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Real estate forum participants offer knowledge, advice to students

Group touches on work life, market disruptions

When GBX Group’s Michael Moses graduated from Miami University in 1989, the “sexiest” sectors in real estate were malls and office space, he said. “If you weren’t in one of those two sectors, you weren’t really in real estate. Multi-family and warehouse/industrial were ugly stepchildren.”

Oh, how the times have changed, thanks to shipping and internet businesses. “It’s an amazing feat, the turnaround now in industrial and warehouse space, whereas conversely, the retail malls have been hit, and hit very hard.” Moses said.

Moses, along with fellow Miami alumni Nick Rabin of North American Properties, Matt Lasky of SVP, Pamela Weber of PNC Real Estate, and Carl Goertemoeller of Viking Partners, led a forum on the real estate business at the Farmer School of Business last week, discussing a wide variety of topics for the students and faculty in attendance.

On the working hours in real estate:

“I can’t remember the last time I worked a 40-hour week. The joke is “How many emails will I send on vacation?” Especially on the owner side – tenant’s issues are our issues,” Lasky noted. “When there’s a live deal, we do what it takes to get it done, and sometimes that means longer hours.”

“In our environment, if you can do your job in a short amount of time, we don’t care, that’s fine. It’s a question of ‘Do your job, and do as much as you can in the period of time you have,’” Moses said. “If that takes 35 hours or 55 hours, that’s up to you.”

 “There’s a saying in our business, ‘Time kills deals.’ You really need to show a sense of urgency if you want to get something done in a timely fashion. It’s very easy for a potential buyer of your property to change their mind or get cold feet,” Goertemoeller explained. “I can’t tell you the number of times I had to stay late with my attorney responding to a document, just trying to get a document turned around that night, just knowing that we don’t have the luxury of time.”

“It’s the myth of the 9 to 5 banker. I haven’t worked 9 to 5 in my life, ever. Ever, ever, ever. It doesn’t exist,” Weber pointed out. “Time is of the essence. Delivery for your client is key. And you have to do that on their timeframe, not yours.”

On disruptions in real estate

“The retail market has been disrupted, probably more than any other asset class now,” Goertemoeller said. “The retailers who will ultimately be successful are the retailers that will effectively, seamlessly integrate their online business with their brick-and-mortar business.”

“AirBnB has not disrupted the underwriting pattern yet, but what we’ve found is that lot of owners and developers of multi-family dwellings are extremely protective of not allowing BnB into their apartment complexes,” Weber noted. “It’s definitely something that’s created a challenge from our perspective.”

“One of the megatrends in medical office space is that health care systems are starting to realize that they have to treat patients like customers and consumers,” Lasky explained. “So they’re starting to think more like retailers in their strategy of going out into the communities. In a lot of cases, they’re going into the retail building envelope.”

“Apartment buildings 10 years ago were essentially a commodity. In the last 10 years, there’s almost been an arms race in some ways,” Rubin said, pointing out the increasing trend of people renting by choice rather than buying a home. “It was ‘Who can find the best location, build the bigger apartment, the better apartment?’ That arms race is reaching the point of unsustainability.”

Advice to students looking to real estate:

“Numbers run through much of what we do. So if numbers, in whatever form, is not part of your pursuit – but you think real estate might be – I would encourage you to pair that with math,” Rubin said.

“Learn how to sell. And ‘sales’ does not mean making someone buy a used car that they don’t want. Whether you’re managing your boss, or you’re the analyst, you’re always making a sale,” Lasky pointed out. “Learning to persuade and effectively communicate is becoming a dying art.”

“Network in every capacity that you can, starting now, on this campus. If you get to meet an individual, make sure to keep their card, their contact information,” Weber suggested. “Networking is not just external – networking is internal to your organization as well. You will make your life significantly more simple, especially the larger your organization.”

“If you have the ability, have the opportunity to do someone in the business a favor to help make their life easier, do it. This is a relationship-driven business, and someday, you’re going to need something, and that person is going to be a resource,” Goertemoeller said.