My 8-month real estate finance internship journey + some general thoughts on NYU's MSRE

sam1992's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 65

Hi WSO, for the past year, this community has been extremely helpful to me, helped answer some of my stupid and basic questions on real estate finance. I have now secured a summer internship at a solid BB in their real estate finance group, I could not be more grateful and wanted to post about my journey so that other people could also learn from my mistakes and successes .

My background

After graduating from college few years ago, I worked in residential real estate for 3 years. While I made decent money for my age-close to six figures, I felt the finance side of real estate is more interesting and will be personally more fulfilling for me. That led me to New York for their MSRE program. I am in my third semester now and have one more semester to graduate. For my first two semesters, I was a full time student and started a spring semester internship in Jan of this year. I will be soon leaving this internship for my summer internship which is at a solid BB.

My internship journey

Around august of the last year, I started to apply for 2018 summer internships as many of the structured internship programs (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Blackstone, JP Morgan, Wells, Morgan Stanley, Tishman, Related, etc) posted their internships in Aug/Sep of last year. I quickly realized applying online and waiting for a response is not a smart strategy. For students (particularly those with minimal RE experience) who are planning to do their MSRE or MSRED even in good schools like NYU, keep in mind folks when you apply to a job or internship , you will be competing with undergrads- juniors and seniors who could have two or even three relevant RE internships, put yourselves in the employer's shoes, who is more attractive? I soon realized that I am competing with undergrads with more relevant RE experience, yes I had "residential" experience, but it was a gut punch to realize that residential real estate might as well be astrology when it comes to relevant experience needed for commercial real estate internships.

I had a great "why RE" answer prepared and it was backed by my experience working in real estate and with clients, had my talking points ready to go and prepared, had a solid grip on RE fundamentals/technicals, but it means nothing as I was not even getting a first round phone interview with HR/behavorial interview. Working in real estate sales and becoming very good at building relationships/selling gave me the confidence and the belief that if I ever get myself to a second round and in front of the hiring manager, it is a done deal and I will get the internship. But, it was demoralizing that I could not even get a phone interview. I got rejected straight away with no phone interview or did not even hear back regarding my online app from 27 places. At one point, it got almost comical- was getting rejections without even being phone interviewed from places like Arbor, Walker & Dunlop, no offense to people working there, but c'mon. That was rock bottom for me, I decided to take my job hunt up a notch and rely on my networking.

Some Sucess

I started reaching out to NYU's alumni via linkedin, played the "I am a student card" and explained that I would love to get some career related advice/insights, got a decent number of responses, spoke to some on the phone, met up with some for coffee. Joined a mentorship program with one of the professional real estate organizations where they paired me with a experienced real estate professional. It was a great relationship that opened a few more doors. After all that networking, it was funny that I ended up getting a summer internship offer from applying online. In Feb, I applied on NYU's career site to a job posting by this BB. Luck is a real thing. I think this bank only posted on a few schools career sites. I can never complain about my misfortunes in life, because I have always been a beneficiary through my life of some extremely serendipitous moments. I have always been at the right place/right time.

This BB had already done their hiring for most of their departments like IB. Their RE finance department is pretty small, middle market at best, they are however trying to grow their team and are on a hiring spree. Last moment they decided to hire a summer intern for this year with the possibility of having the intern continue working during the school year even after summer ends.

This was an golden opportunity for me.

Within two weeks after applying, I got a phone interview and nailed it. I mean, there was no excuse not to nail it. For the past 8 months or so, every day during my morning run, I would practice my answers to common questions such as why RE, why CRE, why XYZ firm, what are your strengths/weaknesses, time you failed/succeeded, time you worked in a group, etc. So during my phone interview, I was firing from all cylinders. Even asked a question at the end when I was asked if I had any questions for the interviewer, that question got him to open up a little more and and it was a good and very natural back and forth convo for a little bit. Got great vibes at the end, told I will hear back regarding a second round. Even was told, I am exactly the type of person they are looking for.

A week later

I got scheduled for a second round in person interview. The in person interview had no question that I didnt prepare for in the past 8 months or so. "RE" questions were pretty much elementary questions- on cap rate, going in cap rate vs terminal cap rate, three types of valuation methods, LTV, DSCR, DY etc, and my general take on the CRE market/stage of the cycle today and also what were the sectors I am bullish on and bearish on- I had been preparing my answer for these two particular questions for the past 8 months , every day- I would practice these to the point I could nail these questions with solid answers - with statistics and with no "um's and ahs" in between. I was certainly overprepared.

Two days later

I heard back from them with an offer. So, I received one second round interview during my internship journey, and got an offer. I always knew that all I had to do was get a second round interview, but it's much easier said than done right. It is still disappointing that some places like JP Morgan or Wells didnt even have a phone interview/first round with me. I mean would questions they ask even in a second round be that much different from the ones I was asked? but such is life. I am now ecstatic that I have an offer from a solid firm, and my focus is now on work hard and work to the best of my ability as I would love to continue working here even after the summer internship ends. Soon after I heard back about an offer for this firm, I heard back from 2 other places about scheduling a second round and I politely declined the interview request as the offer I had was exactly what I wanted in terms of the work I want to do.

As this is too long already, in the comments, I will post about my general thoughts on MSRE/ particularly NYU's MSRE.

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Comments (11)

Best Response
Apr 23, 2018

For people with 0-2/4 years of real estate experience, even if its some what related to real estate like residential, property management or not at all related to real estate like insurance or nursing, if you decide to do your MSRE, be realistic- as I mentioned in my post, when you apply to an internship/job regardless of your age, you will compete against undergrads - juniors or seniors and some of them will have 2 or even 3 more relevant internships under their belt. I will be honest- If I am an employer, I am hiring them if they are somewhat likeable during the in-person interview as nothing beats real world experience and the ability to hit the ground running. Yes it sucks, that you could be spending 80K or even 100K on your masters degree and you are losing out on jobs to undergrads. I was in your shoes, it sucks, but it is what it is. We just don't have relevant RE experience and that hurts us.

Now, on pay- again be realistic. If you have 0-4 years of non RE experience, having a masters degree is not going to get you an increase in salary compared to a graduating senior that has two or three more relevant RE internships under their belt. Pay wise, at best you will be on the same level. That's often 50K-80k. Now, if you have had say atleast a few years of real estate finance experience or you have been an assistant development manager or even a development analyst for a few years, completing your masters and switching firms might get you that pay bump you might be looking for. But if you don't have that relevant experience, expect 50-80K job offers and you will be at the analyst level- the same level as graduating seniors.

Makes you wonder then who is a MSRE even for? My opinion- if are in the 0-4 years of non RE experience category, and think that you cannot network yourself into a RE position and then use that position to jump around and use your network and self study using REFM, adventures in CRE to get where you want to go, then yeah sure a MSRE might be a fit. Also note that the jobs you will get will be for example on one end- underwriting analyst at Arbor (pay of 50-55K) to Blackstone REPE acquisitions or Development Analyst at Related or Tishman (80K plus), and a whole lot in between those two. And if you have no RE experience prior to the program or only minimal RE experience, you might be hired at the analyst level, same as graduating seniors not at an associate level. My summer internship is in between those two, closer in pay to Blackstone REPE, but I think I got extremely lucky and was at the right place/right time.

But if you have relevant RE experience, say you're already an underwriting analyst, acquisitions analyst, assistant development manager or development associate, etc, then you can still do a masters if you want, but in my opinion, its not worth it. Most of my classmates in my program are trying to get to those positions, you already have what most of my classmates want, it is hard for me to believe that you cannot network your way into where you want to go next.

The NYU MSRE program has about 30% international students- mainly from Asia who will be going back to their country for the most part, 20% vets who are using their GI credits to get the education for free, don't really have a lot of intention of working in commercial real estate full time- many are realtors or loan officers and are happy at their jobs and may not switch to finance or development type jobs. 30% come from RE families and already have a job waiting for them. 20% I would say are people from non RE families without a powerful network and have minimal RE experience and are trying to get their foot in the door in the industry.

It might appear as if I am being too dismissive of NYU's MSRE, thats not really accurate, because at the end of the day, I am actually a beneficiary of the NYU MSRE. The biggest factors I think that helped me get my summer internship was the NYU brand name (note- I said brand name, not the education-most MSRE students in this board can attest that every single thing you learn in the masters program can be learnt using self study online or on the job), the career site, and most importantly luck.

Let me know if I can answer any questions, would love to be a resource

    • 5
Apr 19, 2018

Thank you for writing all this up, very helpful!

    • 1
Apr 24, 2018

This was really helpful to hear from someone that was currently completing the MSRE. I was thinking about going back to school to get an MSRE, but heard a lot of the same concerns.

Any thoughts on CRE-related certifications (CCIM, REFM, etc.)? I've heard mixed reviews on this and how it's regarded by employers.

My background: 3rd year analyst in acquisitions (strong modeling skills, but not much in AM) at a private GP shop looking to move to REPE.

Apr 19, 2018

Are you doing CMBS / balance sheet lending now?

Apr 20, 2018

thank you very much for sharing your experiences and insights. as someone who is considering making a switch into real estate and specifically via the NYU MSRE, i found this honest feedback extremely helpful.

    • 2
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Apr 20, 2018

This was extremely helpful. Although many have posted about NYU's MSRE, this gave me the best picture of pros and cons. Can I pm you about some questions I have?

    • 1
Apr 23, 2018

If anyone is looking to make the switch without going the MSRE route... I'm happy to chime in as well.

Apr 24, 2018

Ed, in what industry were you in prior to being in real estate? How would the MSRE have helped you, had you decided to go for it?

Apr 24, 2018

Hi Ed, interested in this as well. I am about to complete my masters in finance but after taking a few real estate electives......... real estate seems to be a more attractive industry for me. (Genuinely, enjoy real estate and have started learning more on my own time) The problem is I don't really want to spend more $$$ for the MSRE route.

Apr 23, 2018

Out of UGrad I went to work for a traditional PE Shop. From there I moved to CRE Brokerage and then to REPE.

Apr 24, 2018