THE REAL DEAL and Kipp Gillian


Who’s hiring?
NYC real estate jobs on rise, especially in private equity

May 01, 2012
By Sarah Evelyn Harvey

Good news for graduates: While there are still more applicants than job openings in New York City real estate, sources say conditions are getting better.

“The hiring environment has improved substantially from the last couple of years,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Center for Urban Real Estate at Columbia University. “It’s not as strong as it could be, but there is definitely more interest out there.”

Chakrabarti said he’s seeing an uptick in the number of real estate investment, financial and private equity firms now looking to hire Columbia students. (He declined to name specific companies recruiting at the school, however.)

Meanwhile, at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, 60 companies attended the institute’s recent job fair, up from 40 last spring, the school said.

The companies who attended this year’s fair included Goldman Sachs, the investment and advisory firm Blackstone, commercial brokerage Newmark Knight Frank, Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group and MetLife.

“Maybe not all were hiring, but they were thinking about [hiring],” said Rosemary Scanlon, divisional dean at Schack. “They wanted to be in the mix to see our students. That was very encouraging.”

Meanwhile, there are some 120 jobs and internships currently posted on Schack’s job board.

This year, Scanlon said, she is seeing more available “associate” positions at financial firms — which tend to require more experience than entry-level analyst jobs — than last year. A number of public-sector positions have also been posted, specifically with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, although Scanlon did not say how many Schack graduates have been hired there.

Both Schack and the Center for Urban Real Estate — which between them are producing nearly 200 graduates this year — said they have seen the most interest coming from private equity firms. As the real estate industry continues to pull itself out of the recession, there’s been an increase in property trading and repositioning of buildings, said Kipp Gillian, president of Gillian Executive Search, a national recruiting firm that specializes in real estate development, construction management and related fields.

That’s led to more job openings in financial analysis and underwriting, a trend Gillian expects to continue in the New York market.

“The more transaction volume, the more these people are needed,” Gillian said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment among financial analysts is expected to increase by 23 percent through 2020.

New ground-up construction projects are still relatively rare, however, so development firms are lagging behind when it comes to hiring, schools said.

“There is less hiring on the development side, due to lingering issues with the financial side of new construction,” Chakrabarti said.

Still, some large REITs and developers have recently started to show more interest in hiring.

The Related Companies, for example, is hiring in a variety of positions this spring, a company spokesperson told The Real Deal. The company is looking for candidates with at least one to three years of experience in real estate, corporate finance or underwriting.

These job openings may be a good fit for students at top graduate programs — like the Center for Urban Real Estate, Schack and Columbia Business School — where most students already have work experience.

Ironically, however, some construction management firms are actually having trouble filling open positions, Gillian said. These firms look to hire people with four to five years of real estate experience as project engineers, assistant project managers and assistant project superintendents, he said, but these candidates are few and far between in the post-recession economy.

“For the past four years, candidates have been coming out of school and have not been able to find jobs in real estate,” explained Gillian. Those candidates moved on to other fields, and now that the jobs are coming back, there aren’t enough experienced people to fill them.

Another active area for hiring is residential brokerage, where many twentysomethings and graduates of real estate licensing programs begin their job searches. National employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is expected to grow 11 percent through 2020, according to the labor bureau.

Many local real estate brokerages have been stocking up on sales and rental agents during the busy part of the year, said David Maundrell, founder and president of the brokerage

“This is the season, so to speak,” said Maundrell, who’s preparing to hire 40 sales and rental agents for a new office in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, nearly doubling the size of the company. Maundrell said he plans on recruiting from local real estate licensing programs.

Another New York residential brokerage — two-year-old RealDirect — is expanding, and hopes to hire up to 15 new agents. Cofounder and CEO Doug Perlson said he is mostly looking for candidates with real estate experience, but would consider recent graduates who are familiar with the neighborhoods the firm covers. He’s also interested in candidates with experience uploading photos, blogging and using social media; because the brokerage is driven by its website, he said he wants agents who can connect with clients online.

Newly licensed sales agents can also look to A.C. Lawrence & Company, which is in the midst of a hiring “frenzy,” said Olinda Turturro, the firm’s director of recruiting.

A.C. Lawrence, which currently has 127 agents, is looking to grow by 40 percent this year, she said, mostly by recruiting from Manhattan’s New York Real Estate Institute and other local programs.

“We’re going into our busiest season,” Turturro said. “People are relocating, sizing up or sizing down and graduating — there’s a lot of movement.”

Larger brokerages, like Citi Habitats, are also open to hiring recent graduates.

“We’re always looking to hire new people,” said firm president Gary Malin, though he said the firm isn’t necessarily looking for a set number of new employees.

Gillian recommended that real estate job seekers — in any segment of the market — study the market to find out which companies are most active, and therefore likely to be hiring.

“Open those newspapers, read those business columns, learn who is doing what and what transactions are going on,” Gillian said. “And look at what companies are behind those transactions — those are the companies that are really helping push things.”

Similarly, candidates should look for firms with training programs, Malin said; Citi Habitats offers a five-day training program for new hires, plus on-the-job training.

“You might be really good with people, but you have to be willing to learn the business,” Malin said.

Most importantly, employers want candidates who are a good fit for the industry.

Success in real estate “takes a maverick type of personality,” said Daun Paris, president of the commercial brokerage Eastern Consolidated. “It requires communication skills, and also the ability to be creative and thrive on the unknown.”

Most of Eastern Consolidated’s new hires are seasoned professionals, including attorneys, accountants and small business owners, so Paris doesn’t typically hire right out of college. But she recommends that graduates interested in commercial real estate start by researching the industry and figuring out if they have the skillset for sales.

“For the right person, there are always opportunities in real estate,” she said.

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