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The concept of supply and demand is a main principle of any economy and industry; however, you don’t have to tell that to Tony LoPinto, CEO of Equinox Partners. In the past 12 months, the executive-search firm has seen unprecedented growth–completing 33 searches for executives and senior-level professionals since January. And the firm now has approximately 24 active searches in the works. The expansion of the real estate industry specifically, and the economy has a whole, coupled with a scarcity of talent in the marketplace, makes it a “good time to be a professional in demand,” LoPinto tells GlobeSt.com.

GlobeSt.com: What is the state of the real estate job market today?

LoPinto: There’s an extraordinary amount of demand, generally, across all real estate sectors–industrial, multifamily, retail, office, service companies. Everyone is in the midst of a hiring process at one level or another. It pretty much goes from top down to mid-level professionals. As many call it, it’s frothy. Over the course of the past 18 months, the market has been at this level and, frankly, most people are forecasting that it’s going to stay the course and continue to be a hot market with a lot of demand.

GlobeSt.com: So, is it more of an employee market than an employer market?

LoPinto: It is definitely an employee market. The demand for top talent outstrips the supply today. There’s a great demand for development and investment professionals. There’s an extraordinary demand for financial professionals, particularly very senior-level accounting and reporting executives, like CFOs and chief accounting officers. This has been fueled by Sarbanes-Oxley and the extreme additional reporting that has emerged on the public companies’ side. But it has also spilled over to the private side. If you were to step back and say, ‘what is the absolute hottest segment of the market?’ I would say its for financial professionals, and there is a real shortage.

GlobeSt.com: What led to the shortage?

LoPinto: In the early 1990s there was a real shortage of young people entering the industry because real estate was in a depressed state. Fast forward to today and your dealing with a shortage of talent in their mid-30s–prime-time, mid-level professionals. You have to go back and look to see at what points they were entering the industry, and they just weren’t during that period. It’s now hitting the market at a point when that level of professional is in demand and the market’s expanding.

GlobeSt.com: Is there an increase of entry-level employees now coming out of college?

LoPinto: Since the real estate market and the economy have recovered, there is a substantial interest from undergraduates and graduates. It’s the flip side of where we were 10 years. Real estate has had a nice long run now. It’s been a real steady growth pattern and people see the opportunity. Young professionals also like to be involved in enterprises that are entrepreneurial, and real estate is sort of the hot bed of that.

GlobeSt.com: CREW released a study reporting that more woman are in the industry. Are you seeing more diversity?

LoPinto: If you look at undergraduates that enter the industry and the graduate programs focused on real estate, there is a significant range of diversity. Across the board, because of this influx of young talent from diverse backgrounds, it’s going to ultimately create the diversity in real estate that hasn’t existed in the past.

GlobeSt.com: How is salary in real estate now?

LoPinto: Over the past 24 months there has been a real expansion. Base annual salaries have held relatively stable. But there are increases in bonus compensation and equity participation. The only exception to the rule where we have seen salary and bonus compensation expansion would be for finance professionals–chief financial officers, chief accounting officers–because of supply and demand.GlobeSt.com: Are people using compensation as leverage to go from one company to another, almost like a bidding war?

LoPinto: Today, if an individual is recruited out of a company, the company that’s losing that individual is doing whatever they possibly can. If it’s one of their key players, they’re being very aggressive in attempting to keep them by stepping up compensation and increasing bonus compensation dramatically. To keep top performers companies are breaking what I would consider historical compensation levels. To lose a key player, they have to go back to the market to recruit somebody and they would be in competition for the same talent. It becomes a pretty aggressive cycle.

     In competitive recruiting we’ve seen that if someone is a real top performer and recognized as such, there are a lot of approaches for them for new opportunities. If someone is interested in considering new opportunities, it’s not unusual for that individual to receive multiple offers, to have a number of opportunities at given point in time. It’s a very active market. It goes back to the first point. It’s really a seller’s market, being the employee. It’s a good time to be a professional in demand because there’s a lot of it.

GlobeSt.com: Are we still seeing jobs go overseas?

LoPinto: At a time in the cycle when companies were looking to expand into Europe they were importing talent from the US. Today, most of the US investors and operating companies that have moved over into Europe are finding most of the talent they need in market versus bringing someone over from the US. There’s much less transferring of talent.

GlobeSt.com: It makes more sense to hire locally.

LoPinto: Exactly. Real estate is a local-market business. Now that companies are well established in foreign countries or off-shore locations, they’re hiring locally. And there’s an acute demand here in the US so there’s definitely not a net export of talent.

GlobeSt.com: How would you characterize employee confidence?

LoPinto: In today’s market there’s a relatively high degree of employee confidence. Jobs are relatively stable. Real estate companies are growing. There’s net hiring going on. Overall, times are good and people are feeling comfortable. I don’t see anything on the horizon, meaning the next 24 months, that is going to change that mood materially. It would have to be an extraordinary event that would send a shockwave through the economy that would impact real estate. We’ve seen it; that can happen. But in a normal state right now the interest rates are inching up but not in any extreme way; the economy continues to expand; the demand side is still relatively constant. There is every reason to believe that the market is going to hold steady.

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