Real Estate Career Advice By Jeff Mezger

Where Are the Careers in Real Estate?

Stan Ross and James Carberry interview Jeffrey T. Mezger, president and chief executive officer of KB Home, a national homebuilder based in Los Angeles.

What is the job outlook in real estate for this year’s graduates and students who will be graduating in the next couple of years?

Over the past few years, a number of executives have left real estate because of layoffs, retirements, or other reasons. Now companies are short of executive talent, particularly in the midmanagement ranks. They are starting to staff up again, and they have a need to recruit, train, mentor, and promote young professionals. If you are smart, well educated, and can demonstrate the necessary skills, you will be able to find work and move up in a company’s ranks relatively quickly as the market rebounds. With this shortage of management, an employee who demonstrates results can move up more quickly in an organization than was previously possible. The opportunities for people coming into the industry are tremendous.

When will large homebuilders start hiring?

During the recession, we played defense: we were focused on managing the company through difficult times. Now, with the economy improving, we see an opportunity to grow market share, and we are going on offense. In the short run, we will acquire lots that banks are gradually starting to sell out of foreclosure. Then we will start acquiring and developing land for new projects. Either of these strategies will require additional management in order to achieve our top-line growth targets. We will need to start recruiting talented people and put them on a fast track for advancement in our organization in order to take advantage of these growth opportunities. The same is true of other large, well-capitalized public builders.

Will graduates be able to find work with other than the largest builders?

A lot of the private builders and developers disappeared in the recession. New builders will start up, but it will take time for the financial markets to improve to the point where these entrepreneurs can get financing and start hiring.

Do you plan to recruit on campus?

Our management team has talked about stepping up our campus recruiting. In the short term, we can grow with our current employees, but at some point we will need to start hiring again. What has been lost in the housing crash is that the underlying demographics and demand are still there: over the long term, we need to build 1.2 million to 1.5 million homes annually in the U.S. The current national starts pace is around 400,000 homes. That translates into tremendous opportunities for people coming into the industry.

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