CPA w/few years of RE experience, what are my options?

  • I'm a CPA
  • 6 years of public accounting experience, RE focus
  • $80,000 salary (Supervisory role)
  • Audited CRE companies, mainly property management, construction, and developers (plus lots of other non RE companies)
  • Prepared tax returns
  • I'm familiar with RE funds and NAV calculations/valuations, etc.
  • Intermediate with Yardi, Argus
  1. What would you do moving forward if the sky is the limit? Stay in public accounting? (Manager salary in 1 more year = $100,000, Senior Manager salary in 2-3 more years = $130,000)
  2. Pursue another certification?
  3. Pursue a graduate degree?
  4. Join another firm/company? If so, which one?
  5. What is the path like to REIT CFO? What would you do to get there from here?

Comments (18)

Jan 28, 2018

Based on your background AND assuming you want to move into real estate (I'd recommend only if you're truly passionate so you're happy!) I'd first try to land a job at a REIT in either asset management or acquisitions since you already know how property cash flows work. You have some great experience. From there, I'd try to be a sponge for a few years and then again shoot for the stars for a REPE job in either asset management or acquisitions (whichever you decide you're more interested in and have more experience with. With that being said, if you want to stay more in your current role, but apply it to real estate, try to find controller/portfolio management positions at REITs or REPE funds. I'd only pursue a graduate degree if you can't land a job for awhile going through recruiting, but it's always a good backup!

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Jan 28, 2018

Great, thank you. So is this the "traditional" path for a CPA to become CFO of a REIT?

Based on your response, it seems you are suggesting from public accounting that it is important to search for a position in Asset Management or Acquisitions. And you are also suggesting to get experience as a Controller. So are you suggesting that I can accept either an Asset Management/Acquisitions role or a Controller role and still have equal opportunity to becoming CFO? Or is one more preferred than the other?

Just trying to get a clear path and understanding of what skills and experience is best sought after. When I do a bit of research by looking up REIT CFO job listings, I haven't been able to find much information.

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Jan 28, 2018

If your aiming for CFO, I think going for controller would be better. From what I've seen for most publicly traded real estate vehicle, the CFO is usually in charge of the accounting (financial reporting and property accounting) and corporate finance function (providing guidance with regards to the companies capital structure - debt issue, equity issue, shares/unit buybacks, and dividend policy, etc.). This requires a different skillset from Asset Management and Acquisitions. As a CFO you need to know what these two teams do in order provide oversight - but you will never be asked for example to lead the underwriting or negotiating an investment. All important functions, just a matter of what you prefer.

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Jan 28, 2018

You should pass level 1 of the CFA and transition into Big 4 real estate valuation (preferably to Deloitte in NYC). Once there, network and try to lateral to CREPE.

Jan 28, 2018

That's definitely a possibility. Though it was kinda a long road for me to get my CPA and I do kinda want to have a social life again. Working in Big 4 + pursuing CFA would turn me into a recluse and probably drive me insane. I would have spent my 20s and early 30s with essentially no social/personal life by the time I finish the CFA.

Although it would probably be the best thing to do to make myself more marketable "on paper", not sure if I want to go that route.

@Esuric, if you had to choose one or the other which would you pick? Big 4 real estate job or CFA certification?

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Jan 28, 2018

It's just level 1 man.

Jan 28, 2018

Real estate is a small portion of the "alternative investments" section of the CFA curriculum. Sure the CFA is impressive, but it's far less relevant in RE than it is in other fields. Deal experience is what really matters. If you want to be a REIT CFO, get to a REIT and build experience toward that goal.

Jan 29, 2018

I agree with this, makes sense. If not REIT CFO, then I'm actually very interested in the Developer side as well.

Either situation seems that getting a CMA would be more valuable for me.

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Feb 1, 2018

don't forget the importance of corporate finance though

Jan 30, 2018

Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) asset management. Combination of real estate finance, tax accounting, audit reviews, and a bunch of other stuff involved in being an LP. You'll be useful to your team day one. PM me if you're looking for a job in the northeast.

Jan 30, 2018

Thanks @Danielplainview

It does sound like something I could get involved with, however I am not sure about the outlook of pursuing a role in this area. With changes in taxes on personal/corporate income (lower rates), I would be concerned with the future of LIHTC and LIHTC government funding.

I am actually interested in affordable housing and learning more about this area, but I am not sure if now is a time I would want to join a LIHTC specialized firm.

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Feb 1, 2018

Good luck

Feb 1, 2018

Yeah OP's right. Who needs affordable housing or LIHTC. /s

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Jan 31, 2018

CFO of a REIT, I'd go into Investment Banking for real estate companies. Doesn't have to be buldge bracket, but wouldn't hurt.

Bankers tell REIT about capital strategy, lowering their cost of capital, seeking stability and growth capital. Also REIT CFOs are involved in M&A. Do you know why many REITs are a lot more asset type/geographical focused and focused on CF vs long term projects? The bankers convinced management.

Become a manager/senior Mgr then get a MBA full time. I know someone who did this and worked for a BB post MBA as an Associate. Got some great boardroom exposure with REIT execs.

You would have great experience for an eventual role as Treasurer then CFO, or right into the CFO position of a smaller company. From there you go up or help make your small company Big (then CEO)

    • 1
Jan 31, 2018
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