Berkadia’s Student Housing Team Amidst COVID-19

August 18, 2020

Berkadia’s Student Housing Team Amidst COVID-19

August 18, 2020

Brandon Buell recently joined Berkadia as a Senior Managing Director co-leading the Berkadia Student Housing Team with Kevin Larimer. The two discuss their roles and how they’re working together during the pandemic:

Kevin: Brandon, it’s great to have you as part of the Berkadia team! It’s amazing to think that we have known each other for about 10 years now—we even worked on opposite sides of a deal together many years ago—and now we’re working together again. What brought you to Berkadia?

Brandon: Thank you, Kevin, I’m excited to be here! Berkadia has a strong reputation in the industry, which was a main factor, but having worked with you before also made the decision easy. As someone who is highly regarded in our industry given the business you’ve built, I knew we could make a great team. Merging our client relationships, our experience and Berkadia’s deep research expertise together stuck out to me as a great opportunity to expand our reach. Like you said, we both have been in the sector for a long time and have worked together before—I know that we’re on the same page in terms of how we conduct business and serve our clients.

Kevin: Appreciate that, Brandon. Though we’ve crossed paths multiple times in the past, it’s great working together and being on the same team. Frankness and honesty are two attributes we share, and we bring that to clients so that they can make their own informed decisions. It’s not up to us to make decisions for them—we’re there to be truth tellers and to give them the tools they need. Being aligned in so many ways has truly made work during these remote times all the better.

Brandon: Exactly, and given our experience in student housing, our clients know that they will get sound advice and the same answers from either one of us. Clients appreciate our ability to lay out the facts and know our advice won’t waiver. Though we have many of the same client relationships, some of your relationships are deeper than mine and vice versa—a nice complement. And with being in different parts of the US—with me in Texas and you in the Midwest—we’re able to canvas the country geographically better than any of our competitors. While we may have stronger presences in the regions we’re situated, we’ve been able to leverage technology and the broader team’s resources to grow our reach.

Kevin: And, working together for just a few short weeks, we’ve been able to truly see the overlap in our work. To that end, with being new to Berkadia, how was onboarding to the team during remote working conditions?

Brandon: Due to COVID-19, onboarding was different than it would have been given the circumstances. I did go into the office for my first week but wasn’t able to see anyone due to social distancing guidelines. However, it was fun to be able to call some of my colleagues in the Houston office who I knew beforehand and share that I have joined the team. As for the day-to-day work, like others in our field, I’ve been video conferencing, holding phone calls and emailing, so that has been familiar. While it would have been nice to meet with team members face to face or get to know each other over dinner, safety during a pandemic takes precedence.

Kevin: Were there any specific onboarding activities that you enjoyed?

Brandon: I really enjoyed learning about Berkadia’s data programs and software. Berkadia’s tools are essential to our business, especially as our industry becomes more apt to technology. Berkadia’s research department was also very impressive to me before I started working here, so being able to take a deep dive into the research has been insightful, especially for sharing with clients.

Kevin: Technology is certainly bettering our industry and how we can serve clients. Especially during remote times like this, technology has enabled our industry to continue to work. We’ve been able to secure new deals and seek opportunities. Most importantly, during this time, we’ve had the opportunity to touch base with clients and speak to them about their needs, without pitching them.

Brandon: That has been awesome, and technology is crucial to our work today. In our industry, clients have remained cautiously optimistic about how student housing will come out of this pandemic. Because we’ve been able to continue strengthening our relationships, we have kept clients informed about the market.

Kevin: Student housing is surely in a unique situation. Even in best of times, it’s always a challenge to forecast the market. However, by digging into research and speaking to clients, it’s evident that there is optimism in our industry. As it proved during the Great Recession, I believe Student Housing will continue to offer one of the best risk-adjusted returns in real estate.

Brandon: I couldn’t agree more Kevin. Over the long-run, student housing has demonstrated itself to be a reliable, resilient and provide a defensive investment-play. I’m looking forward to working together as we help our clients navigate the road ahead.

Kevin: Likewise! Thanks for chatting, Brandon.