Life at Mega Developers

Can anyone speak to what it's like working at a Hines/Tishman/Related in a flagship office (NY/LA)? Somewhat curious about comp, hours, culture and all that, but far more interested in the actual quality of the work and what the impact is on your career.

As an analyst at one of these firms, are you holed up in a cubicle cranking on models all day? Or do you get to participate in marketing/design/project management/capital raising etc. Do you sit in on meetings/phone calls where you're pitching a deal or negotiating a JV structure? Do you get to voice your opinion on a marketing decision or picking a cabinet spec? Or are you just a really expensive human calculator?

Furthermore, what is the progression at a place like this? At what point do you actually get to run a deal or get a piece of the carry? As someone who would like to break off on their own sooner rather than later (or at least be a principal), and who works at a smaller shop where I have the inside track and have exposure to everything, should I even be considering taking a job at one of these mega-shops? Having the brand name on my resume would go a long way in raising capital for myself down the road, and working on blue-chip deals would obviously be an absolute blast, but I'm worried that you don't learn the skills you need to be an entrepreneur at a place like this. Of course, I could be completely misguided. Anybody who could provide insight would be greatly appreciated.

edit: Also please feel free to PM me if you don't want to identify that you work for one of these firms

Comments (52)

Mar 7, 2018 - 12:37pm
vintagegmt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Curious about this as well.. thanks for the post

Best Response
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 7, 2018 - 2:44pm

I work at a large top 30 developer managing large institutional size mutlifamily developments.

I am in charge of 6 developments for a total of 862 units. I am currently interviewing at other firms and I am in compensation negotiations now.

If you are able to break into development and to start managing developments, expect high stress, ever changing job descriptions, and lots of baby sitting engineers, architects, and by far the biggest babies of all, construction guys.

**Site Acquisitions:** Know your area, be up to date on all comps and market trends. Find a site that fits your criteria. Negotiate LOI and sale agreement terms. Run a back of the napkin model.

**Due Diligence:** You are responsible for making sure the site is not a festering mess of unknown crap. That means you are in charge of checking all easements, soil conditions, environmental, title, zoning, on site and off site as builts, site feasibility (can you actually build anything here), underwriting (can the deal pencil), You need to figure out the fees, any special BS requirements that will cost you money or time, what is the city timelines, etc.

**Entitlement:** You are responsible for making sure the City loves you. You are BFFs with the City Council, the building officials, the head planner, the plan checker.. all the way down to the admin who takes in your plans. You need to convince the planner and city council that this project is great and wonderful and everyone will love it. During this time, you will lay the site out, figure out how many units you can put on it, how you are going to retain your storm water, etc. You will typically be in a Design Phase portion of plans right now. You get to hire all your consultants! Negotiate the architect, the engineers, the LEED guy, the MEP, etc You will also start talking to your equity and debt partners here. Start negotiating terms with them. Get a term sheet. Draw up the business plan for your equity partner. Negotiate. Lawyers are involved. Close with equity partner. Close on land. Do all the land closing calls and checklists with the different responsible parties. More lawyers.

**Post Entitlement/Construction Docs:** Oh boy, you got your entitlements! Great! Now read the 80 pages of conditions and make sure you dont forget any! Oh, and make sure their are no conditions that will ruin your site's feasibility (this should have been negotiated in entitlements already). Get a kick off meeting, where you need to tell these people who you hired what you are building...make sure they are coordinated with eachother..make sure they are doing what they are told. You will get usually half assed coordinated plans... now its up to you to review the 350 page set of construction plans and coordinate them!

Make sure that your plumbing lines are not going through sheer walls! Make sure you have meter locations for all of your unit meters. Make sure your soils guy is okay with the foundation plans, make sure structural is taking into account the boiler load on your roof. x1,000 other coordination issues that you need to look at. Now submit the plans back to the nice admin lady at the counter that you are BFFs with so that the plans can be plan checked again. Wait 2-4 weeks. Get plans back; your consultants missed a bunch of corrections and the plan checker added a bunch of bs corrections. Meet with the plan checker and talk things through. Plan check wont budge, have a meeting with the building official.

You are bFFs with the building official and he gives you some leway. Great. Fix plans. Rinse and repeat until you have all your permits. You may have to do this for 3-10 different permits. During this time you are also following the conditions that you received.. you are incorporating those conditions into the plans, you are hiring a bird/owl guy to go check to see if their are any owl nests on your land, you are calling up the local tribe so that they can tell you what they want in order for you to build there, if anything, etc.

You are also talking with your debt so that you can close on the construction loan. This is lots of talking and lawyers again. Bunch of lawyers. They all love to get on phone calls multiple times a week so that all 20 lawyers can run up time and talk about something or other. Eventually you will pull the permits and close the construction loan. You start grading.

**Construction:** Your GC are the biggest babies. Nothing is their fault and it is always development and the consultants issues. You baby sit them. You make sure they are on schedule and that they are buying out trades correctly. You review their payapps. You hold weekly or biweekly meetings to go over issues. You baby sit more and listen to them complain. You make sure they are building the building to spec and plans and if they change anything that they are recording it correctly. You make sure they are in contact with your LEED guys. You review RFI and Submittals. You sign off on owner items. You are an interior designer also cause even though you have an ID, nothing is ever done correctly and you end up having to handle it. You figure out where you are placing TVs, light fixtures, etc.

You contact gym equipment companies and figure out gym layouts. You figure out your community area amenities (game rooms, etc). You hire the branding company so that you can pay them $50K to come up with a name and logo that everyone and their mom can come up with. Punchlist items. Model units. Eventually the building is built..hopefully on time and under budget.. which doesnt happen today.

**Post Construction:** Perm loans, lawyers, yadeeyah. Same thing as your last two closings. Lease up. Need more leases. Stay on top of your property management company. Lease up and hold or lease up and find a buyer. If you need to sell the building, you are going to handle finding the company to sell it for you and all that goes with that.

**Compensation?** Crap.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 7, 2018 - 3:55pm

hah.. my bad! Well, see my other post below. I know a couple guys from Related California's affordable side. They seem to be solely focused on the debt/equity/modeling/tax credit application side while holding the Development Associate and Development Manager title. I know the Development Manager does not get a piece of the deal. They seem to have a team of AIA and Owner's Rep/Precon guys on payroll. Associate seems like an excel/application monkey. Manager seems more involved, but in a higher level overview of the project, especially once it is turned over to precon/construction teams. I would be surprised if they are involved in the deal all that much once its turned over.

Related is a huge name on your resume. I think without a doubt it will help you raise money. But as I said below, I am not sure it prepares you to run your own down and dirty shop. If you are only focused on the debt/equity/modeling side of the business.. .you barely scratched the surface. If I wanted to start my own shop, I would get into a role that allows me to be responsible from start to finish. Someone can correct me if they know better.

Mar 7, 2018 - 10:55pm
vintagegmt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

+1 Such a solid overview.

Mar 8, 2018 - 6:37am
CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hah, this is fantastic.

6 projects though is nuts - no wonder you're burnt out. I have 3 and that's pushing the upper limits. Couldn't imagine more than 4.

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 2
Jun 27, 2019 - 2:56pm
CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's been another year and this is still one of the best things I've ever read on this site. I found it again, read it again, laughed again, and realized I responded to it over a year ago.

Commercial Real Estate Developer

Jul 17, 2020 - 9:07am
RE Pirate, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I just tried to give it a funny banana, turns out I already gave it a helpful one. I guess I'm learning... "Lots of Lawyers..."

“Capitalism: God’s way of determining who is smart and who is poor.” Ron Swanson

Jul 16, 2020 - 11:27pm
Real Estate - All Acronyms, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is what I described to prospective analysts. Brilliant and accurate post. Only thing missing here -

Do not touch trees or forestry without consulting the Parks Department (very comparable to Parks and Recreation Tv show), and prepare your arborist to fight their assessment of each tree's removal being $250,000. Coordinate your tree pits and new tree installation with team.

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Mar 7, 2018 - 2:54pm

Compensation for a VP/SVP, I know ranges from 200-250K with equity in the deals. Equity works differently in many companies.. I know one SVP who gets 6% of the deal. They do not bring in outside equity, so his 6% is a good chunk. I know another VP who gets 10% of a deal, but thats on the GP side.

Associate / Analyst: I would expect base salary in the $65-85K range.

Construction side: Superintendent are making $150-200K + bonus of 20-30K. Project Managers are making $120K-175K + bonus of 20-30K.

Mar 7, 2018 - 5:36pm
coolhandlucas, what's your opinion? Comment below:

In my opinion, if you're a developer doing all the stuff you say you do you're doing it wrong, especially if you're not making money.

You don't want to CM the project? Fee the project 1% of hard costs and hire an outside group to do it. If you want to CM it, take the dough.

You don't want to get into the nitty gritty of entitlements (you probably shouldn't be in most circumstances, especially if you're an outsider,) you should hire a land use attorney and local civil and budget for their fees.

You don't want to deal with design review/coordination, hire a dedicated expert or pay your architect to do it. Budget for the expense.

You don't want to deal with title review then your attorney/paralegal should do it, while coordinating with your civil/surveyor, and you should budget for their fees.

You don't want to deal with as much closing bullshit, you're capital markets group and legal team should handle the lion's share of the work. Budget for their fees.

The common thread here is that you're the quarterback of the team. Trying to be an expert at everything is a recipe for disaster. Budget prudently and you can make your life a hell of a lot easier with significantly less drama while delivering a higher quality project.

All of my comments notwithstanding, being a developer is challenging/complex work. But, from my experience, the pay/comp is easily commensurate with the work if you know what you're doing.

I always think of it this way: do you think Donald Trump, a billionaire RE developer, gets down in the weeds (with the exception of his love of interior design, lol) on his projects or do you think he hires a bunch of technical experts to do it it for him and budgets for their expense?

Mar 7, 2018 - 8:03pm
The Duke of Wall Street, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The question is: (1) How does one accurately budget for these fees without a decent level of experience hiring third-parties to do this work? and (2) How does one accurately account for the quality of work being done without having considerable experience themselves?

Mar 27, 2018 - 9:43am
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Agree with @coolhandlucas, 10,000%.

@jjacobs does a great job explaining (quite humorously) the development process, but not the job of a developer. Frankly, I find it difficult you can execute what you described on ONE project, let alone six.

You should be able to review any of the things you mention in such a way that you can spot check and not miss anything. Plan coordination and expediting are not good uses of your time, if you're a good developer - those are things you can hire people to do for relatively small amounts of money, and spend a couple hours spot checking every few weeks.

Mar 7, 2018 - 7:27pm
jayflip21, what's your opinion? Comment below:

@jjacobs06" What was your previous gig, and how did you get into this one?

Mar 8, 2018 - 11:29am
pere797, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I LOL'd at your first rant, I can relate to all of it and am in a very similar role. Regarding comp, yes its a lot of work and I think honestly the only way to start hitting 200K+ is to grind and get a Senior DM/director/VP title at the minimum and have a couple PM/DM's under you, start to get some carry in the fund or on the deal level or reach some kind of partner level....OR if you are lucky, one of your MD's or other VP's want to go raise some money and start their own thing and take you as a partner. Hit me up if you end up in the bay area

Mar 8, 2018 - 5:02pm
Sham Wow, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I work at a Megafund REIT developer, and what you said above is very true. Our breakdown is something like this where one person is the Developer and then you have the development finance team/ Design team/ Equity team/ JV Team. That all get staffed on the project, The developer, in this case, would do what was mentioned by getting entitlements etc. The rest of the team models assumptions he brings in/ Sends data to partners on what he said. All of these roles get similar titles, but very different responsibilities and working on the same project with the same title may give you very different experiences at my company.

When developments are happening the Developers are busy when Finance is needed JV teams are busy when shit it in PreDev the finance team/ Design team are busy working together to model cost and proforma rents.

Again this is why RE is very not cut and dry about titles unlike how other Corporate structures are very cut and dry about what you do.

Mar 7, 2018 - 7:39pm
cpgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Happy to provide some context.

The work is far more broad and involved than being holed up in a cubicle cranking out models. While Analyst -> Associate (and sometimes VP / Directors) are responsible for the financial modeling, development is far more encompassing than you may think. I personally am involved in all of the 'activities' you list regularly, though most large groups do have capital markets divisions and/or point people who manage relationships with certain capital providers. Preparing debt and equity OM's for use in pitching is very common, though the pitching is usually done at Director/VP/MD level and up. At analyst/associate level, you're educating your boss on the granular points of the deal so he can speak intelligently about it--you have to remember that you know the model and levers better than anyone above you. At my shop, my voice is heard for marketing and cabinet spec type topics, though one must understand that these firms have very capable (i.e. industry leaders) running their deals and so to think your voice/opinion matters 100% of the time as an Analyst/Associate is foolish.

Progression is typically Analyst (U/G; rare but happens) -> Senior Analyst/Associate for 2-3 years (Usually Post Top-Tier MBA) -> VP/Director for 2-4 years -> MD/Similiar -> Senior MD/SVP/Etc..

Typically MBA grads are assistant project managers (Senior Analyst/Associate level) and spend a great deal of time on pursuit analysis and due diligence. Once a deal 'makes', this person's role effectively shifts into a project manager type gig and he/she works directly with the MD/SMD running the deal. Director/VP level typically can run deals with minimal supervision, though the senior people always need to be aware of (and opine on) key decisions.

  • 12
Mar 8, 2018 - 1:41am
RealEstateNerd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As an associate at one of those firms in a gateway market I'll try and answer your questions one at a time (for background on what a developer does throughout the development process, albeit with a bit of hyperbole, look to the response from jjacobs06).

1. Comp: Analysts (depending on experience) $65-$75K + 30% bonus, Associates $100-$125K + 30%, VP/Director not positive but likely $130-$160K + some unknown bonus; honestly not really sure what's after that but associates and above start participating in deals so comp can go into the millions when a deal pays out (usually upon sale, which may be years down the road from when it started).

2. Hours: Usually get in around 8-8:30am and leave around 5:30-6:30pm most days. If you're cranking on a deal or were in meetings all day you may leave closer to 7pm or as late as 11pm-12am if you're working on an investment memo for committee, however those hours are few and far between. Weekend work is almost unheard of, unless, again, there's a deal in play.

3. Culture: Hard to describe but everyone in the office is well-educated (usually from Ivy League or top public/private universities a la Stanford, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Columbia, etc.) and thus it's a bunch of smart, down-to-earth people who get their job done well, but still have great lives outside of work (kids, vacations, networking, golf, etc.). No big egos or assholes, at least in our office, although I've heard it's not quite the same for some other offices in the firm (think East Coast). People get lunch together, hang out outside of work, grab drinks after work, and generally get along quite well (I'm sure there's politicking at senior levels we don't see).

4. Analyst Work: most analysts seem to spend their first 6-9 months working almost exclusively on models, underwriting, and market research, as well as ad hoc projects (presentations, etc.). This is mainly to earn trust from associates and above in their modeling/Excel/Argus abilities; you're certainly not chained to your desk though, and you're not expected to work crazy hours. At the same time, it really depends what's going on in the office and being in the right place at the right time. Some analysts will get dropped right into a development project to help with design work, entitlements, financing, operations, etc. if they're lucky. Given that I haven't been around through a full cycle it's been a ton of development work and acquisitions underwriting so that's mainly what analysts and associates work on. Have definitely seen analysts doing more associate/VP/Director-level work as opportunities arise when more senior folks leave projects mid-stream, which is fantastic for getting dropped in the deep end and learning to swim. Really allows one to take responsibility and effectively run a project (you don't see too many twenty-somethings running quarter billion dollar development projects but it's happened here).

5. Analyst Responsibilities: while you're mainly responsible for underwriting and modeling, market research is important as well. You'll also almost certainly be on all calls related to the deal(s) you're working on whether that's with counsel, JV partners, capital partners, brokers, banks, architects/consultants, contractors, investment committee, etc. which gives you great visibility into the process. The teams are super lean (usually an SMD, VP/Associate, and an analyst) so everyone has a lot of responsibility and needs to know the deal backwards and forwards. Opinions are definitely welcomed if you're willing to speak up and most people will listen, although they might not heed what you say. Relevant opinions come with experience, however if say you're a millennial working on a student housing or multifamily project geared towards millennials they might look to you for your thoughts and opinions.

6. Progression: depends on the office but usually 2-3 years from analyst to associate assuming they like you (have seen some dragged out to 3-4+ years which is usually a sign you should jump elsewhere), and then another 1-3 years to VP/Director level. After that it's a crap shoot and can take many years (i.e. decades) to get to MD/SMD levels. However the caveat here is luck and being in the right place at the right time. If a bunch or even a few senior folk leave an office, backfilling can be exceptionally hard and often not worth it so lower/mid-level people, assuming they're successful and productive, are often promoted quickly. Seen people who were once in the same office diverge to different offices - one is now MD/SMD and the other still VP/director. Crap shoot.

7. Carry: starts at associate level and grows based on title or what your manager wants to throw your way. Takes a while for any of that money to be realized (often years, sometimes 10+ for big deals or those dragged out by the GFC) but payouts can be handsome. Even small deals/payouts to associates/VP/directors are well into 6 figures with larger paychecks for senior management clearing 7 and 8 figures (the latter being very rare).

8. Entrepreneurialism: definitely a lot of entrepreneurial types here, but will say that at a really small firm you may have more responsibilities since a big firm has resources to help with things (HR, capital raising [to some extent, a lot of this is done through senior level relationships with capital partners], counsel, consultants, construction managers, property managers, etc.). That said, once you have the name brand on your resume, years of experience, and good connections at banks and PE/AM shops, you can certainly strike out on your own if you're still up for it. A lot hang around due to the comfortable nature of not having to risk all your own money and resources to make even more money. Really up to the end user as to where they want to go and what they want to be doing. You won't necessarily be private-jet wealthy (e.g. Gulfstream), unless you make it to a C-level position, but you'll be very, very comfortable and have a great work-life balance.

Anyway, hope that was useful to you and others. Happy to chat more about it so feel free to PM me.

It is what it is.
  • 34
Mar 9, 2018 - 12:12am
rbsx, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is exceptional. Thanks gents.

Mar 9, 2018 - 1:18am
H13x, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Very nice thread. I know this is geared towards REIT/Development side of Finance/Real Estate. However, this actually is similar to what a Project Manager in Information Technology is compensated.

The work is quite similar and they are responsible for milestones completion. I know PM's have had to get their hands dirty working the basic coding/building of the infrastructure from the architecture down to the wiring/cabling of the server rooms.

So, getting in requires an MBA? Or this is a typical pattern from Analyst in RE?

No pain no game.

  • 1
Mar 12, 2018 - 5:04pm
Ed Chambers, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What about the cycles? I imagine there's massive lay-offs during downturns...

Go For Chambers

Mar 12, 2018 - 10:34pm
cpgame, what's your opinion? Comment below:

larger firms have multiple business lines typically, and merchant builders will get crushed in down cycles. Most of not all "mega developers" have a combo of property management arms, fund management arms, private REITs, and/or asset management arms to smooth out the cyclical revenues from development. I can imagine that firms who are 100% development focused and don't have a large project capitalized and/or under construction pre-downturn do lay folks off.

  • 3
Mar 26, 2018 - 8:21pm
Post hoc ergo propter hoc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ive worked at industry leading developers and family owned private equity deals. To sum it up as above comments have answered most concepts...

Large REIT/PE fund, etc., will get high level exposure to a ton of deals. For me, right out of college at the time, this was invaluable. At 21, albeit it in over my head, in 6months I had genuinely worked on more deals than many people see during their whole career. However, almost all of these deals were with isntitutioanl partners that had a specific box/check-list when structuring the deal. IF you weren't willing to play ball, it was just on to the next one. To the point where I could read a term sheet without looking at the header, and be able to tell which company it came from.

Contrast this from working at a smaller PE shop...We might only be juggling 2-3 deals at a time, but you are really in the weeds. I LEARNED more when it came to packaging deals and all the nuances that could take place, while working at a smaller shop.

Mar 27, 2018 - 9:13am
tttliner, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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  • Developer in RE - Comm
Jul 18, 2022 - 3:01pm

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