Rents, High Tech and Pride: A Tales of a Summer Intern in San Francisco
Luis Larrea (MBA '16)
When I decided to attend Johnson and focus on investment management, I envisioned a summer experience in the bustling
streets of old New York. “It’s the world capital of finance,” a second year student reassuringly told me as I blitzed him with
questions about recruiting. “That’s where you have to go.”
Little did I know that my vision of walking down Fifth Avenue was going to morph to stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge
as I commuted using the iconic San Francisco cable car. I accepted an offer from Mosser Capital Management to work in the
exciting field of private real estate investment, and the experience was a captivating discovery of a fascinating industry and an
amazing city that shrouds you with its architecture, indomitable spirit, and entrepreneurial mentality.
The San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland CSA is at the center of the tech revolution that has reshaped the world and maintained
the U.S. as the world leader in innovation. Economic improvement now extends beyond the high tech industry and has opened
a plethora of professional opportunities for young professionals in a variety of different fields. Employers added 41,600 jobs
over the past year, and 33,400 new positions are anticipated in 2015.
In real estate, San Francisco has dethroned New York from its title of “America’s strongest real estate market,” for the very first
time this year, according to the authoritative Marcus & Millichap national real estate survey. Local and international
investments are surging as the dollar strengthens, Europe remains unstable and Asia decelerates. The Bay Area investment
market closed Q1 with $7.7 billion (for properties valued over $5 Million), nearly doubling the five year average of $4.1 billion.
In this industry, the work itself was quite a pleasant surprise compared to what I expected from investment management. In
contrast to other investment asset classes, where much time is spent monitoring portfolios and assessing future opportunities
from a computer terminal, in real estate one must become intimate with the market where one operates. This means that you
have to walk the streets and experience “in vivo” the areas where you invest, and learn the governing market fundamentals
while you familiarize with the neighborhood, its residents, and the subjective micro-factors that make a particular property a
sound investment prospect.
It was during these exercises where the city and its people surprised me the most. San Franciscans have a very unique way of
seeing things—a work mentality that is defined by quality and purpose rather than the amount of dollars they make a week. For
the amount of wealth that the city generates, there is little ostentatiousness displayed. And while you are in a big city,
somehow its citizens have perpetuated a sense of community, where inclusiveness is displayed at a level rarely seen in other
large cities all over the world.
It is this communal sense that I think is behind the fact that so many revolutionary businesses have sprung out of the Bay Area.
While spending time in local bars, sitting on the MUNI or waiting in line for your latte at Phill’z Coffee (San Francisco’s new
coffee place bound to be a worldwide success), you can’t help but overhear dozens of conversations about “changing the world,”
“the greater good,” and “making things better.”
My summer internship was superb, thanks in part to an amazing work experience at an outstanding company where my
principal and colleagues made me feel fully valued, but also thanks to a city that inspired me with its entrancing personality. I
guess I finally understand the lyrics of the classic Scott Mckenzie song, “Going to San Francisco”: “Such a strange vibration,
people in motion. There's a whole generation with a new explanation.”