Working Overseas in Real Estate

As this is platform is mainly used by Americans, thought I'd ask: Have you ever entertained yourself with the idea of getting into real estate whether in brokerage, investing abroad (like Europe or Asia) or have ever heard of someone actually navigating their RE career overseas?

As this business is a relationship one and specific market/ individual city focused, we don't have the easier luxury to pack up our bags compared to people that are analysts/directors at these F500 companies and live in London or Hong Kong for a couple of years. 

I've always had a goal to live in Europe at a certain age (love it there so much) and always loved real estate and intend to do brokerage in DC after graduation. It's a tough pill to swallow for me that I have to pretty much be tied down to a city for 15-20 years to really do well in brokerage (or even owning). Have you ever heard of someone trying to do it overseas instead or made a later career change to make it happen? I highly doubt it, but who knows maybe someone has...

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Comments (22)

  • Analyst 1 in RE - Comm
Jan 29, 2021 - 5:33pm

Would love to hear more about this. I've always thought it'd be awesome to get out to Australia but haven't researched how to go about this.

Jan 29, 2021 - 6:28pm

Same, I hear that Cushman has a large presence there - probably the other shops are targeting it too. Wonder if would be less hard switching over there if you're still new enough to the business and the added benefit of it being an English speaking country

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  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 31, 2021 - 11:15pm

Are you illiterate bro? He is impress for this post.

Jan 31, 2021 - 12:30pm

In my NYC-centric network, I think of several people who have done this to some extent. All are generally in investment management, research/strategy, capital markets, or similar "HQ" style roles (also just general senior leadership/mngt). I think it is very hard to near impossible to do this well on the "ground" level of property business (like development, brokerage, asset mngt, etc.); the markets are just too local and different when you cross int'l borders. 

Check out organizations like AFIRE if you want more insight into this world.

Feb 1, 2021 - 11:56pm

Thank you redever , have you by any chance heard of people do brokerage and then switch over to a more HQ role later on in a different place? The plan would very much likely change but along the lines of build a solid career in brokerage in a city for a couple of years, save a lot to invest in properties (in the US ofc), and do something like switch to an HQ role later in a career to a different city/country? 

Feb 2, 2021 - 8:41am

mef I feel that you will find people who "started in brokerage" in pretty much every single role/industry in real estate. Two obvious reasons, 1. Lots of people start in brokerage (most open to new people and recent grads) and 2. You can actually learn tons by doing transactions. Thus, I can think of many people in various corp cre type roles with brokerage backgrounds, in fact, I'd say its super common (people like to leave brokerage apparently!). 

As a note, if you really want an "international" lifestyle, I personally think many will be happier and more successful staying in home country but seeking or finding their way into a role that requires and/of facilitates travel (likely domestic and int'l if in real estate). These jobs tend to be the HQ/corporate type (and the regional/market type) and can clearly be promotion path or career advancing path from a regional/market job (where many people start). 

My role fits this description (at least pre-COVID lol) essentially. Honestly, spending a week overseas is more than enough. I have zero regrets never "living" overseas (admittingly, I thought about it while in grad school). If you job lets/makes you travel and you like it then it is a lot of fun. Plus, hopefully you are paid well enough to do your own leisure travel on top (extending days on either sides of trips tends to be very easy with corp travel most of the time, if your schedule permits). 

I get the impression that people who jump continents get the adventure, but often actually set back their careers on a relative level. Clearly, that is a subjective case-by-case but you take the same risks of people making major career jumps (meaning the jump acts like a counter reset). The only issue is....... those "corp/hq" jobs tend to be for people with more experience, years in the industry (often senior positions clearly). Thus they don't often align with people in their 20s and their timing/desires for travel. 

I guess it's all trade offs, just don't regret whatever decisions you make! 

Jan 31, 2021 - 3:59pm

There is another thread with solid overseas RE/international info, do a quick search

Jan 31, 2021 - 8:20pm

I'm actually in the middle of this process now. Been working in CRE in NYC since 2017 and recently decided to relocate to London to continue my career there (originally from Europe). Left my job in October and started interviewing in late November. It's definitely been a lot of interesting and great opportunities so far, but have met some minor resistance due to my lack of pan-European experience. One thing I have noticed, most companies want candidates to have a graduate degree, which is generally the rule of thumb in Europe.

I think the pan-European real estate market is super interesting, with tons of opportunities going forward, which is one of the reasons I decided to accelerate my plans to relocate. 

Feb 1, 2021 - 11:45pm

Reassuring to hear that at least someone in the forum is in the process of making the jump. What area in CRE do you work in? I studied abroad in Belgium and am strongly considering going back to Belgium for my Master's since it's very affordable and may get a degree in Business Economics (the Real Estate Master's is only taught in Dutch at the University I want to attend). Not sure if it's true, but would countries like Belgium, UK, Ireland, etc. are attracted to hiring Americans if they have a graduate degree from a European institution? My Dutch and French would barely get me by so I feel like I'm limited along with having to apply to companies that can sponsor my work visa...

Feb 2, 2021 - 12:18am

I used to work in acquisitions (with some asset management functions) for a REPE firm in NYC and I'm targeting same type of role in London, although I'm trying to pivot into logistics and distribution centres as I find that interesting. Also believe the Last Mile Distribution concept is "less" developed in EU and I've found that a lot of the players are generally smaller and less institutionalised, which I believe creates opportunities in the market. 

I'm in a slightly different situation that you as I'm originally from a EEA country and was able to secure my work visa in U.K. prior Brexit (Nov 2020) so I'm not up against that additional hurdle of convincing a company to also sponsor me. I will say that around 50% of recruiters generally ask me whether I have a valid visa so I do think it can be a bit of an uphill battle. However, don't let that discourage you. I was in the same situation in the U.S. and was able to secure a FT offer with no visa so it is possible (you just have to play your cards right). Regarding the Master program, I highly recommend getting a graduate degree if you were to make the move, but I would probably go for one of the U.K. institutions (I know Cambridge and Cass are well know for their Real Estate programs plus you won't have to worry about the language). On top of that, if you attend a top graduate program you will have more recruitment opportunities through Uni and 100% a much easier road towards work visa). Last thing, I don't know about the Benelux market in specific, but it will be hard to find full time roles outside of U.K, Germany (and maybe Paris) that doesn't require you to be fluent in the local language. 

I hope this doesn't discourage you from trying. I personally know the struggles of acquiring work visa, relocating to foreign countries and essentially start over you career very well. It's mentally challenging and bureaucratically exhausting, but the growth, life experiences and satisfaction when you pull it off far outweighs the risk in my opinion. I left my home country after high school and lived in three continents since and I don't have a single regret going through the uncertainty of relocating to a foreign country. If you have a goal of living in Europe I would highly advice you to try and fulfil that goal early as it will only become more and more difficult. 

Jan 31, 2021 - 8:35pm

It's a cool idea but you pretty much nailed it in your comment about how many years it takes to build momentum in your market.  Might be better off staying where you are, crushing it, then buying a pad in Paris to satisfy your overseas living desires.  

Feb 1, 2021 - 4:05am

There is a surprisingly strong American presence in the European RE markets , especially growing around the Med , though from my experience its not very focused on commercial and instead mostly tourism , quite often seeing it via semi-europeans/semi-american PE  investment vehicles .

Feb 1, 2021 - 11:50pm

Noted, so a lot of foreign investment in the countries that surround the Med Sea? I can see how many companies would be investing in the hospitality sector over there since a lot of tourists flock there in the warmer months. Also the property values in Greece/Italy seem relatively low probably because of their weak economies

Feb 2, 2021 - 9:16am

yeah , there were some analyst notes talking about a real American explosion of investment into the existing hospitality markets , interestingly very little in development , a lot of opportunity for growth imo.

edit: also from personal knowledge at the smaller scale (i.e. investment vehicles of 5-10 members) there has been a lot of growth too not just mega funds (American & Canadian)

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  • Analyst 3+ in RE - Comm
Feb 2, 2021 - 9:25pm

I've been able to work in RE in both NY and London.

It's definitely easier as a young person / in a junior role, as the expectations are more process / output based than relationship based, and you're right - building relationships is largely a local thing.  I was lucky in that I had lived in both places growing up / was a legal resident in both, and was able to have a network on both sides of the pond.  I think it's very difficult to break in and convince people that you're willing to stick around and build a network to have them 'invest' in you if you aren't able to pitch a similar story.

With that said, NY is in my view, a more open-minded place.  In London, even having spent my formative years there, and having gone to a brand name (one of the non-Oxbridge top 5) school, it was a very hard sell for them to hire a non-native Brit, even though I'd naturalised myself and didn't need sponsorship.  Again, I was very lucky, in that I was able to lean on family connections to get me over the line in the UK.  Coming back to NY was comparatively easy.  The fact I had no NY work experience / had started in London meant very little - all anyone cared about was the fact I had a 'brand name' real estate firm on my resume, and location preference was a minor question.  No family connections necessary in NY.  And once I'd done both, it was very easy to switch (I went London (Brand Name) --> New York (Small Shop) --> London (Same Small Shop, Different Office) --> New York (Higher Profile Shop)).

As to later career changes, my dad did something much more like you're describing.  He started his CRE career in DC in his late 20s, moved to NY for his 30s and some of his 40s, and finished off his CRE career in London / across Europe.  His small shop in DC was bought by a much larger, brand name in NY.  My dad stayed post-merger, but most of his team started from scratch / off family connections in Europe, and my dad rejoined them later in his career.  His story can be partially attributed to 1) working on large transactions from the start, which can put you more into a national than a local bucket, 2) developing a broad, transferrable skillset, particularly wrt management of people and processes, and 3) pure luck that his crew of Americans were successful in London and needed a new C-level person at the right time in his mid/mid-late career.  As for his coverage - he was based in London, but was in different European countries 2-3 weeks per month for most of his time there.

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