AN INTERVIEW WITH UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH'S REA
(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION)
by Colleen Defilippo, ColeenDefilippo@bonitz.com
Arron Groomes recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. He founded the Real Estate Association (REA) at Pitt to build a bridge between students and the real estate industry. email@example.com
John Foster is a senior at Pitt majoring in Economics and Urban Studies. He is currently the President of REA, full time student at Pitt, and works diligently as a real estate agent. firstname.lastname@example.org
Was there a driving force to spark your interest in Real Estate?
Arron: I was always fascinated by architecture and was savvy when it came to business, even as a kid, so I always had this inherent draw towards anything pertaining to real estate.
Being an accounting major, I originally had my sights on being a consultant with the hopes of working on the occasional real estate engagement. While pursuing my degree and working full time in various accounting roles, I decided I wanted to invest in real estate on the side. Besides my interest in architecture, I really enjoy finding projects with great returns, creatively thinking about renovations/redevelopment or capital structuring, and building relationships. After tapping back into my joy for the industry, I soon found that I absorbed information like a sponge and couldn’t stop thinking about it. At that moment I decided I wanted to work in real estate so I could focus on what I have a passion for day in and day out. From there, I founded the Real Estate Association (REA), got my real estate license, spent seemingly endless nights researching and started learning from leaders in the industry who gave me the opportunity. Since entering the industry, I am always excited to wake up the next day and start working – I can do 12-hour days easily without getting burnt out – that’s when I really got excited about the possibilities of my real estate career.
John: I originally chose to pursue Urban Studies & Political Science at Pitt because I was interested in city planning and the revitalization of rust belt cities, in particular the success that Pittsburgh has had in reshaping its economy over the previous twenty years. After getting some exposure to the field of city planning, I found myself searching for careers in real estate development that provided more opportunity for creativity and mobility. At about the same time, I was taking a GIS class with a professor that had an Economics background and after countless discussions with him about the range of careers within the field, I dropped the Political Science major and added Economics. In the summer after my sophomore year, I met two real estate investors while working my summer job at Fox Run Vineyards in upstate New York. They owned a large portfolio of rental units and encouraged me to read The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller. The book changed my life and created an obsession with real estate and the concept of constructing a portfolio of assets through a series of strategic investment decisions. Throughout my junior year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity of working in the real estate department at the Northside Leadership Conference, where I first saw the opportunity to combine my passion for community redevelopment with my newfound obsession with real estate investment.
Tell me about the Real Estate Association group at the University of Pittsburgh?
The initial goal was to introduce people to the real estate industry from a career and personal investment perspective. Weekly events typically consist of a featured speaker which gives students an opportunity to learn about a facet of the industry that they might not have previously been aware of, or familiar with. The events are also a fantastic platform to network with professionals and like-minded peers. For instance, there is typically fifteen minutes at the end of every event that are dedicated to a Q&A session with the featured speaker that typically evolves into an open discussion amongst all members about a real estate topic. Aside from networking and education, REA strives to foster connections at the weekly events between members and industry professionals that will lead to job and internship opportunities. The organization has grown to average attendance of roughly 40 members at each meeting and is continuing to add new members each week. Already we have aligned students with great internships in real estate but are seeking more companies who are happy to help a student develop experience in this field. We have even helped a few members buy rentals to get their investment portfolio started early on. We ultimately exist to provide professional connections and resources to help students succeed in their career and goals. (email@example.com)
How was your experience with McKnight Property?
I met Izzy Rudolph while taking a tour of the Highline Development in its early stages - I expressed my interest in commercial real estate and he gave me the opportunity to work with Christine Stinson and Kristin Ford in property management, Lisa Tiche in leasing, and Kayla Grenek in project management. McKnight is an amazing company and the people are truly exceptional; it feels like everyone there is your family when you work there. Through McKnight, I learned more than I could have imagined and I would recommend anyone interested in real estate to look to them as a company to grow with. I would be delighted to have the opportunity to work with them again in the future.
Arron we recently met with Richard Veith, Vice President at JLL and Joe Piccini, Vice President of Property Management at Oxford Development. What were your thoughts on the meeting and how BOMA and the Real Estate Association at Pitt (REA) can collaborate going forward?
It was a wonderful opportunity to sit down with thought leaders in Pittsburgh real estate who have so much experience to convey. It was uplifting to hear that they wanted to have a larger role in educating students and introducing them to the industry properly. I was really impressed by the Foundations of Real Estate Management course that they created. My hopes for BOMA is that we can introduce more students into the events to create a way for future professionals to make connections with people who currently work in Pittsburgh real estate. BOMA members would be able to attract more student interest by being more prevalent on campus through jobs posts, attending the career fair, and letting REA and the University know of any positions they are looking to fill with recent college graduates or interns. Rick, Joe, and I have already discussed having an event for REA that focuses on a specific part of their Foundations of Real Estate Management course which would be really exciting.
How do the two of you see BOMA and the University of Pittsburgh Real Estate Association building on the relationship that is being created?
Our vision would be to foster a strong relationship with BOMA and work alongside them in the efforts to educate and help students find the right career fit within real estate. This could consist of inviting students to attend certain educational, professional, and social BOMA events to give students the opportunity to interact with real estate professionals or co-hosting events at the University of Pittsburgh. Having more communication within the organizations would help express the wants and needs of the companies as well as the students. I find it very exciting that a student could find their interest in real estate early and pursue technical training, education, internship, and networking options for years before starting their real estate career. Their background would be a tremendous advantage and I’m sure companies would appreciate their initiative as well. It’s a win-win relationship that I envision to be fruitful for many years as Pittsburgh continues to grow.
Do you have any suggestions on how to encourage others to consider entering the field of Real Estate?
Real estate is a growing field which creates demand for new entrants and provides them with opportunities. If we can show students that the industry is exciting, prosperous, and engaging, I believe we can create a motivated student base for companies to recruit from. Pitt, BOMA, and REA can cultivate interest on campus if they work together with a clear vision. Pitt recently created a certificate program for Real Estate Finance which hit maximum capacity last semester. I would like to see a technical course created soon to give students more of a foundation in the functions of real estate. Eventually a bachelor’s program with a concentration in real estate would be able to compete with those of top business schools. REA has been assembling a 1-hour workshops for students once a week for the past two years to educate students on the different aspects of the industry and how they can personally invest in real estate. We are all excited for BOMA and its members to get involved and grow their presence. I think the biggest impact would be holding educational events on the opportunities available for various majors and what those opportunities look like on a day-to-day basis within their company. Companies could recruit at the Career Fair and post their available positions on the University's job board. It’s a full circle effort to develop a budding workforce and together we can vastly increase the quality and quantity of aspiring real estate professionals.