Paul Hachigian is an Originations Analyst at Thorofare Capital. Paul graduated from USC in 2018 with a B.S. in Real Estate Development. He has been working at Thorofare for over 2 years, beginning as an intern and transitioning into the full-time analyst role.
Thorofare Capital is a firm that provides loan origination and services for commercial real estate properties. The company finances transactions in every property type and geographical market., ranging from $5 million to $100 million in transaction value. Thorofare was founded in 2010 and has originated over $2 billion dollars in loans to date. In the previous year alone they originated $500 million.
As an analyst at Thorofare, Paul is extremely busy. At any given time he is looking at 30+ deals, and is currently on 4 active deals in the process of closing. Given the small size of Thorofare, Paul takes on a huge amount of responsibility as an analyst. On active deals he takes the lead on anything transactional, from sponsor due-diligence to running models and performing underwriting on excel and argus. On non-active deals Paul is responsible for assessing comps and vetting transactions.
Paul’s favorite part of working at Thorofare is the variety of deals he sees. Aside from the large volume of deals, he is not specialized in any one property type or geographical market. From industrial to retail to multi-family, working at Thorofare gives Paul immense exposure to the industry. Additionally, he values the heightened sense of responsibility he has working at a small, high-growth firm.
As a student at USC, Paul’s numerous internships were extremely valuable in guiding what he wanted in a career. As a Freshman he interned at a development firm based in El Segundo. He would sit in on construction meetings and help with the logistics of the multi-family development the company was working on. Immediately, Paul recognized that being a developer wasn’t for him. He wanted action, not just exposure to a single deal. His Junior year he interned at CBRE Capital Markets in San Diego. There he got a taste of the brokerage world. He enjoyed touching different product types and seeing deals outside of Southern California, but ultimately decided that brokerage wasn’t for him. His Senior year he utilized a connection through his fraternity brother to intern at Thorofare Capital. For Paul, this experience checked all the boxes. He liked the company culture and working at such a high-growth firm. But beyond that he enjoyed the analytical nature of the work and loved the variety of deals he gained exposure to. That internship led to a full-time offer, and Paul has been at Thorofare ever since.
It wasn’t long ago when Paul was just another college student at USC. It can seem like entering the workforce cuts the ties with your undergraduate experience, but this is far from the truth. After only two years as an analyst, Paul has closed numerous deals with people he shared classes with. In fact, one of Paul’s current borrowers was a professor of his at USC. For those reading this, Paul is an amazing example of the Trojan Family at work. Get to know your classmates, because one day they will be your business partners.
Dowell Myers is a professor of urban planning and demography at the USC Sol School of Public Policy. He has been teaching at USC since 1988. Previous to working at USC, Dowell was an assistant professor at both University of Texas-Austin and University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University in Cultural Anthropology, a Master in City Planning from UC Berkeley, and a PHD in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT.
As a lifelong academic, the breadth of Dowell’s research is immense. He specializes in something known as “integrated demography”. This means his work combines demography with trend analysis, public planning, and social theory to create a more comprehensive understanding of how people, and the places they live in, adapt. He is also an expert in immigration trends, census policy, and housing needs. Dowell’s focus on California’s changing demographics has made him an indispensable resource for policy makers, city planners, and immigration specialists.
Dowell’s research has been cited thousands of times and has made a huge impact in the field of policy, planning, and demographics. In fact, Dowell received the Haynes Award for Research Impact in 2006, an award that recognizes the importance of his work for the citizens of Southern California. In 2007, Dowell published Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America. In this book he assesses the relationship between the influx of immigrants and the dying baby boomer demographic. The book has been massively influential in understanding the impacts of illegal immigration in the United States. Notably, Dowell’s expertise on this subject led him to testify in the House Judiciary Committee on immigration policy reform.
Currently, Dowell serves on many councils and is an avid public speaker who shares his research and findings. At USC he is the director of the Population Dynamics Research Group. He also teaches PPD 245, an introductory urban context class for undergraduates.
There are a lot of perks to going to school in Los Angeles. For one, it’s sunny almost every day. There aren’t many other places where you can walk to class in flip-flops during the middle of February. But LA is more than just idyllic weather. It’s an immensely diverse city, and exploring it exposes you to an infinite array of people and opportunities. Film executives are making deals in Hollywood at the same time as a skateboarding competition in Santa Monica. This is the reason LA is one of the most famous cities in the world, and it is a contributing factor to USC’s prominence as a University. In fact, LA’s vastness is a big reason why I chose to attend USC in the first place. I knew that my opportunities would be endless if I went to school in LA. However, I didn’t know I wanted to work in real estate at the time. It was only when I joined TREA that I discovered how important LA is within the world of commercial real estate.
For each of the last five years, Los Angeles has been a top destination for foreign and domestic investors. The reasoning for this is best explained by Todd Tydlaska, executive vice president of capital markets at CBRE. “First off, it’s one of the six primary gateway markets that still feels affordable, comparatively speaking. Second, L.A. was late to the recovery this cycle compared with tech-driven markets such as San Francisco, Seattle and Boston. Third, no single industry is leading the economic recovery in L.A. Four, fundamentals are strong and there are significant barriers to entry in the Greater LA market, meaning that investors are underwriting continued strong leasing fundamentals. Five, this area boasts a tremendous population base that feeds the market locally and regionally; and last but not least, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach are a huge driver of economic activity and growth.”
Put simply, LA is red hot. The high levels of foreign investment in LA’s real estate market are indicative of LA’s growth. Industrials, especially in the inland empire, saw a 266% increase in foreign capital during 2019. Retail rents in LA have risen 19% over the past year. These numbers demonstrate exactly LA is the place to be if you work in commercial real estate. Even with concerns about a looming recession, LA’s economy is too robust for capital to not keep flowing.
In July of 2019 Amazon’s market capitalization surged beyond 1 trillion dollars. What is Walmart’s market capitalization? $335 billion. Target? $59 billion. Name the market cap of any major retailer and compare it to Amazon’s, it’s not even close.
We’ve all heard the headlines, the retail industry is in a downward spiral. With Amazon leading the way, e-commerce is dominating the traditional retail experience. In the US, nearly 12% of all retail spending is through e-commerce, a 17% increase compared to the year before. If that number seems small, consider the fact that in 2005 e-commerce sales accounted for only 2.3% of total spending. Within just a decade, we Americans have made a monumental shift in how we’ve been spending our money. Brick-and-mortar stores struggle to generate revenue as more and more consumers buy from home. Strip malls are being eviscerated by massive retailers like Walmart. Even the future of grocery stores, the trusty anchor to any residential retail development, seems uncertain. After all, if a drone could deliver milk to your doorstep, would you drive to the grocery store?
There is no arguing that brick-and-mortar retail is on the decline. E-commerce will continue to grow, and less and less consumers will drive to a store to buy what they need. That’s not to say that retail is dead, but it is past its peak. Given all this, why is the jury still out on the future of retail real estate? When we think of the core property types in commercial real estate, multi-family, office, industrial, and retail are what come to mind. However, it is quickly becoming the case that retail is not included in core funds. As Jonathan Miller writes for GlobeSt, “The idea of owning a 20 to 30 percent component of retail properties in an institutional core fund has been blown up whether we all realize it yet or not.” If retail is no longer considered core, surely it’s doomed. Credit-risks plague shopping centers where it’s only a matter of time before a tenant can no longer cover rent. This, however, gives a far too grim outlook on retail. Yes, the days of strip malls and convenience centers are reaching their end, but a new era of retail is taking its place.
In 2018 Forbes profiled Rick Caruso in an article titled “The Man Who Could Save Retail”. It’s a flattering look at Caruso’s real estate empire. Noting Caruso’s tendency to develop “Disney-esque shopping centers”, the article demonstrates something important. The convenience of buying things online is impossible to match. So when consumers go shopping, they are craving something more. This is why Rick Caruso is a billionaire. His genius is the ability to transform shopping from being a chore to being an experience. This is the silver-lining in an otherwise gloomy forecast on the future of retail real estate. As more and more retail space is expanded into multi-use, consumers are now shopping for the experience. Even though retail may no longer be core, its promise as an opportunistic and value-add investment play will continue to generate returns for investors savvy enough to spot the trends.
Exploring something new is always daunting. You’re so curious, and yet, asking questions makes you feel like an outsider. Where do I start? Who do I talk to? These were the questions I asked as an eager Freshman interested in real estate.
As a Marshall major, I didn’t know where to turn. There are endless resources for investment banking and consulting, but when it comes to commercial real estate you’re out of luck. I felt like there was an invisible wall between me and the real estate community on campus. That was until I joined TREA.
I vividly remember the first TREA event I ever attended, it was the first speaker panel of the year and it was all about brokerage. I walked into RGL 101 wearing pants, flip-flops, and a t-shirt. To my surprise, everyone else was donning button-downs and blazers. Horrified, I decided to make a b-line straight for the exit. But just as I stood up to leave, a girl named Shirelle introduced herself to me. She asked what grade I was in and why I was interested in real estate, boiler-plate stuff. When I asked her what she did, she told me she was the TREA president. I was shocked. Taken aback by Shirelle’s friendliness, I decided to stay for the panel. For the next hour I was bombarded by real estate lingo as foreign to my ears as Mandarin. Argus? Capital stacks? It was all new to me. Yet, despite the unfamiliarity, I was hooked. From then on I went to every TREA meeting I possibly could, constantly learning new things and meeting new people.
At a school like USC, it is hard to not feel disconnected in some ways. There are so many different microcosms, and the real estate development program is one of them. It seems like one out of every three kids has a dad who is the CEO of a major brokerage firm. Freshmen, Seniors, professors, and even the RED alumni all appear to know each other. As an outsider, that level of camaraderie is incredibly enticing, yet also very intimidating. Breaking through may feel impossible, but it is not. For those reading this who are interested in real estate but don’t know where to turn, here is my advice… Never stop trying to learn. Join TREA, take an RED class, talk to your friend’s parents in the industry. Although it may not seem like it, people in real estate are extremely friendly. Everyone wants to be a resource, not a roadblock. Your curiosity will take you where you need to go, and it will pay dividends towards your future.
By: Dylan Strode
Ielen Sarkisian is the President at Strategic Development Advisors (SDA), a boutique development firm located in Pasadena, California. After a successful career at CB Richard Ellis, Ielen cofounded SDA with her colleague Hamo Rostamian. They were responsible for bringing Target to Southern California. Strategic Development Advisors combines brokerage, investment, and development with a focus on the shopping centers, resulting in a multifaceted platform that produces tangible results across the entire real estate industry.
Mrs. Sarkisian graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with an emphasis in Store Planning and Design. Her education and upbringing contributed to her most poignant quality: attention to detail. Whether she is designing a drive-through pad or a retail center with over thirty tenants, Ielen demands perfection. This obsession is most obvious during her meetings with potential tenants. As a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, Mrs. Sarkisian presents viable sites to a multitude of tenants at the annual conference. She is required to know each tenant profile, including their current sites, location of competitors, and preferences in the development phase. Mrs. Sarkisian’s mastery has granted her firm unprecedented success in Southern California.
John Loper is an Associate Professor of Real Estate at the USC Price School of Public Policy. John graduated from USC with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Masters Degree in Real Estate Development. He began teaching in 2012, following a long and varied career in the real estate sector.
John’s love for real estate stems from a life-long fascination with buildings. As a kid growing up in suburban Southern California, John witnessed the growth of master-planned neighborhoods. He saw firsthand how real estate development can impact communities. By the time he began college, John was enrolled as an architecture and engineering major. Despite his interest for building design, he transferred into the business school to gain skills for a corporate career.
Howard Lee is an Acquisitions and Asset Management Associate at AEW in their Downtown Los Angeles office. Howard graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree from the Marshall School of Business with a minor in Real Estate Development in 2016. Howard did not have the conventional path to a real estate finance role. While at USC, he worked on a startup before transitioning into the more traditional career path. It was then that he decided to take a position at AEW Capital Management, one that he has progressed as his mastery of the real estate field has grown.
AEW is a global real estate investment management firm that invests in all product types. The company serves over 400 clients with close to $76.0 billion in assets under management. Currently, Howard splits his time between acquisitions and asset management. On the acquisitions side, his main focus is assisting the acquisitions director underwrite and close on deals, primarily Denver and west. As a member of the asset management team, his main responsibilities include supporting the asset managers in all facets including reviewing leases, updating financial models (both Excel and Argus), and completing quarterly and annual reports. By doing so, he executes upon the plans and decisions which were made by the acquisitions team.
Natalie Aghaei is the Director of Acquisitions for Oak Road Capital, which invests in creative office and multifamily properties with the goal of improving communities. Natalie completed her undergraduate degree at USC’s Marshall School, with an emphasis in Real Estate Finance, and graduated a year early. As a student, Natalie interned at Cushman & Wakefield during her Sophomore and Junior years in office leasing brokerage in Downtown Los Angeles. After graduation, Natalie enrolled in the rotational Wheel Program at CBRE, where she worked with five different teams and offices in a year in and around Los Angeles. At CBRE, Natalie teamed up with a senior and they focused on land and multifamily brokerage investment sales.
Zach Timmons is an Argus Training Specialist for Altus Group, Houston office. Zach graduated from Western Michigan in 2010 with a degree in International and Comparative Politics and a Comparative Religion minor. He then completed a J.D. from the Seattle University School of Law in 2013.
Zach was referred to his current position through networking. Prior to working for Altus Group, Zach had worked in insurance and had lived in Michigan, Chicago, Seattle, Oklahoma, and Dallas. The client focused skills he developed in the insurance business translated to commercial real estate. Currently, Zach educates clients entering commercial real estate, teaching Argus to new people and helping clients that have trouble.