When the phrase real estate comes to mind it usually deals with the residential sector, but professionals and entrepreneurs in the commercial field say there are opportunities to partake in for those who are willing to work hard and learn the industry.
“I am focusing on investing in four-unit buildings and affordable housing here in D.C. and in Baltimore,” said Anthony McDuffie, the owner of Real Estate Wealth Investors, a commercial real estate and education firm in Ward 8 in Southeast. There are a lot of opportunities in commercial real estate, but it is like anything, you must give it your best.”
The Brookings Institute in Northwest published a study, “The Devaluing of Assets in Black Neighborhoods: The Case for Commercial Property,” on July 11, 2022, that said only three percent of Black households own commercial real estate compared with eight percent of white households, and their holdings are much smaller — valued at just $3,600 on average, compared with nearly $34,000 for white households. The study said Black neighborhoods are often undervalued, denying their commercial property owners in those areas some $171 billion in aggregate wealth. The way to end the cycle, according to the study, is to diversify owners of commercial real estate and change the rules that guide investment.
Advice on Getting Into Commercial Real Estate
Jerome Nichols serves as the president of Standard Real Estate Investments, LLP with offices in the District and Los Angeles. Nichols, a former professional football player with the Washington Redskins and other pro teams, said African Americans lack the capital to get into commercial real estate because they don’t have the family financial connections or the personal assets. Nevertheless, he said lack of capital shouldn’t discourage Black people from seeking careers in the field.
“There are plenty of opportunities to gain capital to get into commercial real estate,” Nichols said. “You can earn a paycheck at a real estate company or use equity in your home as ways to finance a project.”
Nichols said specialties in development, leasing, ownership, brokerage, investment and management are available for African Americans.
“There are so many different ways to get into the industry,” he said.
Nichols manages two projects in the District. He is working on developing the southern entrance of the Congress Heights Metro Station in Ward 8 and has started work on re-developing the East River Park Shopping Center and Senator Square Shopping Center in Ward 7.
McDuffie, 53, said before he became a real estate developer, he studied finance, estate planning, tax preparation and probate while incarcerated in the federal penal system. When released he secured a broker’s license in the District and Maryland, worked for a real estate investment firm and started his business. He said there are no hard educational requirements to become involved in the commercial real estate field but there must be a desire to learn and be self-motivated.
Omar McKeithan, 42, said his desire to work in commercial real estate began early in life.
“I have had a passion for commercial real estate since the 1980s when I worked for my grandfather’s clothing store on 7th and Rhode Island, Talib Discount,” he said. “We were tenants. I wanted to represent my family and my culture in the industry; I worked towards that goal.”
McKeithan said in 2007, he gained employment at the CoStar Group, the world’s largest commercial real estate research firm. From there, he moved to Scheer Partners, a biotech/medical coverage brokerage firm in Rockville where he became a broker. He joined NAI Global in 2016, where he works in Lanham, Maryland. McKeithan said self-confidence and focus are keys to success in commercial real estate.
“I have achieved extreme success and primarily credit that to those who gave me opportunities and me believing in myself,” he said. “Getting the opportunity is one thing but believing you can achieve is another. You must be fearless and undeniably believe in yourself when others do not. Learn the weaknesses of the industry and make them your strengths.”