Are We the Villains to Ordinary People?

When talking to ordinary strangers (in Ubers, around town, etc.) I've been asked what I do for a living and multiple times people have gotten hostile when I tell them that I work for a firm that develops real estate. Maybe they'll tell a story about how they used to live in one neighborhood but the new apartments/hotels made traffic unbearable and forced them to move, or they'll voice their anger that everything that's getting built is luxury apartments that are unaffordable. And of course there's the people who are outraged by gentrification. I hear their points but it's not like what we do doesn't also help communities too-- we're creating jobs, reducing crime in neighborhoods, and a lot of the time we're building affordable units in our projects (though apparently not enough to create goodwill).

Anyone else have these types of experiences? Do people see us as the villain? Maybe it's just because I'm in a liberal city known for its NIMBYism. I'm just a little alarmed by the hostility and never expected that I would be seen as the bad guy by all these people.

Comments (219)

Sep 10, 2019 - 9:11pm

You ABSOLUTELY are a villain to some people.

A lot of the good that real estate development can cause for a community can take years to take effect while disturbing how things were in that transition.

Construction is disruptive.

Development with inadequate public improvements can overload transportation networks and schools.

A developer who is negligent in the design could rightfully be a villain.

A developer who does a great job creates a lot of value and improves the lives of many.

Sep 11, 2019 - 7:47am

Yes this. People can rarely see the forest for the trees.

Most of them will be focusing on the impact something has on them NOW. Short term gain (or suffering) is almost always more interesting / important to people because it's something that has positive or negative utility at this moment.

There are a select subset that CAN have a longer term vision. These people are successful CEOs, Engineers, Policy Makers, Researchers, etc. Though I doubt the majority of people you run into everyday (especially Uber drivers) have this longer term vision.

Sep 11, 2019 - 1:25am

why the fuck do you care. Laugh in their faces, and give that uber driver a shitty 1 star review so that dog will hopefully know twice before opening his mouth again. Really should not be any of their business.

Sep 11, 2019 - 2:47am

Isn't this just the general perception of business men and women though. If you aren't in business nor have any connection to finance other than a monthly budget ,the stereotype is that the guy in the suit and tie working downtown is the person making the big bucks and he or she came from a well off family and went to a prestigious school. Since 2008 there has been a lot of media attention regarding how investment bankers fucked the economy, they are materialistic etc which influenced a ton of working class or "everyday" americans to feel betrayed and start to resent anyone who works in any finance industry or wears business clothing.

It's engrained in the mentality of humans that what we don't understand, we generally dislike nor accept it for instance in the 1900s homophobia was socially acceptable because people thought being gay was a mental illness and overtime it was explained and more people have accepted it as a way of life.

Also remember that many people don't associate business as being ethical nor do many people aspire to be in high finance as you may think . Yes WSO is a large website and has millions of users but in reality for every banker or cre developer or hedge fund analyst there are 10,000 uber drivers who don't even know what an ETF is. Funny enough you're more likely seen as a rare chance for that driver to talk a professional instead of some drunk college chick and they may say some ignorant or insultive statements but its really more of a rise against the rich perception.

Trust me i was always told as a kid that wall street guys are unethical fucks who hate their wives and have affairs with russian supermodels on their 100 foot yacht in the atlantic ocean. So yes that might be your MD (sarcasm) but it came from a low income mentality that has serious trust issues especially when you can barely pay rent and next thing you know some dude in a suit pulls up and tells you that you have to pay an extra $400 per month that was going towards bills. Yes they don't like you because of your job title and the first impression they get but overall it shouldn't make you feel better than them or feel like a villain but rather just understand their concerns and don't add more fuel on to the already negative perception fire.

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:41am

What I always find funny is the perception on Main Street that Wall Street is so evil and unethical.

If you really want to get fucked over, give a call to your local Main Street plumber, A/C guy, electrician, or mechanic. Small town business ethics are no better and often worse than anything I've seen in high finance.

Sep 11, 2019 - 11:31am

Pls fix per below thx

  1. Put on your Ray Bans
  2. Put in your Air Pods
  3. Look Out the Window
  4. Keep your mouth shut.

The. End.

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Sep 11, 2019 - 4:07am

I haven't had a single Uber driver say anything negative. I think it depends on how you explain things. I just phrase it as buying/investing in companies and working with them to help improve the co.

I think any sort of negative perceptions are the result of movies like Wall Street, Wolf of Wall Street, etc... coupled with the latest recession.

Also...a lot of finance guys come across as douchebags because they don't know how to dial down/be purposely less eloquent when around a different crowd.

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Sep 11, 2019 - 5:41am

It's only happened to me a couple of times when at a party or something similar, wasn't made a big deal but I just asked them what's wrong with working in finance and they basically don't have a real reason so it's simple to 'argue' with them.

Regarding your statement about "reducing crime in neighborhoods" -- Is that because you actively seek to reduce crime or you just outprice everyone who would normally live in said neighbourhood and therefor they need to move elsewhere? Thus increasing crime elsewhere.

Sep 11, 2019 - 5:57am

This is why i like medicine. Prestige and people look up to you.

Interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

Sep 11, 2019 - 2:24pm

Agreed but i can easily rebuttal that when i tell them about the debt and residency.

Interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

Sep 11, 2019 - 6:27am

You are most definitely still an "ordinary person."

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Sep 11, 2019 - 10:41am

Agreed, what we do in the grand scheme of things means very little. Being one of five people that worked on the financing of a retail center in the city or being a development analyst for a multifamily building is just that not that big of a deal. We like to think we are much bigger than we actually are. The whole shtick of "I like to work on something tangible and like helping shape a city skyline" is a talking point that sounds nice in an interview but in reality deep down if we dig in, it matters very little. I dont get why wehave to do mental gymnastics to believe what we do is so much more important that it really is.

Sep 11, 2019 - 8:29am

Devleopment? No.

Workforce housing value add (i.e., raising poor people's rents)...that warrants a discussion.

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Sep 11, 2019 - 4:14pm


Oh fucking come on man, you know what he meant. Stop trying to be self-righteous.

Doesn't matter. OP learning to drop the condescension of "ordinary people" and the victim complex of "are we the villians?" will do a lot for him. Calling it out is legitimate.

Commercial Real Estate Developer

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Sep 12, 2019 - 9:26am


Oh fucking come on man, you know what he meant. Stop trying to be self-righteous.

Yes I do know what he meant (if for nothing else, because OP literally explained what he meant by it), but that's hardly a good criteria, is it?

Plus, the whole post was about the OP feeling like he can't relate to people outside his field/industry and to you there's 0% chance that subconsciously referring to other people as "ordinary people" has something to do with it?

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 11, 2019 - 9:54am

Why do you care what people who have made poor life decisions (hence being an Uber driver) think about your career choice? Just ignore them and 1-star them when you get out for a free ride if they start acting like that. Maybe they'll learn that when you're in a service business you shouldn't berate your customer over what they do for a living. The majority of people are ignorant and will make no effort to change that, so there's no point in carrying around a chip on your shoulder when one of the many below-average masses decides you're the bad guy because you're doing better in life than they are. Focus on yourself and succeed by yourself.

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:30am

Hey, just because someone is an Uber driver doesn't mean they "obviously made poor life decisions". I think it's that kind of mentality that causes some animosity towards people in our line of work. People pick up unskilled jobs for all sorts of reasons and circumstances. I did it for a while when I was in grad school to make some extra cash.

I'm not saying the driver was right to say what he did and should probably have kept his opinion to himself, but the idea that you're better than them is part of the problem.

  • Analyst 1 in PE - LBOs
Sep 13, 2019 - 6:36pm

I would argue there's a huge difference between students/young people doing it for part-time extra cash and the numerous adults I've met who do it full-time. It makes sense for the young person supplementing with an easy side job to support schooling/early work skills development. If you're an adult (30+) having to do it full-time that's probably indicative of your lack of skills/ability to do anything that requires a skill cap above driving and following a map, something we teach to teenagers in this country.

One group is in the process of developing skills, the other simply has none that are valued in the marketplace.

May 15, 2020 - 7:16pm

100% agree.

Never understood why people on this site look down upon those who have a side hustle/2nd job...i say all the power to them for going out and getting paid. I learned more about yourself in 5 hours working a job i hated but needed to undertake for cash than i did in 4 years of college.

Sep 11, 2019 - 11:10am

Yes, but ultimately the municipalities are the villains as they are the ones who zone/permit multifamily around what were once great neighborhoods for families.

Multifamily has an enormously negative impact on school districts, particularly affordable housing. Dallas is a prime example of how once great areas to raise children with solid school districts have been ruined by monstrous developments of formerly cheap garden-style multifamily which is now higher density wrap product. Development standards are awful, the properties are disgusting, and the renters are a different demographic than the homeowners in the immediate area. Most of these properties are merchant build and not constructed to age well - they age poorly and blight the area.

Those suburbs in Dallas that have chosen to strictly prohibit multifamily have experienced continued outstanding school performance and dramatic housing value increases such as Southlake, Coppell, and Lovejoy ISD area of Allen. Those suburbs which formerly had great school districts such as Richardson and Plano have/are experiencing dramatic decreases in quality due to, again, demographic changes as the massive multifamily complexes built in the 80's/90's have become more and more affordable.

Sep 12, 2019 - 1:32am

To add on, in Southern California (where I am at), there is a housing shortage. What has been circulating on the news lately is information regarding proposals and if I am not mistaken, new bills being passed to allow building permits of these, "affordable housing" units.

I never really thought about multi-family housing in that process, appreciate the information!

No pain no game.

Sep 13, 2019 - 8:25am

God forbid people of different class live in the same municipality yuck

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Sep 11, 2019 - 12:20pm

You're a second-year analyst already referring to people working blue-collar jobs as "ordinary people". Take a quick look in the mirror and think about what makes people react in a hostile way to you, it's probably not just the job.

Be humble. Treat people like people. Don't be a dick... and put your fuckin Airpods in when you can tell an uber driver is going to be a pain in the ass.

Sep 11, 2019 - 12:36pm

Believe it or not there are some firms that take extreme pride in being stewards of responsible real estate that has vast staying power. Partly because it's required in order to do business, partly because people at the company while they are in the business of making money do generally feel a calling to be certain that they're publicly facing developments are something for citizens, workers, residents to enjoy and remember. If you create this staying power over time you're more inclined to have repeat business over time. If you can successfully pull off a sense of place-making while also executing business, you have the best of both worlds. Real estate is very much the business of existence. Merchant build is the opposite and in my opinion gives real estate development a bad rep. +1 InVino as municipalities have the ability to regulate this in some instances but do not for whatever reason. This post relates more toward urban development. Merchant build isn't inherently bad but in some cases that's what gets fingers pointed in my brief experience so i'm sure there's plenty examples where it's inherently beneficial and solves market problems

Sep 11, 2019 - 1:32pm

I was looking to move a couple years ago so I went to tour a small older apartment complex near the beach (5 units on a good size lot). I was standing outside waiting for the LL when one of the residents comes out and strikes up a conversation. I tell her I work in Real Estate Development and I see the fire get lit in her eyes. She proceeds to tell me she hates developers and she is going to make sure the LL doesn't allow me to move in and that i'm the reason this beach community is going to shit (more density) .

Not only did I move in but I convinced the LL to sell to my company. I personally told this lady we were not going to renew her lease and that we are currently in the entitlement process to put 3x the number of units on the property.

most satisfying deal I have ever done.

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Sep 11, 2019 - 2:04pm

Considering how pervasive commercial real estate is, it would be great to see the asset class become more understandable to the general public. The effort required for most people to gain understanding, let alone expertise, seems much too high.

Better software and more willingness to share certain kinds of data (perhaps via better software) would go a long way toward improving this.

Easier said than done, but it should be possible to look up a nearby building and gain basic context about its profile and business plan.

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Sep 11, 2019 - 2:43pm

The guy isn't wrong. There are tons of unethical developers. Looking at NYC in particular, where a small subset of real estate operators acted so egregiously that it led to an unbelievably bad law being foisted on the entire state in order to even the scales.

The bad apples in any industry are always going to stand out and be memorable. No one remembers the folks who put their heads down and do their jobs honestly and competently. It's the examples of startling incompetence or really egregious villainy that stick in people's memory.

Also, get your head out of your ass. You aren't "reducing crime". At best, you are bringing in enough wealthy people that the local PDs sit up and take notice to start patrolling. And yeah, maybe you create a couple of jobs, so now there is an extra super and porter making a decent wage. That isn't exactly earth shattering stuff.

Sep 11, 2019 - 4:25pm

100% true people in finance are considered villains. I have told a few people I work in finance and they give me a look as if personally insulted them and their family. I had an uncle who invested $3000 with no financial background and knowledge and he lost all the money in the market. He thought just investing the market makes you automatically rich, it doesn't work like that. Lesson here is don't invest in things you don't have knowledge in, I just tell people I work in banking, end of story. I have even had people tell me you want to be successful and make everyone poor, that isn't my intention.

"It's okay, I'll see you on the other side"
Sep 11, 2019 - 11:00pm

Lowkey i find it weird when family & friends give me this specific " i hate you but i respect you" look when i tell them i want to be an investment banker. Like its kinda like the girl who dates the asshole, no one really knows the appeal to him except for her , similar to how i am viewed for wanting to go into IB.

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