your skillset and interests.
  • If you can’t find a place in real estate that fits your personality, you need a new personality.

What is the best entry point into the real estate business? 

  • Get to the point where you can do Excel in your sleep – know how to put together rows and columns quickly and accurately. The reason is because it’s a useful input in everyone’s decisions process and none of us want to do it. If you can do rows and columns quickly and accurately, you’re valuable.
  • If you come in and you don’t know how to do it, people don’t want to train you, so you put yourself at a big disadvantage.
  • It’s not important because it’s so highly valued, it’s because it needs to be done.
  • If you want to get a job with someone take out the garbage, because no one wants to take out the garbage. Doing the rows and columns is like taking out the garbage; it’s got to be done, anybody can do it, and no one wants to do it so if you’re willing/able to do it, you have a big advantage.

What are 3 books you think every aspiring real estate professional should read?      

What are your thoughts on masters in real estate programs? Who benefits most from these advanced degrees?

  • I could have been involved in creating a program that was not part of the business school or the undergrad program and I explicitly chose to embed it in the Business School as another field in the same way accounting or marketing is a field. I chose that because at the end of the day it’s business and yes there are skills and yes there is language, but by making it a larger part of business provides tremendous synergies.
  • This is not to say the 1 year stand-alone programs are a mistake, it’s just my own preference to make it part of a larger business curriculum.
  • My suggestion is to take real estate as part of a larger business curriculum.

Here’s a post I did on the real value of a graduate real estate program.

What are a few of traits or characteristics you’ve seen in successful real estate entrepreneurs?

  • Good entrepreneurs fill gaps and figure out ways to do things better/cheaper/faster.
  • They understand what others are doing – it’s hard for me to know if I can do something better/cheaper/faster than the competition if I don’t know what the competition is.
  • Entrepreneurs generally have experience not being in an entrepreneurial environment; if I wanted to be an entrepreneur in retail real estate, my ideal job would be to work for Simon Properties for a few years. This would allow you to see what they do extremely well and also what they don’t do well, and that’s where the opportunities lie.
  • Entrepreneurs are very observant about what others do well and others do poorly and are good at filling that gap.
  • Entrepreneurs are also great sales people; you have to convince people to work with you rather than someone with a great balance sheet. You have to convince tenants to lease in your space rather than from a landlord with millions of square feet. You have to convince capital providers to give money to you rather than a name brand.
  • You have to accept being told no an endless amount of times and not take it personally because the typical answer is always no.
  • Most people are unable to be told no that many times and keep moving forward.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a young real estate professional just beginning his/her career?

  • Understand a career is a long time; there’s a tendency to view a year as a long time.
  • Your career could easily be 60 years from when you graduate college.
  • Yes you want to act with urgency and yes you want to move forward, but take time to learn things, build a solid foundation, and earn respect.
  • If you do good work, people will notice. They may not notice on the first day, they may not notice in the first month, they may not notice in the first year, but if you can consistently do good work, somebody is going to notice and give you the next chance.
  • If after 1-2 years nobody has noticed, then you have to ask yourself if you’re actually doing good work.
  • Doing rows and columns is boring, do it really well and someone will notice. They know it’s boring, they’ll eventually give you a chance.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Dr. Peter Linneman. Editing and uploading the audio was a huge pain, but I hope to do more posts like this in the future. Here’s the full unedited conversation.