From Research to REPE/REIT

I have spent 5+ years in various real estate research roles at large brokers (CBRE/JLL/C&W type) right after undergrad. I have had a good career so far, gotten exposure to various sectors (MF/logistics/office/health care/retail...) and moved up the ranks (Manager), but I am feeling a bit pigeonholed at this point and find it hard to transition to a more transactional/deal role where I would ultimately want to end up (acquisitions REPE/REIT/private debt). Recruiters tell me my lack of deal exp precludes me from jumping ship. After the current storm has passed, I believe investment opportunities will show up in the next 12-18 months and I'd like to capitalise on some of them by being on the investment side, instead of spending my time on research/data gathering that support some other shops finding these opportunities.

Has anyone been in a similar position? How have you leveraged your research experience to get a transaction role? Is such a transition even possible?
Any help would be great!

Comments (13)

  • Director in RE - Comm
1mo 

You could try getting a research role at an actual repe firm instead of brokers.

You might still be in research but there is more upward potential. The head of research at big repe firms make good money, and at least at my firm get deal participation.

  • Principal in RE - Comm
1mo 

Probably not going to like this answer, but starting as an analyst or senior analyst at a middle market shop is probably your best chance to make that switch. I would be a little shocked if you were able to be so far removed from the deal, whether its broker or buy-side/lending, and come in at an associate or higher level. You definitely have industry knowledge that you can fixate on during interviews and applications, but without modeling practice and deal exposure it is going to be an up hill battle. 

1mo 
wunderk, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm likely an outlier, so grain of salt here. But I worked 6 months as an entry-level researcher for C&W and leveraged my experience there to land a position as a senior associate in asset management for a ~$1B AUM REPE firm

My advice to OP is to get out of research as fast as reasonably possible (given the job market climate). Two things helped me land that associate position so quickly: 1) having demonstrable projects that showed initiative and my personal skillset (analytics, leveraging technology) to put on my resume, and 2) networking.

Lack of deal exp will make it harder to transfer, but it definitely doesn't preclude you. I was doing research for leasing brokers and was exposed to little to none of the deal process. I was hired with the understanding that I would need extensive training. They were willing to invest the time and effort because (and this is added to #1 & 2 above) I showed an interest and aptitude for learning. I told them about how I had learned several new software to improve my firm's processes and how I had taken several modelling courses off the clock.

I'll caveat the above by saying that I had stellar undergrad grades (but a non-STEM degree at a middling college).

I'd agree with the above poster that your best shot would be as a financial analyst on an IS team in a middle market. This sort of position is a more realistic jump for you and gets you close enough to make a smooth transition into the ownership space/REPE world.

Good luck to ya!

  • 2
  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
1mo 

I work at a large institutional shop with an inhouse research team. I have seen our internal research team internally transition to AM/Acquisitions/PM albeit always at an analyst/senior analyst level.  What market are you in/looking at?

Most Helpful
1mo 
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I work in research/strategy on buyside, came from consulting, and know many in this space and have seen all sorts of moves. In general, sellside research positions are very mobile and its is very much an "up or out" kind of world (i.e. either get promoted or transition). So your paths could be...

- Move to production/deal team at a brokerage - Probably most common jump, internal moves like this easy (today's market climate not withstanding), likely as some form of analyst/associate on a team

- Move to research/strategy role at buyside firm - Headhunters will target sell side research people most often, at least if not poaching from lateral pool, should be decently easy - At 5+ years, I'd expect associate/manager type title (could be VP, AVP at some firms)... as a general note... brokerages over-inflate titles as general rule

- jump to acquisitions/cap markets (or development) at buyside firm - this happens often, I'd agree with others as said, at the 5+ year mark, you are really fit for the associate or even analyst title. Frankly, most people with about 5 years exp of sellside (with maybe exception of true REIB) will be qualified for buyside rank of associate or even analyst (maybe a senior added). This is normal, and I think the same for a production broker in all reality. 

I guess bottom line, you have a lot of flexibility and if you work the network and do your part, shouldn't be hard to engineer this, happens often tbh. Just note that you shouldn't get hung up on title/rank transferring... I'm sincere about judging "manager" at a brokerage as equivalent to "associate" in buyside (a lot of associates in buyside roles get hired with 5+ years of total work exp). 

Final point, if you stay within research (or strategy as it is sometimes called in buyside equivalent) you could continue to move up and then transition to fund/portfolio/investment management or more senior role/title in capital markets (or even acq. but a bit harder, unless you are basically assigned to an acq team as often happens). Asset management is probably the hardest destination as the work has least overlap/value to that side (most to cap. markets and then acquisitions, in that order). 

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1mo 
resrealestate2022, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks all. This is really good advice and pretty much the options I had in mind. Either I go back to a more junior role and get some deal experience, or I transition to a research/strategy role on the buyside.

I think the latter is the best option, if it's a specialised fund (there are markets/sectors I know really well and have a deep network in) there's perhaps a chance I can wear various hats and get my hands dirty on some deals perhaps. My sense (and tell me if I'm wrong) is that the modelling and execution is not that complicated and with exposure to two/three deals I'd be good to go and leverage my network/sector knowledge for sourcing and capitalising on opportunities. If I were to become junior again, I could get stuck as an excel monkey for longer than I'd like, that's my fear. 

Research at large GPs/LPs would be similar to what I do now though and teams are too segregated to really get exposure to deal flow - feels like a smaller/specialized shop would be best.

Thoughts on REIB? I get calls from recruiters for decent banks for associate-level roles. Feels like that could be an option as a "deal-making" rebrand as well if jumping to the buyside doesn't work.

1mo 
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:
resrealestate2022

Thoughts on REIB? I get calls from recruiters for decent banks for associate-level roles. 

Are you responding to these? Going through the process? Any reason you don't want to? like the known shitty WLB or just seems boring (it is or can be)?

I'd think REIB would be a smart move generally, still sell side, but can be great transactional experience and opens a lot of buyside doors.

An overall thought (not just for REIB but applies)..... If you use "pay/comp" (both immediate/trajectory) as the comparison of current role vs. prospective one, I'd think many "buyside" associate roles would probably equal if not surpass (maybe greatly) your current comp. If that is the case, worrying about title or equivalent leveling seems relatively silly in the long term. 

To note, I don't normally advise "thinking about the pay", but in this case, it's actually useful in determining if a job is worth considering or not (given context of overall role). Excel modeling can be part of any role (I still do plenty, despite having analyst support and being more senior), so I don't think that is a reason to avoid such roles (unless  you just personally hate excel, then by all means!). 

That said, moving up the research/strategy ranks could very easily be your best option long-term. If you are not fixated on being in heavy transactional roles now or ever, could be much smarter than jumping into the far more crowded areas like acq/am where distinguishing yourself is much harder. One reason research/strategy roles can be powerful is the massive visibility they offer. If you present well and are good in a room (or even on stage), you will get tons of opportunities out of such roles. So, if your personality/skills fit for research/strategy, I'd probably suggest staying (assuming you like it). If it is purely a means to an end, then jump sooner than later (and it is this for many, maybe most, in research roles at RE brokerages tbh). 

1mo 
resrealestate2022, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am keen on REIB, but the skillset feels "corporate real estate" and remains a step removed from property-level dealmaking. A REIT M&A deal (what a BB would do) has a different approach than a large portfolio deal (brokers or eastdil would do). I'd be more inclined in doing the latter, but I'd do either if i can't get to the buyside directly as it's more relevant skillset than research. 

I am not too hung up on pay, I'd take a cut no problem for a year or two. If the team is right and the path forward is good, that's not a problem. 

I wonder though if the grass is greener, that's a good point. Many of my friends are in acq teams and most look miserable, but most are just in it for the money and don't even like the business neither, not my case. My issue is that I am getting bored of my research job already and another 20yrs of it scares me, and also that I'd like the stripes of handling investments, otherwise there's just something "missing". I'd rather take the plunge, screw up if i need to and if I do i'd go back to research, no harms done!

1mo 
pudding, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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