Entry Level Question: Assistant Property Manager Position as way to Break Into Real Estate?

I just graduated from a well regarded, Semi-Target LAC with a low 3.0 range GPA and no real background in finance (not exactly a blue chip profile, I know). Based on conversations that I had while networking, I recently became very interested in Real Estate Investment as a career option. Anyways, I was given a reference through a friend of a friend to a contact that he had working at a boutique Property Management Company in NYC. After a brief phone conversation that started as an informational interview, I was contacted again and offered a position over the phone. The position would be to be an Assistant to one of the senior property managers at the firm, which I was assured was a great way to gain entry level experience for the real estate industry (Salary is roughly 40k, which I thought was reasonable as this is an introductory position). Keep in mind that I am not as much of a high achieving or career minded student as most of the people on this forum, and am basically starting the job search from scratch post graduation (although I do have a fairly decent network though my colleges alumni network and through my fraternity).

Anyways, I was hoping to get insight from people with experience in the industry on whether this offer is worth serious consideration. Would this be a worthwhile opportunity that I could use to get my foot in the door, learn the industry from the ground up and move towards something like REPE or development? (I would say that REPE is my ultimate goal, although I will admit I know very little about the industry as a whole- will be actively researching moving forward). Or would this automatically pigeonhole me into 'property management', which I understand is not a very desirable career path in comparison with other aspects of real estate. I am happy to do whatever it takes to learn the nuts and bolts of the industry, but I would want to make sure that i'm moving in a direction that does not result in me being in a property manager or landlord type position down the road.

Another question that I have: what are the primary differences between property management and Asset Management? I understand that Property Management is much more 'bricks and mortar' and operations type work while asset management is more based on high level financial analysis, but I do get the impression that the terms are used interchangeable a lot.

I really appreciate any replies, thank you all for taking the time to read this and offer advice!

Comments (17)

May 31, 2017

Asset Management oversees the PMs. Asset Managers are the ones who are involved repositioning assets, budgeting each year, dispositions and so forth. As crappy as Property Management is, I have seen plenty exit to AM. That being said, these people were PMs with some top firms doing high level stuff not being a PM and going around looking at toilet leaks at 2 bedroom apartments.

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Jun 1, 2017

This might work in a different way over the US, but in London, where I am based, this is how it works - property management is normally a gateway, never the end goal. If you work for a big advisory firm/fund, you can probably move into Asset Management or into something very professional like valuation/appraisal or lease consultancy.

You will definitely learn a lot about the physical aspect of property and you will get plenty of opportunities to network as you will meet and present to clients.

My advice would be: 1) try to network into a better position, 2) try to get into a wheel/graduate program at a big advisory/fund house, 3) accept the offer you have and leverage it.

Jun 1, 2017

What is the product type? Office and retail property management is a lot different from multifamily.

Anyhow, as someone who was a property manager for a year, property management is a trash job that you will get bored with quickly. That said, doing a year of it is absolutely invaluable to understanding the operations of a property and will be terrific knowledge for whatever your next step it. $40k is a bit low, but I would take the opportunity.

Jun 1, 2017

It can totally be an entry job, if you make it one.

Jun 1, 2017

I interviewed at a large REIT several years back and half of the revenue management team came up through the property management track.

Jun 1, 2017

Thanks everyone for all the replies, this is definitely very helpful. It sounds like this is a good opportunity with plenty of options to branch out, so I think I will accept it unless something else comes up. Given that it seems the consensus is that this is a viable way to break into RE investment, and given my lack of relevant experience or industry connections, it seems like it would be a smart move for me to jump on the offer while I have it.

One question: roughly how long should I expect to stay as an assistant property manager before I would be able to make the transition into another position? Obviously this is highly dependent on individual performance and aptitude, but it would be great to know if there is any sort of typical time frame for this kind of career move. I only ask this because I keep hearing horror stories about what being a property manager is like, and want to get an idea for how long I would be stuck there if it ends up being a truly awful job (I'm optimistic but want to cover all my bases).

In response to CRE: All I really know is that I would be assisting a senior property manager, who oversees a large portfolio of both commercial and residential properties. This sounds like it would be a good opportunity to get a wide range of experience (though I am much more interested in commercial)- Please correct me if I am wrong about that.

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to comment, getting insider perspectives on this decision is really huge for me

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Best Response
Jun 1, 2017

This is a tough question. I can think of a couple possible routes for you to take:

  1. Use your colleagues at the family office to help you. Surely you had other colleagues who can vouch for the work you did? These people will be your best resources for finding another role. If you can't find someone who can sell your value to their friends, then you have to do it yourself, which leads to option 2...
  2. Find another job in property management, and use it as an opportunity to meet owners/developers/investors. Be a total badass, and make their job easier every day. This means take ownership of your property, and don't be reactive. No matter what they ask you, never think 'that's not in my job description'. Just do it, as though you were the owner of that project. Most PM professionals simply aren't that great, so the really good ones stand out. If you prove your value then it's an easy transition to Asset Management, and possibly development. It is not likely that you would transition to an investment analyst position, but I'd never say never.
    • 3
Jun 1, 2017

DCDigger,

Thank you for your suggestion. Would you say that getting my master would be a helpful way to transition to investment side?

Jun 1, 2017

Yes, it could be. You'll also want to join ULI and network like crazy. This will get you farther than grad school in the long run. A master's is really only useful for the first job. Your friends and track record will take over after that.

    • 1
Jun 1, 2017

Here is my from "left field" answer. If I were you, and you seem bright and capable, see if you can parlay your experience working for that wealthy guy and work in private wealth capital. Your area should have a wealthy pool of investors and whom you will know over time and maybe one day invest their money in assets like real estate. There is potentially high upside if you are very ambitious.

You can also work for a commercial real estate lender. Main thing, either get deal / underwriting experience, or relationships, or both. Good luck

    • 1
Jun 1, 2017

Networking is your best bet. You're one year out of school. No doors are closed for you. It'll be easier to move from a property management job to Asset Management. But if you want to be an investment analyst (acquisitions) it is definitely possible with networking. Start using your network, and if you don't have one, start creating one with cold emails etc.

Jun 1, 2017

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Jun 1, 2017

Depends on the type of property. Parents are Commercial Real Estate owners and managers and spend a lot of time fixing up various units, collecting payments, marketing open units, interacting with customers, handling payment disputes, and pretty much anything else you can think of. It's a lot of dealing with people through either renting units, collecting payments (on time or late receivables), handling problems they have (A/C went out, etc.), or performing needed changes like unit turnover (cleaning and re-painting, etc).

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Jun 1, 2017

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