A real estate investment trust, or REIT, is a real estate company that pools together investor money to invest in real estate assets. Let’s take a look at the types of jobs available, what sort of education is generally required for one of these roles, and the best paying jobs in real estate investment trusts.
Types of REITs
Before digging into the types of jobs available at a REIT, let’s take a high level look at the types of REITs that are out there.
An Equity REIT versus a Mortgage REIT
An equity REIT is a more traditional type of real estate company, as it owns physical properties as its primary business. This type of REIT will be a full stack owner-operator and do the property management itself, will hire a third party to manage the assets, or is a hybrid of the two. For the purposes of this article, we’ll talk about jobs available at full-stack firms.
A mortgage REIT, on the other hand, invests in mortgage-related assets, not physical buildings. This is much more of a finance-type of role as opposed to a traditional hands-on real estate position. That being said, finance and investing roles at Equity REITs are important, so we’ll be covering those as well.
There are a variety of different types of REITS within the asset class. Here are some of the more common ones where you could find yourself working:
- Residential REITs: These are generally apartment buildings or single-family rental properties.
- Office REITs: REITs will either specialize in a specific type of office property or geography, while others take a diversification approach.
- Industrial REITs: These types of REITs tend to own distribution centers, warehouses, or factories. Sometimes they’re called "logistics" REITs.
- Healthcare REITs: These tend to have hospitals, medical offices, senior housing, or other buildings that serve health-related purposes.
- Self-storage REITs: These types of REITs own storage lockers across the country.
- Retail REITs: These REITs generally invest in either shopping centers, malls, or net lease/ freestanding assets.
- Infrastructure REITs: Assets in this type of REIT include pipelines, fiber optic networks, communication towers, etc.
- Timberland REITs: These REITs make money selling wood from the forest land that they own.
- Hospitality REITs: Most of these own hotels and generate revenue that way, but also from restaurants, bars, and stores at their properties.
- Data-center REITs: These REITs own structures that house servers and other technology hardware.
REIT job functions
Just like any company, a REIT has different job functions that span from back office and operations roles to in-the-trenches, customer-facing roles. Let’s cover the different departments and jobs available within them. For the purposes of this article though, we’ll leave out roles that aren’t specific to the industry, such as legal, HR, IT, or accounting.
When you boil it down, REITs are pretty simple at the end of the day. REITs raise money from investors to either develop or purchase properties, and in turn, they try to maximize the cash flow in a tax-efficient way for investors.
If you’re in acquisitions, you’re on the team that is sourcing new investment opportunities and taking a deal to the finish line. This is a pretty finance-heavy role within the real estate industry, so if you want to start a career in this role, having a degree or background in capital markets, finance, marketing, or general business is key. Analysts at the beginning of their careers are usually making around $80,000 in salary.
The progression from analyst generally goes up to associate, then manager, then to vice president. While it depends on the firm, you’ll end up making upwards of $200,000 as a VP of acquisitions.
This is the team that’s responsible for building new projects from the ground up. This is a project management-heavy function that works with other functions to finance the property development while working with contractors and subcontractors to manage the design and construction of the project.
Depending on the REIT, a role as vice president of real estate development will get you well into six figures. Same goes for a VP of construction at a REIT.
Property managers oversee an individual property’s operations from leasing to maintenance to collections and everything in between. Property managers are famous for getting things done and tend to be jacks of all trades. Therefore, there really is no standard education background to become a property manager.
Property managers are generally making an income in the $60,000-$80,000 range. It’s a great role to start in that opens up a lot of doors into other parts of an organization.
The asset management function is responsible for operational and financial performance of the portfolio of assets within the REIT. Generally, there is a vice president or senior vice president of asset management who oversees asset managers who are responsible for their own handful of assets. This is a collaborative function that works with accounting, acquisitions, development, and corporate finance to achieve target results while remaining compliant with SEC, Sarbanes-Oxley, and REIT regulations.
If you want to land a role as a VP of asset management, you’ll likely need an undergraduate degree along with roughly 10 years of experience in the industry. A role like this will net you upwards of $250,000 in salary per year.
Since this is a role that requires many skills, there are many paths you can take to get there. For example, you could start on the acquisitions team as an analyst and work your way up, or you could start on the property management side.
The investor relations team is in charge of managing all outward-facing communication with REIT shareholders. The investor relations team plans the annual meeting and meeting documents, such as the annual report and the proxy statement, in accordance with SEC regulations.
A middle-management investor relations employee earns an income in the $150,000 range. This type of role generally will require an undergraduate degree with a background in accounting or finance.
The Millionacres bottom line
It’s often said that people don’t go to school to get into real estate but rather find themselves there. This is often the case with many of the positions at REITs, but because REITs have stricter reporting and regulatory requirements, many jobs require a specific background in finance or accounting relative to other real estate firms. That being said, there are plenty of lucrative positions that require "jacks of all trades" who are good at making things happen.