Real Estate Alert: Demand for Temp Help Still Growing

Real estate companies are increasingly looking to hire low- to senior-level professionals on a temporary basis, continuing a practice that got started during the downturn.

After the market crashed, executive recruiters started to see more demand for real estate pros to help work out distressed assets on an interim basis. The requests, initially from banks and the FDIC,brought some relief to the legions of unemployed real estate specialists.

But even as the market has bounced back and full-time hir­ing has improved, demand for temporary help has continued to grow — and from a wider range of real estate players. The total number of hours contracted for temporary positions dur­ing the first four months of the year soared by 71% from a year earlier, according to RETS Associates, a Newport Beach, Calif., executive-search firm that surveyed about 35 real estate firms.

“This trend is a positive sign, because it is a direct reflec­tion of our clients’ immediate needs to address current and projected workload,” said Kent Elliott, president and founder of RETS. “These requirements have been from low to senior lev­els, and clients have ranged from third-party services firms to REITs to private investment firms and pension-fund advisors.”

Recruits are typically tapped to work on a specific project or portfolio. But companies aren’t looking at interim positions only as a way to handle short-term jobs. Some also look at temp assignments as an opportunity to evaluate whether workers should be hired full-time for higher-level jobs.

“The candidates for these interim positions at the vice-pres­ident level and higher have been very qualified, unemployed candidates who have not yet re-secured a permanent position,” Elliott said. “In many cases, these candidates ultimately are hired by the client on a permanent basis.”

This strategy, used mostly by smaller, regional companies, avoids the risk — and potentially hefty severance costs — asso­ciated with adding staffers and then having to let them go if things do not work out.

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