AMA - I used to be a CRE Broker at a Firm that used to be Top-Tier

CRE's picture
Rank: The Pro | 28,075

In honor of this disappointment, I thought the community could step up to the plate a bit. I used to be a CRE Broker (office leasing, mostly on the landlord side) at a firm that people will debate about below!

Ask me any questions about this or anything else really, and if you're currently a broker, answer other peoples' questions.

Comments (63)

Jul 16, 2019

Hi there,
Thanks for doing this AMA! I'm a nontarget currently interning at a brokerage shop focusing mainly on smaller deal sizes (think M&M/SVN). My internship is mostly filling out a database with new properties, with a little bit of underwriting mixed in. I'm having some trouble finding new properties to put into my database - would you recommend any real estate data sites other than Costar/Yardi/Landvision to search through? On a multifamily team if that helps.

Follow up question: If my goal is to get into REPE acquisitions or development, would you recommend going straight to broker, or going the analyst route?

Thanks!

Jul 16, 2019
  1. I'm probably not the expert on this anymore, but if your firm has access to Axiometrics use that. Also, don't be afraid of Apartments.com or googling "Apartments Near X" and cross referencing all of your sources. Likewise, don't be afraid to ask your boss for help - much better to be pointed in the right direction once than flounder for a week.
  2. Going straight to analyst in either REPE or development is the ideal route, but if that doesn't work out for you (it didn't work out for me) then by all means get a job at a brokerage shop. In your early years, getting a job in the industry to show that you're interested in and involved in the industry is the most important thing.
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Jul 19, 2019

Here's the issue with going straight broker-- you're going to make very, very little the first year. You're going to know nothing and feel useless for a year or two. Cold-calling, grunt work, doing the dirty work. However, you will (hopefully) immediately start to meet people, start networking, tell people you're a junior broker, etc. If you want to be in REPE acquisitions/development, this may help you but if you want to be in acquisitions/development, you're still going to need the technical skill, which you might not pick up as junior broker.

Now, if you go analyst first, you'll get into the numbers, but you won't meet the people.... unless you go to networking events and try to talk to people. Your overlap in conversation pieces are going to be less than if you were actually working the deal as a broker, but I think you can still substantively network in this position... If you learn the technical side first, hopefully you'll be able to talk-the-talk while networking. You won't be expected to talk about the deal you're working on, but if you can, maybe you should.

Honestly, I think your day job would be get the technical skills and the night job would be get the soft skills. In terms of getting the REPE job, you're going to get it likely through the networking. Maybe a lateral transition from analyst at brokerage to development shop or REPE shop. That's when you perform and go up the chain.

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Jul 16, 2019

This might be more suited for someone else, but what does it take to be a top debt broker? What are the best skills, and best character traits to have?

Jul 17, 2019
CodyParkey:

This might be more suited for someone else, but what does it take to be a top debt broker? What are the best skills, and best character traits to have?

I'm betting that people of different character traits can succeed in debt brokerage. Not sure what the best skills are internally, but as someone who hires debt brokers, I hire based on network and market knowledge.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Jul 17, 2019

How does network factor in for an analyst? Should I name drop during an interview of people in the industry that I know and could lead to deals in the future? Or would it have to be a network of people that the candidate would already have a history working with?

Jul 17, 2019
  • What did comp look like among subpar, mid-tier, and top performing brokers?
  • What were some of the common paths you saw to becoming a broker?
  • Why did you pivot to development?
Jul 18, 2019
BobTheBaker:

- What did comp look like among subpar, mid-tier, and top performing brokers?

Subpar is $0/fired.

Middle is $100k-$200k. Most are this.

Top is $250k-$350k. These are players or people high up in companies.

Then there are a handful of top guys/ladies in each market (could be more than a handful in major markets) that regularly pull in 6 figures.

Someone else can confirm this or reject it. Things change in 6 years.

BobTheBaker:

- What were some of the common paths you saw to becoming a broker?

Greek life and sales experience. A year or so as an analyst, maybe, then off and running.

BobTheBaker:

- Why did you pivot to development?

After dealing with owners, I wanted to be an owner, not a third party guy. I picked development over acquisitions/asset management because of the creativity required and the wide variety of skills needed/day to day experiences.

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Jul 17, 2019

Hi CRE,
1. What would you tell your younger self about CRE brokerage? What skills would you have worked on, what knowledge would you have gained, and what certifications (if any) would you have pursued prior to pursuing a position in the industry?
2. What, in your opinion, makes the ideal candidate for an entry-level position in a CRE brokerage? What traits, skills, and qualifications are looked upon favorably in applicants?

Thank you for your time, and for starting this thread. This is an industry I've become very interested in, and any info you can provide is much appreciated.

Jul 18, 2019
stripes:

Hi CRE,
1. What would you tell your younger self about CRE brokerage? What skills would you have worked on, what knowledge would you have gained, and what certifications (if any) would you have pursued prior to pursuing a position in the industry?

I would tell my younger self "You love this industry, but brokerage isn't what you want to do. You know this already - don't delay the decision to look elsewhere within commercial real estate."

stripes:

2. What, in your opinion, makes the ideal candidate for an entry-level position in a CRE brokerage? What traits, skills, and qualifications are looked upon favorably in applicants?

Thank you for your time, and for starting this thread. This is an industry I've become very interested in, and any info you can provide is much appreciated.

You should be an extrovert (which is different than being outgoing. I'm outgoing, but non-stop social interactions exhaust me) and you should be assertive and confident. You don't have to be the coolest kid in the room or the life of the party, as there are some relatively quiet and reserved people who make great brokers, but you need to be energized by interacting with others all the time. Your value as a broker is market knowledge and your network.

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Jul 19, 2019

Thank you for your reply! I've got more questions if you're up for it, though from your other posts here I gather that you're a pretty busy guy, so I understand if you don't want to go through the spanish inquisition with random people on WSO.

What brought you to brokerage in the first place, if it wasn't what you wanted to do? Were you just trying to figure out what you really wanted to do at the time? If that's the case, how would you have done things differently, with hindsight, to get into development earlier?

Would you really say that it's just down to extroversion and projecting confidence? One thing that I've learned from my (very unimpressive) work experience is that success in sales depends on projecting confidence and knowing your product, but surely these qualities can't be that rare. Are there really no pre-existing qualities that people should have going into CRE brokerage, other than people skills and knowledge about the local real estate market? Because if that's the case then I'll start handing out resumes yesterday.

Jul 18, 2019

How did you make it day to day? Pay for things like groceries and anything else we take for granted.

As an entry level broker, you're making $0. I'm just curious what your life was like then, and how you dealt with it. Sorry, for less of a professional question. I know most people want to know about how much $$$ everyone can make in brokerage, and it truly is the gold mine if you can swing it. That said many more of us end up on the principal side because it can be an absolute grind.

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Jul 18, 2019

Curious as well as I graduated in May and haven't landed anything yet, and will soon have to take on something PT while searching. My plan as of right now is to do overnight stocking at a grocery store on the weekends and network and interview on the weekdays. Grocery store in particular I am considering has shifts from 10PM-6AM and pays 15/hr; not bad. Not OP but if I had a FT during the weekdays I would do something similar to this most likely.

Jul 18, 2019
jpacai:

How did you make it day to day? Pay for things like groceries and anything else we take for granted.

As an entry level broker, you're making $0. I'm just curious what your life was like then, and how you dealt with it. Sorry, for less of a professional question. I know most people want to know about how much $$$ everyone can make in brokerage, and it truly is the gold mine if you can swing it. That said many more of us end up on the principal side because it can be an absolute grind.

So I had a slightly different situation. My shop paid me a $25k a year salary (which is hilarious in hindsight) in year 1 with the idea being that I'd go to a $50k draw in year two. A draw, if you don't know, is a loan from the company. Every two weeks you're paid like you make $50k a year, and the first $50k you make from commissions goes back to the company to pay off the draw, instead of you.

That said, I lived with my Dad an hours' drive from the city for only a couple hundred a month in rent, wrote clickbait articles and news stories for $25-$40 a pop, did resume review on random gig work websites, and whatever else I could do to make a buck. It sucked, but I was used to being broke from college, so I didn't know the extent of how much it sucked. It's comical in hindsight.

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Jul 25, 2019

Do most brokerages typically offers draws to their employees to stabilize their income cashflows? How does the draw system work, is it based on the numbers you pulled from the previous year? I could see it becoming a large financial liability if the market cools down and all of the sudden the firm has these outstanding draws that most likely wont be paid back entirely with the stifled market.

Jul 18, 2019

Assuming you mean Colliers, I don't think they were ever "top tier". Maybe in some smaller markets they had some heavy hitters for certain asset types, but as a whole they always have been lower second, high third tier.

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Jul 18, 2019

Maybe he meant CBRE

Jul 18, 2019

I think it's overly critical regardless. I would have no issue with CRE saying Colliers was a top tier brokerage.

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Jul 18, 2019
AB84:

Assuming you mean Colliers, I don't think they were ever "top tier". Maybe in some smaller markets they had some heavy hitters for certain asset types, but as a whole they always have been lower second, high third tier.

When I worked there, they were tied for 2nd with JLL on the "best brokerage brands" list. In my market at the time (...and maybe yours from your user name...) that ranking was fitting.

Jul 19, 2019

I worked in pittsburgh, they were good on leasing but pretty terrible on investment sales and debt.

I am now on the LP side, multiple markets, multiple asset types...I quickly realized Pittsburgh is NOT indicative of the greater nation at all.

I don't really see them as a strong firm holistically at all, and don't think they ever were. CBRE, JLL/HFF, Cushman, Eastdil and Newmark have always been stronger.

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Jul 18, 2019

When your valuation and IS sales team counterparts call you for client requests for lease comps and things of that nature, how forthcoming are you with your best/latest & greatest information? I've always wondered how much this information is filtered depending upon who is asking. I feel like I'm seeing less willingness to share that type of info now that I'm on the lending side compared to my experience on the equity side.

Jul 18, 2019
Net Work:

When your valuation and IS sales team counterparts call you for client requests for lease comps and things of that nature, how forthcoming are you with your best/latest & greatest information? I've always wondered how much this information is filtered depending upon who is asking. I feel like I'm seeing less willingness to share that type of info now that I'm on the lending side compared to my experience on the equity side.

If my shitshow of an office had anything going for it, it was that it was very open from broker to broker and team to team with information sharing. Good shops are getting away from the each individual is a silo and they lock their files and doors at night model, understanding that the company as a whole benefits when their teams work together. Brokerage shops are more and more marketing themselves as consulting firms.

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Jul 19, 2019

This is actually a great and very loaded question. I really don't even know where to start but I'll just go with where my mind wanders...

Yes, it depends who you are when you're asking an IS team for comps, data, etc... If you are Joe Nobody from nobody xyz firm with no equity then chances are you will either be ignored or given a half ass costar pull.

In your case, a lender, you're probably getting 2nd rate data as well. The mind of a broker is simple, "will this person directly result in me getting a commision?" If the answer is no and you aren't a friend of the firm due to some other connection then chances are you'll be SOL. EDIT: clarification; you're a lender asking the IS team for data. Not a lender asking for a D&E team to provide data

The reality is that IS teams have their "guys" and if you aren't in that subset then you're at a disadvantage. Steering deals exists. Bad advice from brokers to owners exists if it results in a deal going the way of a friend who will sell the property again in a couple years and give it right back to the firm that sold it to him no questions asked. This is why acquisitions is a sales job. I know, it's disheartening coming to the realization that being smart will only get you so far...

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Jul 18, 2019

Any advice on moving from a generalist IB analyst program (non-RE) to CRE?

Jul 18, 2019

You don't see that much. You obviously have the right skill set if you're IB, it's a matter of demonstrating genuine interest in RE. A lot easier than you think - join and be involved in ULI or NAIOP, get your real estate license, etc... those moves would put you in good position.

In terms of firms to target. High caliber investment sales teams would like someone like you. REPE would as well, I'd imagine

EDIT: Sorry @CRE totally blanked and hijacked you

Start thinking about how RE guys look at and develop models.

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Jul 18, 2019
ThatGuyBalls:

EDIT: Sorry @CRE totally blanked and hijacked you

Start thinking about how RE guys look at and develop models.

No, this is exactly what I wanted. This thread started as a half parody of the other failed AMA and half wanting to get people serious answers from others in the community.

Jul 18, 2019

Glad to see some questions coming in. I have to go grovel to the city right now, but when I get back today or tomorrow I'll knock them out

Jul 19, 2019

how to find job

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Jul 19, 2019
famejranc:

how to find job

Cold emails. Cold calls. Getting coffee/lunch. Following up.

To get a job in brokerage, you need to act like a broker.

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Jul 19, 2019

No offense, but are you sure you're the best person to be doing this AMA? Weren't you a junior broker for like 3 months at a random colliers office and spent most of your time surfing WSO because you had nothing to do and hated it? I appreciate your commitment to providing content here but I feel like there should be some additional disclosure on where this advice is coming from.

Most Helpful
Jul 19, 2019
Ricky Sargulesh:

No offense, but are you sure you're the best person to be doing this AMA?

Probably not. I thought the title was a clear giveaway. My answers are better than no answers, however, and I've called for current brokers to respond.

Ricky Sargulesh:

Weren't you a junior broker for like 3 months at a random colliers office and spent most of your time surfing WSO because you had nothing to do and hated it

Not quite (minus the last part).

Ricky Sargulesh:

I appreciate your commitment to providing content here but I feel like there should be some additional disclosure on where this advice is coming from.

And it's a good thing you caught me too, since I'm trying to lead you astray, personally.

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Jul 19, 2019

Ok, so that did offend you.... If you don't see any problem with this then carry on I guess... seems pretty misleading to me

Jul 19, 2019

I think the title/OP is pretty is pretty tongue-in-cheek and self explanatory.

Look, I too used to be a broker at a dominant local brokerage firm, but I was terrible at it (probably because it wasn't actually what I wanted to do). I think I could answer a few questions regarding what it takes to be successful and what not to do in brokerage.

Everyone in this industry has a perspective and experience they could share, especially given the varied ways some people end up in the industry. I think if you have something helpful to say, chime in.

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Jul 19, 2019
holeymoley:

and what not to do in brokerage.

Regardless of industry I think this is a more powerful way to learn. Appeals to people's tendency to prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains.

Fewer "10 Things to Do as an Analyst" and more "Avoid these 6 Screw Ups and You'll be Fine"

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Jul 19, 2019
holeymoley:

I think I could answer a few questions regarding what it takes to be successful and what not to do in brokerage.

Feel free to answer all of the above that I did. The point was for it to be a group effort, not have someone get my background wrong and question the validity of advice such as "your network is important"

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Jul 23, 2019

I interned at a top tier brokerage firm in a major European city in IS as an analyst and as I am reading everyone's comments i'm starting to see a lot of differences between how my office used to work and how american offices work. As someone who wants to work in America I'll be glad if someone can answer me and tell me if the practices in Europe are the same as in the US:
_Do you guys also have a team of analysts not commisionned and a team of IS brokers splitted between asset classes and volumes?
_As brokers do you also have a client list that is dedicated to you and that others can't touch? Meaning that if your client is selling an asset and calling your firm to pitch you're the one who handles the pitch and transaction.
_Is your comp also a pretty decent fixed (say 60k/year) and then a bonus depending on the amount of fees you bringed home but not an exact percentage of the fees you bringed or is it almost 100% commission based in the US? If so how's the relationship between brokers ? It must be tense.
_Do you also start as an analyst and then potentially make it to broker or transfer from leasing brokerage to IS or do you immediatly start out of undergrad as a broker?

Thanks a lot to the people who can answer me

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Jul 23, 2019

I'll answer in order:

  • Analysts are typically salary + commission (or tips) on a deal by deal basis. Some firms (Eastdil) are strictly salary + bonus regardless of position
  • To my knowledge, Eastdil is the only firm with a salary + bonus structure at the broker level. The other major firms are strictly commission split with the house.
  • Path to broker these days is more commonly IS Analyst --> Junior IS broker (executing business ---> Director/Senior Director (sourcing some, mostly execution) --> MD (75%+ sourcing while executing some deals)

Just to note, this is the IS path. Path on the leasing front would be commission only out of the gate, perhaps with a draw depending on the team.

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Jul 24, 2019

do you think it's worth the effort to work part-time for a CRE broker like Eastdil during the school yaer if my goal is to get into REPE as an analyst

Jul 25, 2019

Yes. That's a great name on your resume coming out of school.

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Jul 25, 2019

No questions from me, just a thanks for you contributing here (and elsewhere).

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Jul 25, 2019

Cheers, Ed

Jul 25, 2019

I want to be on the other side as well (owning the properties), but i'm unfamiliar with the networking side of real estate right now. In regards to your experience, would having a close network with brokers (as a REI) help you get the best properties?

So, the brokers would know "oh, monkey is looking for a property just like this!" and reach out to you. Does that happen frequently?

Jul 25, 2019

In a word, yes.

When it comes to deal sourcing, relationship and reputation are very important.

Aug 5, 2019
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Aug 5, 2019
Aug 5, 2019
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