STEP Internship Reflection

From May to August of 2016, I worked as an intern at Clearview Property Management, a property management company in Columbus, OH. Over the course of my internship, I learned something about all of the components of real estate management. I watched and participated in activities ranging from capital improvements to accounting.

When I began the internship, I believe that I had a narrow understanding of what it means to be involved in real estate. While I understood that real estate is a broad field with many different dimensions, I didn’t fully understand how all of the different components fit together. For example if someone had asked me how a lawyer is involved in real estate, my answer would have been fairly limited. However now that I have more experience, I understand that, at it’s heart, real estate can only exist through many contracts that determine who owns what property, who is a allowed to use it, and under what circumstances. Since real estate relies so heavily on contracts, lawyers are everywhere. Ultimately, there is a diverse range of roles surrounding real estate that allow for it to exist.

My everyday experience working at Clearview Property Management varied greatly and illustrated the diversity in roles that real estate has. Each day the tasks at hand were slightly different. Early in the summer I spent a lot of time helping with the maintenance team. There were lots of property vacancies and so I spent time helping to recondition properties before they were filled. From a business perspective, this allowed for me to see how important it is to keep vacancies low and renovations efficient. For a property management company that focuses on residential housing, like Clearview, the time between occupants can quickly eat into profits. This is because everyday that a property is being worked on and remains vacant, money is lost through lack of rent income as well as labor and material costs.

In addition to working with maintenance, I spent a lot of time at the company’s office. During this period of time, daily tasks typically involved leasing, finding new tenants, and bookkeeping. Personally, this was my least favorite part of the job. I am someone who enjoys being active and getting the opportunity to see new things. For that reason, this was my least favorite part of working at Clearview. While I understand why it is vital to the company, it was incredibly monotonous. Most of my time spent in the office, I spent either typing numbers into the accounting software or on the phone with people who were interested in renting property. While I didn’t particularly care for the office, I do believe that it helped me improve on being focused and organized.

During the rest of the summer, when I was not in the office or doing maintenance work, I got the opportunity to spend time shadowing the owner of the company. For me this was the most engaging and interesting part of the job. If the office was predictable and dull, this was the complete opposite. Given that Clearview is a small business, the owner had to be involved with all aspects of the business at some point or another. Some days we needed to help maintenance by doing things like ordering and delivering materials while other days we had to spend time taking documents different places. The variety of tasks kept things interesting. My favorite part of this experience was when there were relatively few housekeeping tasks and we got to look for new rental units. This usually involved going to different properties with real estate agents and contractors and determining what properties would be good to buy and the logistics of getting them ready to rent. During this period of time I was also given the opportunity to write a performa for a development; a plan for development that is given to an investor.

I am currently studying sociology and real estate and in the future, I would like to do real estate development. This internship gave me the opportunity to observe multiple aspects of my studies and career aspirations more closely. The company that I was working with owns a lot of lower income housing and working with the tenants gave me a lot of sociological insight. From a small scale view of the business, I was able to see a lot of the social issues that lower income people deal with on a daily a basis because I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood engaging with people. The company made a lot provisions to people who were dealing with different issues. For instance, we helped a woman and her children move from one unit to another because she was dealing with spousal abuse issues. In addition to sociological insight, I also learned a lot about running a business. I was able to see first hand how small everyday decisions could drastically affect a bottom line. One thing that I noticed was how Clearview tried to keep uniformity in units as far as things like interior paint and appliances so that everything could be fixed or replaced more quickly and with less thought. In the end, I am happy that I was able to have this opportunity as it transformed my perspective on what it means to be involved in real estate.