Welcome to our Villanova Real Estate Alumni Interview Series page. The following Q&As will give current real estate students the opportunity to learn about various career paths within the commercial real estate industry and read career advice from our alumni. Click on the name below to learn more about each alumni’s insights!

Conversation Bubbles

Merion Realty Partners

What emerging trends are you seeing in the market, and what impact have these trends had on you?

I have been exposed to several asset classes within the real estate investment markets over the years including hospitality, retail and office. Since starting my company 12 years ago, we have exclusively focused our investments, ownership and management within the multifamily asset class. I have been very active within this asset class and have been part of the growing trend of investment professionals who have turned to multifamily for stable, consistent returns for their investors. For many years the industry economists discussed the need for additional apartment stock to replace aging stock, combined with the growing demand from both empty nesters and those in their 20's and 30's who have chosen to rent versus own. This group has also chosen to delay getting married, start a family, and the purchase of their first home. These trends have created an excellent opportunity for us and has helped generate strong current yields and increasing values for our investors.

What are a few things you look for when reviewing candidate resumes?

I do not need to see specific experience for the jobs I am looking to fill. I also do not need to see a candidate that has specific college coursework that mirrors the position. I look for a candidate that displays a progression through college course work, and a progression in their first or second job that may fit within the real estate investment industry. Real estate analysis and underwriting is not a formula and requires assumptions that become fine-tuned with experience with visiting the physical asset. A resume should reflect a passion and understanding of real estate assets that may not be apparent in the college experience, or in their prior job positions. Make it your business to drive the markets and look at the world in terms of real estate. If you are able to communicate the connection between your analytical skill and your understanding of the physical asset, I would immediately take a hard look at your resume.

What are some of the biggest challenges someone new in the industry might face?

The biggest challenges for recent college graduates entering into the world of real estate is the inability to see, touch, walk and study the physical real estate asset. Yes, understanding how to manipulate a spreadsheet, or work within Argus is very important, but is more or less expected of the new real estate hire. How does an analyst in NYC or PHL get to the next level of underwriting if they are unable to visit the physical asset? How do they know how the asset compares to the competitive set? How do theyknow what physical capital improvements are necessary, what is capital preservation versus value add, and what is the cost or timing of those expenses? If the answer only lies in third-party reports, you will have failures. Yes, all of these third-party reports are necessary, but it is imperative one finds a position that will allow for travel to the asset. This is invaluable, and will fine tune your investment acumen faster than underwriting hundreds of deals on Excel. All of my team members immediately get on the road to better understand the asset, and the management of the asset.

What skills have you learned and developed throughout your time both at Villanova and in the industry that have helped you succeed?

When I graduated in 1988 there was only one real estate class (at least only one that I knew of) which was a primer for taking the real estate broker license. I also was not in the business school, but upon graduation started working for a bank in construction lending and moved on to another bank, and then into the private equity investments within real estate. I have been fortunate and have worked through several cycles of real estate ups and downs. While at Villanova I learned how to communicate. I enjoy listening, learning and interacting. I believe I was able to impress upon VP's of the bank that although my resume may not have a BS degree, or accounting classes, I was capable and an asset to their team. This held true when I made the shift into real estate private equity, my ability to communicate across a broad number of subjects left an impression. While at Villanova I took a broad range of classes and my positive experience of being surrounded by good people helped me gain footing early in my career. While at Villanova I decided I was interested in real estate, and I still continue that pursuit. I continue to forge relationships with investors, lenders, brokers and my team. The skills learned at Villanova and through my career do parallel one another and have definitely helped me succeed.