Describe your current position and what an average work day is like for you.
I am a Market Associate for Northwestern Mutual Real Estate Investments covering the southeastern United States. I underwrite debt and equity investment opportunities produced out of our Atlanta regional office. NM's typical investment size is about $60 million, but ranges on a single project from $20 million to $250 million. We invest nationally in investment-grade product across major property types.
My typical day involves analyzing market data, pricing loans and modeling projected returns on real estate investment opportunities submitted from our field production staff. I also travel frequently to major southeastern markets to meet with clients and perform property inspections. Once a deal is signed, I present the regional office investment recommendation to our home office senior management for approval. I am also involved in recruiting and run the new employee mentoring program, which keeps me busy!
What is the greatest benefit(s) you've gotten from the Graaskamp Center and the Wisconsin Real Estate Program?
My education with the Wisconsin Real Estate Program helped my ability to identify macro and micro-economic drivers supporting quality real estate investments. It strengthened my understanding of finance and investment strategy and helped improve my skills in excel and Argus modeling, which has made me a more thoughtful and productive in my position.
What does the world need from real estate professionals today?
The world needs real estate professionals who are both discerning and creative. Prudent decision-making is an essential quality for all investment professionals. As an ill-liquid asset, real estate punctuates the need for investors to be cautious and take a long-term view, as highlighted by the current real estate driven recession in the U.S. A sustainable recovery will partly rely on the vision and willingness of investors to recapitalize and reposition distressed properties. I think cautious developers and investors who are entrepreneurial in spirit will be the most successful in creating opportunities and building momentum in a soft market.
What advice would you give to a young professional considering a career in real estate?
Do what you can to gain hands-on experience! I would recommend working at the property level before going into investment analysis or portfolio management. I see a lot of young people looking to jump into analyst positions with larger investment firms without having any experience working with the asset. Having a firm grasp of realistic construction and lease-up time frames as well operational needs for various property types comes with experience, and is critical to building accurate forecasts. The good news is that real estate is an industry with lots of smaller owner/operators who are constantly in need of young talent. I got my start in high school showing apartments for a small property management company on the north side of Chicago. I've since worked jobs in development, corporate real estate consulting and construction. It took me twelve years and a master's degree to break into the investment world, but the breadth of my past experience has been important to refining my judgment and analytical ability.
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