The Wood Center will be amplifying the voices of students taking part in real estate-focused summer experiences in a student-produced series called Internship Reflections. Hear first-hand about the amazing professional development, project sites, and real-world real estate opportunities these students are being exposed to. This is the first installment in the 2023 Internship Reflections series.
By Carley Wiley
This summer I am working in a rotational internship program with Bell Partners, gaining exposure in three disciplines: Portfolio Management, Investments, and Asset Management. Bell Partners is a vertically integrated multifamily asset management and investments firm that owns and operates more than 85,000 apartment units nationwide. Being new to the world of commercial real estate, I am excited by this opportunity to learn the numerous factors and considerations that contribute to investing in and managing multifamily assets from each of these three perspectives, with the added benefit of property management insights.
As part of my internship on the investments side, I have reviewed case studies of Bell-owned properties to understand real estate investment strategies and appreciate the various determinants that impact each deal. I have recognized and been able to apply all the CRE terms (equity, leverage, cap rate, IRR, Core, Value-add, etc.) that I have otherwise only heard in the classroom and by professionals in the industry. Until I started working at Bell, I was not convinced any of these words served a purpose beyond impressive business jargon. In my first few weeks, though, I have quickly witnessed these terms in action being used to describe real properties.
At the end of my first week as an intern, I visited Bell Chapel Hill. My property tour and conversations with the property management team gave me an entirely new perspective on a property in my own college town that I have driven by countless times. During my second week at Bell, I was fortunate to undertake due diligence for a new acquisition in Raleigh, just minutes away from the corporate office where I am working. Getting to be active, on-site at both Bell Chapel Hill and the target acquisition has demonstrated that real estate investing is not just numbers in an excel spreadsheet; those numbers represent a real building in a real place with real homes for real people. Understanding the numbers and the calculations behind them is important, but I have learned more about the multifamily industry in these few “boots on the ground” experiences than I ever would have behind a computer screen in a classroom.
Now when I look at an apartment complex, I don’t just see a big building with lots of windows; I see people’s homes, the rents they pay, the location and amenities they enjoy, and the operations team that supports them. I have become immersed in the world of multifamily real estate and embraced an entirely new way of thinking about where people choose to live, work, and play. These past few weeks I have been soaking up the knowledge that the incredible Bell team I am working with has shared with me on a minute-by-minute basis. Already I have read multiple investment memos, participated in team meetings, completed the Eastdil Secured Real Estate Finance Training Program, and visited two Core properties. Bell Partners has designed an innovative internship program that allows me to gain exposure from three collaborating departments in just a nine-week period, which I am certain will feel too short and leave me wanting more. I am immensely grateful for this internship experience, and I am energized about learning more about commercial real estate!