Which city to move to for small 3-4 person shops?

Have the option to relocate as my company has moved to a hybrid / remote model. Looking to exit this firm in the coming months / year. For context, I'm currently at a large, national, name brand player and am looking to shift to a very small organization as I believe that is what I would enjoy most. Understanding that, where have you all seen there to be an abundance of these types of firms? Obviously, the answer is all markets as many firms are regional players. Would love to hear which cities people see new shops springing up in often. If you had this same goal, where would you relocate ? As for myself, I'm looking to be in NY/LA, but want to make sure these markets have such players that are willing to bring on someone new. Not interested in working for a family office like Durst, JDS, or something of that sort. Looking for something very small and a city that has an abundance of these types of shops so I can find one that really works best for me. Goal is to be working directly alongside those investing their capital, providing guarantees, and be able to learn from that experience. As an aside, for anyone reading this in college, please note - name brand and prestige is so fucking overrated. It's hard to believe when you're in college, but in the workforce, you realize it like there's no tomorrow. Despite me saying this, I know none of these college juniors and seniors will believe me as I was in their very position a year or two ago.

Comments (16)

  • Prospect in RE - Other
Jul 24, 2022 - 5:08am

Don't take my word for it but I've come accross a few smaller shops in Boston - Boylston Properties and Winstanley look interesting to me. I've heard from a guy at Tishman Speyer there (working on Harvard complex) that RE in Boston can be very clannish - lots of connections are between people who are Boston born, Boston raised etc. Somewhat insular to outsiders. That being said, it can't be that bad, and if you're worried about that MIT/HBS MBA and MIT MSRED could help with that, although given you're already at a brand name developer I doubt that matters.

Jul 24, 2022 - 12:43pm
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Those types of shops exist everywhere, they're just gonna be hard to find on a forum like this.  I guess you could also make an argument that if you're looking for an established but small firm, maybe NYC isn't the right place to be unless it's a very specific niche.  Shit is so expensive here that to capitalize and go out, generally means you've got some capital behind you and can afford more support staff.  And very, very few RE shops stay that small for very long; either they're successful and expand or they fail.  Either way it might not be what you want, as opposed to a merchant builder in a smaller metro area.

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Jul 24, 2022 - 6:05pm

On the other hand, wouldn't you say these shops are also sprouting up most often in NYC?

Most Helpful
Jul 25, 2022 - 9:28am
Ozymandia, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sure, but why do they want to hire you?  Generally speaking, they're gonna be a couple people who know each other from a past gig, who will source a junior person accordingly.  They probably don't have much of a pipeline, and if we're being honest, probably don't have much of a business plan beyond a desire to be their own boss.  They don't have work for a 4th or 5th person, and don't have enough revenue to hire one to source it.

From what you're describing (which I could be misinterpreting!) it sounds like you want to find an established team that's got a couple deal cycles under their belt and is looking to expand their operation and import some best practices from larger concerns.  To me, that seems easier to find in secondary or tertiary markets, if only because deal size (from an equity standpoint) is going to be much lower, returns are slightly higher, and therefore you have both the opportunity and need to do more deals and not just bigger ones if you want to grow.  Whereas I feel like in NYC you can support a modestly sized operation doing a deal a year, or two every three, and the sheer size of them means you can pay overhead and make some really good money as well; when market rate units trade for 600k a door, it doesn't take a blockbuster deal to generate meaningful fee revenue.  If they're 60k a door outside Cincinnati, well... the math is easy.  And it doesn't take that much less work to close a 60 30 unit transaction than a 300 unit one.

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Jul 30, 2022 - 2:26am
unripe_banana, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I live in LA and also work at a small development shop with 2-3 partners (depending on the deal). I do acquisitions, project management, talk to tenants, manage construction crews, work with brokers, evaluate lenders, etc.

It's great. Small shops where you work directly under guys with like 20+ years experience oftentimes feel more like an apprenticeship than an actual job. And if you'd like to join a small team, I think you're wisely weighing knowledge + career goals.

LA is a very strong city to find small-team developers, as well as some in San Diego. If you don't have the connections to get hired at one of them right away, then you can always start as a broker, bring your best deals to the shops you want to work for, then begin conversations about joining.

It's not a direct path, but I spent a year in brokerage before getting hired by a small development group by doing just that. Been doing development for a few years now. Feel free to ping me with any questions.

Jul 31, 2022 - 2:44pm
Paul Allen8, what's your opinion? Comment below:

MIA has a ton.


Aug 3, 2022 - 1:22pm
TwoPercentCapRate, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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