No outstanding connections, privilege, or Ivy league undergrad degree. How do I get started as a CRE analyst in San Francisco?

I graduated from business school last year from a public university in West Texas. The business school's funding wasn't very impressive. This lead to very few internship opportunities that you needed to be immediately aware of as they became available. I am a first generation college graduate who's parents were street cleaners and factory workers. Most of my time matriculating through college was spent just figuring out how everything worked. I have no immediate or extended family in real estate or any kind of business. While in undergrad, I decided to get my real estate salespersons license to get some exposure into the industry. After spending a few thousand to get my license, pay all the fees and dues to join realtor associations and get all set up to be able to adequately do market research, I found out that no one wants to trust an unknown 20 year old with the largest purchase of their life. The boutique brokerage that I convinced to hire me was made up of two brothers that were too busy to mentor me or assist me in procuring new deals. After a couple bumpy sales and no more money, I let my license expire to focus on finishing school. During this time, I made a few friends in San Francisco who were willing to connect me to developers, analysts, and property managers for interviews. These interviews were a rough wake up call for how much I had to learn. Each of them told me to either get an MBA or work a few years before moving to the city.

After graduating in 2017, I met my husband and unexpectedly had to move to Columbia, Missouri for his job. After applying at the few major properties management companies and brokerages and receiving no phone calls back, I decided to take more classes via a non-degree seeking route at the University of Missouri (Mizzou). Unlike the university in Texas, this college offered finance and appraisal courses that specifically focused on CRE. Being exposed to the business school at Mizzou, revealed how other business colleges take many steps to ensure you get internships and have a seamless transition into your first job. All of my peers in Missouri have had courses to specially ensure that they have completed internships and have at least applied to firms before graduating. This was NOT the case in West Texas.

So, I am 22 now and moving to San Francisco This May (2018). I have learned how to do basic acquisition, rent roll, DCF, and equity waterfall models. I am also well versed within industry terms and trends. I stay updated with current finance and CRE trends and news. I understand that CRE has many subfields. I feel like I have no direction of where I should be aiming my efforts at. Many firms in San Francisco want 3-5 years experience. I feel a bit like a poor person trying to become a pro golf player. The barriers to entry are the great wall of China.
While I may not have as much traditional experience or a degree from a notable school, I have noticed that I am knowledgable within CRE concepts and have a rough grip on the quantitative aspect of any analyst job. More so than any of the peers in my classes, despite the additional preparation they have received. How do I show these aspects of myself in a market where everyone has elite credentials? Am I complaining too much? Will the prospects improve when I actually move to San Francisco?

Sorry about the entire life story, just wanted everyone to understand the context of the situation. Thanks WSO community!

Best Response

The barriers to entry are high if you focus on private equity and developers. Try talking to third party underwriters like situs, trimont. Agency lending is also way less competitive than other areas of real estate. Loan asset management is also something to consider. I know people who started out in tenant rep leasing, then made their way to investment sales and then to PE. Some people start in appraisal or research and eventually make it to PE/Development. There are tons of ways to get your feet wet. You just have to keep an open mind, and accept the fact that you’re probably not going straight to acquisitions after college which is fine.

Obviously keep reaching out to people in your area of interest, because anything can happen. But also start looking in less competitive areas of real estate as your moving date creeps up on you


Might be best to take your name out of these posts. I’m also from west Texas, state school, and got started as a credit analyst with a community bank that primarily did real estate lending. I’ve since moved to a larger, regional bank’s corporate banking division in a real estate specific group. Start small and make steps to something with exit ops. It’ll take a while but it’ll be worth it. Good luck.


I wouldn't rule out brokerage either. Entry barrier relative to REPE, REIT, Development is much lower and can give you exposure to other facets within the industry. The analyst route might not be terrible but you will have to work you way from a pigeon-hole toward your goal.

Let me know if you have any questions.


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