I don’t remember exactly when they burst on the scene, but about a decade ago I heard about a REIT for the first time.
You mean I can invest in real estate without actually buying property?
The idea just made sense to me.
But I never really considered whether it would make a good career. So if you’re wondering, “Is real estate investment trusts a good career path?” — lets break it down!
Overall (spoiler), I think that working at a REIT can be a part of a bigger career in real estate, investing, or real estate investing. If you just wanted a job at a REIT for life, I’d say be careful. There aren’t a ton of opportunities in this industry. But chances are you’re imagining working for a REIT as a doorway to bigger and better things.
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- What Are Real Estate Investment Trusts?
- Why Consider a Career in REITs?
- Challenges of a Career in REITs
- Skills Needed for a Career in REITs
- How to Get Started in a REIT Career
What Are Real Estate Investment Trusts?
Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, are a type of investment vehicle that owns and manages income-generating real estate properties. That means that investors can get involved in real estate investment without having to purchase and manage the properties themselves. It’s basically the same as a mutual fund, but it invests in properties instead of stocks or bonds.
AND the collective wealth of a group of investors means that they can hold more properties than an individual investor could anyway, allowing for economies of scale.
Types of REITs
There are three main types of REITs:
- Equity REITs – Own and manage income-generating properties such as apartment buildings, office buildings, and shopping centers. This is a more hands-on approach that requires lots of people in management.
- Mortgage REITs – These REITs invest in and own mortgages on income-generating properties. This type of REIT would work more like a bank than a property manager.
- Hybrid REITs – REITs that do both of these things.
Why Consider a Career in REITs?
So it’s great that REITs have made it easy for more people to invest in real estate. But does that necessarily make it a good career choice?
Let’s talk through a few of the things you could consider, starting with the positive:
Stability and Predictability
REITs are typically known for their stability and predictability. So if you want stability, this might be a good choice.
But here’s the caveat. With interest rates on the rise, there’s some evidence that REITs could be in for a squeeze in the coming years. AND there’s lots of evidence that commercial real estate might be in trouble.
But despite that, I think there’s a good chance REITs will continue to be around (and maybe to grow) for a long time to come. People need homes and we certainly need some commercial buildings — so even if the industry adjusts, there’s some future there.
If you’re working for a company that’s basically bringing in a RIDICULOUS amount of ARR from rent, you can expect that a career at a REIT could pay well. And yeah, it seems that it does.
This could translate into a great salary. But it also means that you may have opportunities for ownership and investments, opportunities you probably wouldn’t get anywhere else.
Get paid to learn real estate investing
I think this is probably the single greatest advantage of getting hired to work for a REIT. Heck, it’s why I’d volunteer to work for a REIT. Real estate investing has generated enormous wealth and you could get paid to learn it. To me, that would make landing the right job at a REIT worthwhile in itself — but you’d have to find one first!
Springboard into other areas of real estate
REITs aren’t the only real estate game in town. You might take your career at a REIT and transition to banking or hedge funds or even start your own real estate empire. The sky is the limit, and finding the right job at a REIT could open up a lot of other opportunities.
Build an AMAZING network
Last, but DEFINITELY not least, working at a REIT would give you a fantastic network. Obviously there are different ways to build your network, but having a job that puts you in contact with wealthy, successful people will open up a lot of future opportunities for you.
I’ve written in other posts about how networking opens career possibilities, helps you build your social capital, and uncovers job opportunities.
A career at a REIT would give you these things.
Cons of a Career in REITs
Okay, so far so good, let’s talk about the cons of working for a REIT.
There are crappy jobs
Not every job is a senior vice president of investing. A lot of REITs have jobs in maintenance, admin, and construction that might not come with the glitz and glamor of wooing investors. If you want those jobs, that’s great.
But chances are, you’re here because you’re interested in the higher end jobs in sales, marketing, investor relations, etc. So if you’re asking whether a career in REITs is good, I’m going to assume you’re looking for a good job within a REIT.
If not, it might not be as great of a career path.
Not many jobs
A quick search on LinkedIn brings up about 1,200 jobs involving REIT in the description. This isn’t a perfect science, but be warned. In the grand scheme of the economy, REITs aren’t really that big of an employer.
Through networking you might uncover jobs that aren’t posted online (and LinkedIn is just a sample), but you won’t have as many open roles at a REIT as at–say–other tech companies.
REITs can be affected by market volatility too. We’ve seen huge economic downturns in the housing or commercial real estate market, which can eat into a REIT’s bottom line and threaten your future there.
Skills Needed for a Career in REITs
Working in real estate investment trusts (REITs) requires a combination of skills and knowledge of the industry. OBVIOUSLY this depends a bit on which job you are hoping to get within a REIT. So these are some of the top required skills for some of the best jobs at a REIT.
Here are some of the essential skills needed to succeed in a career in REITs, including some transferable skills that you can pick up in other jobs:
One of the core skills required for working at a REITs is financial analysis. After all, this is about investing huge amounts of money. You don’t want to mess this up.
You might need skills like:
- analyzing financial statements
- assessing risks and rewards
- doing valuations
- understanding financial markets & trends
- financial modeling and forecasting
Here are some relevant courses on LinkedIn Learning:
Real Estate Knowledge
You’re going to have to know the real estate industry to work for a REIT. This is probably a given, but how can you get there?
Get as much exposure as possible. Read up on deals and go to industry events. Build your knowledge of real estate as much as possible.
Again, there are some courses on LinkedIn Learning to teach you real estate investing skills.
Communication and Networking
The final bucket of skills that will be super important for those building a career in REITs are communication and networking skills. You’ll NEED to be able to build and manage relationships with people like investors and property managers. You’ll NEED to be able to present and even sell.
Here are some of the places to get these skills:
- Top 10 Rules for Highly Effective Leadership (LinkedIn Learning)
- Communication Foundations
- Intro to Public Speaking – Give a 5-Minute Talk Without Dying (Skillshare)
How to Get Started in a REIT Career
Education and Certification
A lot of REIT career-paths will require a bachelor’s degree. This is especially true of things like investment analysis and financial modeling, where they might want to see a qualification in finance or business.
HOWEVER do your homework and make sure you need a degree before you do one. Not every REIT will require one, and not every job within a REIT requires a degree. You can figure this out by having informational interviews with people working for existing REITs.
Call or message people and ask to chat. They won’t all say yes. Some might ignore you. But the ones who do might change your life!
Internships and Entry-Level Jobs
If you can get your foot in the door at a REIT, it’s a great place to start — especially since the industry thrives on relationships and networking. One way to do this might be through an internship or with an entry-level position (even if it’s unrelated to where you want to end up).
This will help you get some first-hand experience in the industry and learn the ropes.
Networking and Professional Organizations
We mentioned networking a few times already. Meeting people in the industry is super important. Grow your network in any way possible. Informational interviews can definitely be a part of this. But you can also check out industry events, conferences, and seminars.
Get into the mix and meet some people! It will be a huge help.
REITs can definitely be a good career path. The limitations we talked about above are real, like relatively few opportunities compared to other job markets. But if you can get your foot in the door, you’re on a fast track to watch how wealth gets built, and you can get paid to learn real estate investing from the inside.
That sounds like a pretty great option to me!
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