Lunch ‘n’ Learn Takeaways
In these sessions, the interns learned from Valbridge leaders and seasoned veterans in the appraisal industry, and some of the interns from the previous year who have since joined Valbridge as full-time members of Team Blue.
The following experts presented on these topics during the meetings:
- Karl Finkelstein, MAI and SMD with the Charleston office, presented on the history of Valbridge and its values;
- Daniel Schwertz, Operations Manager with the South Louisiana office, shared about appraising as a career, why it matters, what goes into the appraisal process, and what questions must be answered to reach a value conclusion;
- Pledger M. “Jody” Bishop, III, MAI, SRA, AI-GRS, CRE and SMD with the Charleston office, is the immediate past president of the Appraisal Institute and spoke on about the difference in treating appraisal as a profession versus a trade.
“If it is a trade,” Bishop notes, “the appraiser is only working to make money and goes home disinterested in real estate.” This takes the “minimum level of education” and effort. The professional, however, “aligns themselves with the best mentors, wants to be the best appraiser” and does what is necessary to keep current with the industry and its trends, including joining professional organizations like the Appraisal Institute.
The following presenters were part of the first Valbridge Scholars cohort, and shared their experience with the internship and how it prepared them to join Valbridge full time:
- Lauren Perkins, Valbridge Property Advisors | San Antonio
- Nico Fell, Valbridge Property Advisors | Chicago
- Ben Munkelwitz, Valbridge Property Advisors | Minneapolis/St. Paul
This session was the favorite among this year’s Scholars, says Lonneman—a rising junior double majoring in business management and real estate at IUPUI (a partnership between Indiana University and Purdue University)—who said the connection and relationship these interns had, despite living and working in different states, “showed that family aspect” of the company.
As a rising senior at Texas A&M who is majoring in finance, Brown says she loved the Lunch ‘n’ Learns because they provided an opportunity to ask questions of and connect with other Valbridge employees.
At the suggestion of one of the interns from the first cohort, a Capstone project was included in the program this year and was an opportunity for the interns to engage with the appraisers in their offices and with several other interns while investigating an appraisal topic.
The Capstone was a “great addition” to the program, says Brown, who appreciated the opportunity to meet some of the other interns and work with them before the Summit trip.
The project was designed by Joshua (Josh) Wood, IV, MAI, JD, AI-GRS and SMD with the Houston office, who led the project with the assistance of Anthony Mulé, MAI, CCIM, Managing Director and Principal of the Chicago office.
Taking a cue from his early days as an appraiser, Wood developed a plan for the interns, called a “countercyclical treasure hunt,” in which they were to segment a market, “looking for a trend in that market that was noticeably different than the larger market.”
While relatively new to appraising, Wood experienced this phenomenon in a market that was showing high vacancies and low absorption of multifamily space—and yet, when he looked closer, he found the demand for freestanding multifamily units (called casitas) remained strong.
“The goals,” said Wood, “were to get the interns to work with the template… [and] to talk to the people in their office about what some of these trends might be.”
The participating interns were split into three groups to investigate, and they presented their findings to several Valbridge leaders before the Summit. They made a friendly competition out of it, he adds, saying the members of the winning team were announced during the Summit trip—where they were awarded laser measures as a prize.
Three Valbridge leaders determined the Capstone project winner: Daniel Schwertz and Anthony Mulé (noted earlier), and Joseph (Joe) Alerding, Jr., MAI and SMD of the offices in Indiana and St. Louis.
The winning team included Brown, Compton, Gin, and Ledet whose project focused on how, across various markets in the U.S., smaller office buildings (of ≤ 50,000 sf) are outperforming their larger counterparts.
“The three groups did three totally different things,” Wood shares. “And they were all interesting. And they all showed the core idea.” Each team, he said, engaged well with the material, the data template, and the appraisers.
Behind the Scenes of CRE Appraisal
While the interns had varying degrees of familiarity with real estate appraisal, each expressed that the program provided a great behind-the-scenes look at the industry and what it involves—including the opportunity to go out on inspections, get experience with the report templates, and learn what goes into finding comparable data.
Compton, a rising senior at Purdue majoring in finance with a minor in entrepreneurship, shared that his “most valuable takeaway or experience” was “working with such a variety of different property types and finding sale comparables for those property types.” Through this he was able to “visualize where those differences in value are” across property types and their uses.
“After this experience I am definitely considering a career in appraisal,” Compton says, “and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in commercial real estate and how to value a wide array of properties.”
“What you put into appraisal is what you’re going to get out of it,” learned Fraser, a rising senior studying business administration with a minor in commercial real estate at the College of Charleston. “If I really put in my time onto appraisals, then that’s what I’m going to get out of it. And that’s going to be a reward that I got on my own.”
A senior in his final semester at Temple University who is earning a degree in real estate and finance, Brunetti said he enjoyed using CoStar to analyze macro trends in commercial real estate. His key takeaways from the program included “the chance to work with appraisers and understand the Excel models and appraisal process,” and to learn how to gather property data and records from the county.
“I definitely learned a lot this whole summer,” says Gin, a recent graduate with an MBA from Florida State.
Though Gin fulfilled the majority of the Valbridge internship in a remote capacity—saying Valbridge was “nothing but accommodating” with his schedule as he wrapped up his classes—he highlighted his chance to go on an onsite inspection of a private school in Orlando with Ryan Zink, MAI and SMD with the Tampa office.
“Watching him [Zink] walk around the campus was definitely a learning experience,” Gin says, “and he was walking me through all the steps.”
Brown is grateful for the hands-on experience, saying: “In school, you read so much in a book, and you learn all this information… but seeing it actually up close—and you’re actually working in the industry and you’re gaining that exposure—it’s just something so different.”
Team Blue Culture
Reflecting on their experience with the company culture and their interactions with their office leaders and appraisers, the interns expressed their appreciation for the welcoming and inclusive environment.
“It’s been such a great experience,” says Brown, “It’s been incredible. I’m so blown away by the welcoming environment and atmosphere. And they’ve created such a great learning environment for me.”
Fraser echoes this, saying she is grateful for the way Bishop helped her through the application process and showed her the ropes of onsite inspections, while Finkelstein took the time to answer her questions along the way. Finkelstein, she adds with a smile, “keeps the laughter in the office, for sure.”
From the moment he sat down with Alerding in the interview for the internship, says Lonneman, “I knew that this was the place I wanted to be.”
“From this internship,” he adds, “I found that the people in appraising—especially in Valbridge—they’re just great people… It’s a great community.”
Because of his experience, and his role as the co-president of the real estate club at his university, Lonneman is connecting Valbridge with speaking opportunities at several universities including Indiana, Bloomington, Indiana State, and IUPUI.
Similarly, Gin anticipated spreading the word about Valbridge and the Scholars program in his role with the Real Estate Society at Florida State.
“I’ve told my friends,” Gin says, “I’ve told my family: It’s a great company to work for and everyone is nothing but friendly.”