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My 10 Favorite Things About Commercial Real Estate in Atlanta

It seems like everything you read nationally and locally about ATL CRE is negative or pessimistic. I would like to remind everyone that it isn’t all blood-and-guts/doom-and-gloom and is actually a very rewarding industry. So, below is the list of my ten favorite aspects of Atlanta Commercial Real Estate and the reasons why I got into and have stayed in this business.

10. Passive Income. To me, the aspect of having passive income at some point in my career is extremely appealing. If I play my cards right and invest in the right deals, then I do not even have to go to work at a certain point. If I bought the right properties for the right price, then I can just sit at home and watch Oprah while my cash flow checks come pouring in every month. If I want to travel with my family, watch my kids’ sports, visit my relatives, or do anything else that takes time outside the office, then passive income is essential. Obviously there is a ton of hard work and sacrifice between where I am now and that point, but that is the carrot that I keep chasing every day.

9. The Schedule. Most people know how to kick it into high gear when a deal is on the line or when a bid/quote deadline is approaching. But you can still make a good living in this industry just working 8:30 to 5:30 every day. That allows you to have a life and hobbies outside of the office. CRE professionals can afford to be balanced and I value that highly.

8. Market Knowledge. By simply doing deals in your area you get to know that market intimately. I like when I can go out to dinner and tell you who owns the building, when they bought it, and how much the tenant is paying in rent. Because I have seen so many deals locally, people from outside the city will come and ask me about Atlanta and its submarkets even though I only know one or two of them very well. I am a knowledge junkie and love knowing so much about the buildings in my home town.

7. Travel. This doesn’t have to be international or even national travel. If you are in our industry, you will be getting into your car (or plane) frequently and visiting properties, owners, brokers, etc. You are NOT glued to your desk and a large part of the business is done on the golf course at the lunch table or on the softball field. I love that I don’t have to sit at my desk for the next 40 years to be successful.

6. Tangibility. I love the bricks-and-sticks of CRE. I had the opportunity to trade commodities, derivatives, or commercial paper out of undergrad, but I like working on projects where I can see and touch the asset I am trading, building, or financing. There is something satisfying about being able to see and touch the assets you spend years of your life working on.

5. $$$. Yes, you can make a ton of money in CRE (approximately $1Buttload) and that was a consideration for me when I was assessing my career path. I am going to bust my butt in anything I do, so I might as well be well compensated for it. Notice that this is not #1 on my list. It helps, but it isn’t my motivation (See #1).

4. The Variety. Every day is different. Like every other male on this planet, I am unofficially ADD and I prefer to have several different things occupying my mind rather than just one repetitive task. If I came into the office and did the same thing in the same place every day for every year of my career, then I would probably want to hurt myself. Variety keeps me interested and makes me want to get up every morning to face the new challenges of the day.

3. The Events. We know how to party. Every week there is some type of broker luncheon, networking event, happy hour, birthday party, or whatever. If you are in this business, you can find a way to socialize with your peers . . . often. I may not partake in all the events, but I appreciate their availability and always enjoy the events I do attend.

2. The Impact. Cities, states, and countries are just collections of people. Where those people spend their time when they are not at home is essentially commercial real estate. All the office buildings, shopping centers, industrial parks, event facilities, parks, etc are real estate projects. So we have the opportunity to change and improve the city we live in by creating places where people want to spend their time. How many other professions can say that they positively impact the shape of their city and state like CRE does? I think when I retire in 40 years I would like to be able to say that I left Atlanta better than I found it. That is something I can tell my grandkids.

1. The People. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is a people business. When you reach a certain age everyone has roughly the same skill set and knowledge base. One owner/developer is usually not appreciably smarter or “better” than the owner/developer next door (despite what he may tell you!). What distinguishes people here is the relationships they have and I have found that the people who tend to do the best in this business in the long run are just good people. They are ethical, intelligent, and well-spoken and they treat everyone with respect. As I have been networking and growing my contacts in this city, I have found that 9 out of 10 guys that I meet are just genuinely good guys. They actually care about you and want to help you. And that 10th guy you can smell from a mile away. He has developed a reputation as someone who is difficult or greedy or whatever and you will hear that from 15 different people before you ever meet the guy. You also hear about all the great guys in the business. I got into CRE for several of the reasons above, but I have stayed in the business for this reason. I find it very satisfying to talk business and do deals with my friends from around the city as opposed to some hedge fund manager from NYC. I like the people I deal with and meet and that makes any hardships or difficult deals THAT much easier. It is much easier to make up in the morning  at 5am knowing I am going to work with my buddies today.

So, that’s my list. What is yours? What are some of the reasons why you chose CRE over another industry?

-Duke

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