Jumpstart Your CRE Career with an Internship

Monday, August 22, 2016

By HFF Summer Intern Luke Wilder 

“And he thinks he’s going to get it for a four cap! I mean c’mon this isn’t 2011.” Everyone in the room smiled or chuckled, laughing at a joke that went so far over my head that I would have broken my neck trying to see it go by. That was me sitting in on my first meeting on my first day as a new analyst intern in HFF’s Boston office. Meanwhile, I was still trying to get a grasp on what a “four cap” is and why I could never tie a tie the right length on my first try. I laughed along with everyone else, just .25 seconds later and with no real comprehension of why I was laughing other than to play it cool.

As what is probably the case with many undergraduate interns, my experience in commercial real estate was pretty limited when I started my HFF internship this past June. As an incoming senior at Washington University in St. Louis, I study math and engineering because I enjoy working with numbers; I can apply my skills in these subjects to whatever field I end up pursuing. I’ve completed most of my coursework, and, with one year of college to go, it is time to figure out what I want to do with the knowledge I’ve gained, moving ahead with the vague notion that most jobs I’ll pursue will most likely have the word “analyst” in the title.

I chose real estate as the focus of my summer internship search because I liked that the things I’d be analyzing were actually rooted in physical, tangible objects: skyscrapers, apartment complexes, retail space and more. Architecture and design have always interested me; I loved the idea of applying my quantitative skills to the business of buying, selling, constructing and financing buildings in my hometown of Boston. With HFF’s diverse and impressive portfolio, I knew I’d be able to work on some of the most interesting real estate projects in a city bursting with development. More important, I wanted to learn. By helping HFF work as an intermediary in major real estate deals, I would gain experience in all facets of the business.

Fast forward a week or two from that first day, and I had the jargon down, mostly. I could speak about, and even speculate on, an office building’s cap rate and tenant rollover concerns in addition to the pros and cons of a loan’s I/O terms, DSCR and debt yield. The learning curve as an HFF intern was truly steep, but I would not have it any other way. 

I was welcomed into the HFF culture with open arms. As a member of the analyst team, I sat on what is called “the bench,” two rows of five desks that face each other with only a short median dividing me from the analyst across from me. Filled with a constant exchange of efficient workflow communication and jovial camaraderie, the bench provides a sense of solidarity. While senior analysts may have their own private spaces, half of them opt to stay put, forgoing desk space and privacy for the amity of a shared work space. This environment allowed me to be very comfortable asking my more experienced neighbors questions as they come up, and I learned so much so quickly because of everyone in the office – from senior managing director to junior analyst – being incredibly patient in answering my questions. Furthermore, my HFF producers and analysts went out of their way to set up time with all of the interns to go over deals and explain the ins and outs in only a way a person experienced in commercial real estate could.

It really felt like everyone in the office wanted me to learn as much as I could in my time with HFF, not only so I felt confident in my role and contributed effectively, but also so that I came away from this summer having gained as much as I could from the experience. I’ve obtained a plethora of industry knowledge from picking the brains of enthusiastic HFF veterans and sitting in on meetings with big players like JPMorgan and Nationwide Insurance. I learned how to build complex models in both Excel and the real estate software Argus and improved both my technical and creative writing skills. Most of all, I acquired immeasurable knowledge in how a successful business should be run.

What I took away with me from my experience at HFF, industry knowledge aside, was a strengthened work ethic and renewed appreciation of how important it is to ask questions. I know, moving forward, whether it’s in the real estate industry with HFF or another company – or in a different industry altogether – that I am now extremely prepared to take on challenges with a mindset that a job is neither a place just to “do” nor is it merely where I come to complete a list of tasks within the hours of my day.; the office should be a place to learn, to grow, to work and also a place to enjoy, as long as I can finally understand the jokes.

About the HFF Commercial Real Estate Internship Program

The HFF Internship program provides students with a challenging opportunity to work in commercial real estate. The work is fast paced, exciting and offers a great team environment. Through an internship at HFF, you will have the chance to determine if the commercial real estate business is the right career match for your goals and interests. Our company goal is to hire and retain associates who have the highest ethical standards, a strong work ethic, a passion to work collectively in a team environment and, finally, a strong desire to be the very best in his or her chosen profession. Simply stated, without the best people with the above qualities, we cannot be the best firm. Visit HFF's Internship Program Page to learn more.

HFF offers a Summer Intern Program in each of our 23 offices, some offices choose to have fall and spring interns as well. You will be able to find our Summer 2017 Internship openings posted on our website in December 2016. Email recruiting@hfflp.com for more information.

About Luke Wilder

Luke Wilder interned in HFF’s Boston office in the summer of 2016. During his internship, he was primarily responsible for market research and assisting in analyst work.

Currently enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U), Mr. Wilder is studying systems engineering and applied mathematics with a minor in economics. He is involved in Wash U’s Real Estate Club.

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