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Duckett says adaptability is key during industry’s uncertain times

John DuckettGrowing up in Winston-Salem in a die-hard UNC family, John Duckett (‘09,‘16) said his path to being a double Tar Heel has been set almost since birth.  

“I had an amazing undergraduate experience, and when I decided to pursue an MBA with a real estate concentration it was a no brainer for me to come back to Chapel Hill,” said Duckett. 

However, he never imagined when he graduated in 2009 that he would be facing a workforce that was just beginning to make its way out of the global financial crisis. No stranger to uncertainty in the world of real estate, he was excited to meet the challenge when he accepted the position as the Managing Director over Quarterra’s single family rental division in 2020 in the midst of the global pandemic. 

What began as two people on a Zoom call in October 2020 has grown in two years to a 21-person team across five cities. Duckett said his team’s ability to adapt and evolve to a vacillating market is a strength that will serve them for years to come.  

“QSFR has a really diverse team in every sense of the word and those different perspectives and skillsets make it exciting to show up, whether virtually or in person, every day and build an institutional investment management platform,” explained Duckett.  

Duckett also sees single family rentals (SFR) as a smart bet to hedge in the current economy. With only three percent of SFR owned and managed by institutional platforms, the area has a lot of room to grow, especially as the millennial generation continues to move towards new milestones. Over 65 percent of SFR homes also have three or more bedrooms, an attractive feature for those looking to settle down and possibly start a family.  

“The lack of affordably priced homes, increase in personal debt and mortgage rates, and greater rent-by-choice acceptance all suggest an increase from the demand side,” explained Duckett. “Couple this with very undersupplied entry level housing stock, increasingly better operating margins due to property management sophistication, and not one year of negative rent growth since 1985, and you have a compelling investment thesis behind SFR.” 

Although future trends in real estate are impossible to guarantee and the field is constantly evolving, Duckett said it has been most interesting to watch how quickly acquisition activity has ground to a halt. As debt costs continue to rise and debt availability has grown more and more hard to come by, everyone seems to be waiting for our current market’s price discovery. 

“It has been fascinating to see market participants change course so rapidly, eagerly awaiting downcycle opportunities, while redoubling efforts to achieve operational excellence with existing assets,” he said. 

With a background in asset management, Duckett believes the field offers a relatively secure career in real estate development despite a seemingly unsecure market. 

“Asset management is deemed to be the least sexy thing in the world, but it’s actually the most exciting,” said Duckett. “After the last 12 years in the market, asset management remains ever changing and always interesting.”  

With ongoing supply chain issues, labor shortages, and rising inflation, the current market can be daunting, but Duckett hopes this doesn’t discourage young adults from entering the industry. 

“When you’re coming out of school and you’re young, nobody is relying on a new hire to solve the world’s problems,” he explained. “Check a little bit of the anxiety at the door. Look for real teamwork and a great mentor that will help you navigate the uncertainty.”  

Duckett credits the foundation he built at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and the experiences provided by the Wood Center as essential to his success. While receiving his MBA, Duckett learned hard skills through an interactive classroom curriculum, collaborative work, and case competitions. He also gained hands-on exposure to real world real estate when interacting with engaged senior leaders and alumni in the field on career treks and other travel opportunities to board rooms and job sites of some of the best firms in the country. He also utilized the Global Immersion Experience to travel to Rio and Buenos Aires. 

Like many real estate professionals, both the people side of the business and seeing projects go from sketch or spreadsheet to reality was enticing,” Duckett said. “It wasn’t until college that I started to gravitate towards the institutional side of business, and I owe it to the Wood Center for opening my eyes to new possibilities.” 


This article is part of our new Real Estate Alumni Spotlight Series, which will feature our accomplished alumni and highlight their experiences in the industry. If you have someone you would like to nominate for a spotlight, please fill out this form.