Building a Strong Foundation
With a grandfather and both parents in real estate, it is not surprising that Matt Reams ended up there, too. Now a development associate at the San Diego-based ConAm Group of Companies, Reams, 28, graduated magna cum laude from the W. P. Carey School’s Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) program in 2009.
After earning a business degree from the University of San Diego, Reams started his career in 2006, working for almost two years as an investments analyst. His employer, iStar Financial, is a public real estate investment trust that finances industrial, high-rise condos, office and other commercial projects. That exposed him to the financial side of commercial real estate and the variety of fields within it: multi-family, industrial, office and retail.
Then he decided to return to his first interest, helping people find a place to live.
“I enjoy providing a home for someone as opposed to working on what someone’s office or retail space might look like,” Reams said. His current employer, ConAm Group of Companies owns, operates and builds apartment complexes. It manages about 50,000 apartment complexes in 26 metro areas, including about 5,000 units around Phoenix. Reams’ role is to find land for infill apartment projects.
While Reams was working at iStar the economy began its historic slide, which eventually cost him his job. He decided it was a good time to fulfill a long time dream of getting a master’s degree. Although the University of San Diego offers a master of science in real estate, Reams chose the W. P. Carey School of Business because the MRED degree focused on the development side, where he wanted to be, providing an overview that included perspectives from business, law, development, and design.
“I think the best knowledge [the program] provided was a well-rounded view of the development process, from point A to Z. And it teaches you how to manage all the stakeholders in the development process. And there sure are a lot of them,” he said.
Reams said the year he spent at W. P. Carey was a great time to become “a student of the industry” and hear how professionals were dealing with the downturn and how they had handled previous ones. They taught him how important it is to make sure real estate developments are financially sound.
Reams focused his job search on returning to San Diego to work in the multi-family field, and targeted ConAm as the company that would meet his needs. But after emailing resumes and applications, he heard nothing. Finally he asked his W. P. Carey mentor, David Dewar, if he knew anyone at ConAm. Dewar provided a contact, and in matter of days, Reams had lined up an interview. The ConAm director explained that they had been bombarded with applications and had not been able to respond to them.
Reams now helps to run an undergraduate mentoring program at the University of San Diego. He tells students over and over that one of the intrinsic values of an MRED degree is the impressive network you’ll build. “Every single contact helps. I heard that for nine months in the program and then met someone who knew someone, and boom! I got the job. So I tell people that everyone in this industry can help you at some point.”