It’s An ‘Employees Market’ for Commercial Real Estate

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The current market for talented commercial real estate professionals is crazy hot, according to RETS principal Kent Elliott (shown here with the director of the company’s Seattle office, Berkeley Davis).

RETS is a real estate recruiting firm that has been in business for 15 years. Last year was the company’s best year ever, and Q1 2016 has been busier than any point last year. Searches for talent are at a more senior level, and there are just more of them, Kent tells us.

Growth is robust across all functional segments—construction, development, asset management. The only role RETS isn’t seeing more of is very senior acquisition roles, and that’s because if a company doesn’t have those roles filled right now, they’re not interested in filling them.

From a candidate’s perspective, the market looks very healthy. The federal unemployment rate is 4.9%; in commercial real estate it’s below 2%. That means that strong candidates are just between jobs right now, not “unable to find a job.”

From an employer’s perspective it’s slim pickings. The lack of good employees has increased wages, and many companies are resorting to poaching from other companies since there aren’t a lot of talented industry professionals waiting around for offers.

“It’s an employee’s market,” Kent says. Compensation packages are getting good again, but it’s not a cookie-cutter world, and employers are recognizing that to keep talent, they need to accommodate each person’s preferences.

For a tech-focused Millennial, the ability to telecommute might be top priority, Kent says. Or a mother may want her package to cover the cost of a babysitting service. Others may just want more paid time off.

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Companies need to be aware of the needs and wants of their current and future employees and structure packages based on that. If   companies aren’t offering benefits that are perceived as competitive with other firms, they’ll struggle to attract top talent.

Wages, on average, are about 10% higher than last year, Kent tells us. In top-tier markets like San Francisco and New York, wages run even higher. Kent says there are no markets actually declining right now. Some may not be as hot as others, but there are none that are indifferent to the need for commercial real estate pros.

Asset managers are most in demand, says Kent. He’s seen six or seven new searches for VP of asset management so far in the first quarter. Financial analyst is a popular role for smart recent grads making their way into the business.

Because there have been rapid acquisitions and development, companies need analytical support. Oh, and accountants are one of those roles always in demand. Everybody will always need them, Kent says.