How many RE investors are Architects?

70 Replies

I will start off by disclaiming that I cannot take credit for the idea behind this post. I recently read and responded to a post initiated by @Adam Zach surveying all members wanting to see who in the real estate investing world came from an engineering background. I posted a reply mentioning that the ironic thing about this topic was that the group of people who should know THE MOST about real estate (minus the investing part) were architects! And then went on to say that it was likely because of an architect's (low) income versus an engineer's which prevents architects from investing. But then I gave it more thought, and what's even more ironic is that...most architects are so preoccupied with their craft that they fail to see the what their clients are doing right under their noses...Developing buildings to make money! I know there's at least a couple of us out there...let's represent!

Hi @Jason H. former architect in training here. Yep - that's right... in training. I got my BS Arch as well as my M.Arch at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston back in 2016. Bought a 4 unit building in CT later that year, and then it went downhill from there. Started to dread my job and made a plan to get out. I lasted 18 months in the industry and then pushed "pause". Maybe one day I will return, but for now I am staying busy by running a property management firm. I use my architecture & design background to suggest improvements during property renovations and walkthroughs.

And yes, pay isn't great. With 2 degrees and 5 years of schooling, I was making 45K as an entry level architect. Don't miss that part one bit...

I know there's another fella (out west, I believe) that also got his degree from WIT and is still an architect. Hopefully he chimes in. 

@Filipe Pereira . I don’t think many people have used the term “former architect” and “regret” in the same sentence.  Haha.  But the low turnout on this really has proven my point.  I think they’re all too busy drawing toilet details while sheltering-in-place!

Hey @Jason H. , thanks for the notice to jump in on this!

I completed my 5-Year Bachelors of Architecture from IIT in 2013 and was pursuing a Double Major in Structural Engineering. After I graduated with my 5-Year Bachelors I started working full-time for a Residential firm downtown where pretty much 100% of the clients were Developers. I think that is when I started to realize that these developers were making a Killing with the projects they were doing, and the Architect I was working for was also doing quite well for himself by catering to them and providing efficient designs, fast turnaround, and an extremely detailed understanding of what is required by the City of Chicago in order to obtain building permits. Our office managed to do about 300 projects per year with about 5 drafters, 1 designer, a permit expediter, and the owner.

I started the Masters degree in Structural Engineering, but realized it didn't make sense for me to be working my *** off to obtain my License as an Architect to then have to go and work for years as an Associate Structural Engineer in order to obtain that license as well. I took a couple-year break from my studies while I worked and took my ARE Exams while completing my IDP Hours (5,600 hours required at the time). I then decided to go back and get my Master's in Construction Engineering and Management from IIT as it would only take me the equivalent of 1 extra year to get the degree. All tho it took longer because I was going back part-time.

After I got my Architecture license I changed jobs as I didn't see much potential for growth and worked for a short while for a Design+Build firm, and then for a commercial design firm. I loved the Idea of Design+Build but I didn't mesh well with the owner and parted ways pretty quickly. While working with the Design firm I decided to start my own Architecture Firm. This presented me with a unique opportunity to work full-time for the design firm, while also picking up my own side projects as well.

I have now found a similar set-up working full time for a Design+Build residential remodeling company who does about 100 projects per year and within about a 50 mile radius of Chicago. They have me Managing their Architecture and Interior Design departments. With this company I have learned a lot about the efficiencies of remodeling and how to spot concerns before jumping into a project. They are not a developer, and instead cater specifically to homeowners, but understanding these things ahead of time can save our clients money as well as the company headaches of having to pay for things that were not in scope and only having to charge extra for things that were truly unforeseen. This has also helped me gain a lot of knowledge about different building departments, how they interpret and enforce codes, and the specific things they want to see on their drawings in order to expedite permit approval. 

I am now Self-Certified in the City of Chicago, NCARB Certified which allows me to pursue expedited licensure in any other state, Actively Licensed in Illinois, Indiana, and Texas, and have extensive knowledge of many building departments throughout Chicagoland. With that I have learned that I had a unique skill set that can greatly aid local developers. I am working with a handful of contractors and developers on the side and always looking for more opportunities to grow my business, but I realized that there's no reason to stop there. I decided I definitely wanted to get into real estate investing myself.

And here I am now, looking to gain knowledge from the members of this forum, and connect with others who have similar desires. My only current investment is the Condo in which I currently live in Chicago, but it has been building equity since I moved in about 5 years ago with my wife. We have been focused on paying off debt over the past few years and I am now feeling closer than ever to begin my journey into real estate investment.

Originally posted by @Jason H. :

@Filipe Pereira . I don’t think many people have used the term “former architect” and “regret” in the same sentence.  Haha.  But the low turnout on this really has proven my point.  I think they’re all too busy drawing toilet details while sheltering-in-place!

 Hopefully not, I've heard horror stories from friends who worked for large firms and I knew I was fortunate for not having to draw things like that for years of my life. Also, keep in mind, in comparison with the "How Many RE Investors are Engineers" thread, there are a hell of a lot more different types of Engineers Vs. Architects. 

When it comes to Architects I have always felt like there are 2 different types, the ones with an Engineering mindset, focused on solving problems, figuring out details, and making things work; and the ones with the Artist mindset, who focus on creating beautiful designs and buildings that can become monumental, historical works. The best Architects have some of both categories, but many tend to fall more so to one side than the other. I'm definitely more on the Engineering side, and also have a passion for Business. I think we will see many of the Architects on this forum come from a similar mindset, but I'm definitely interested to hear from more!

@Jason H.

I’m currently an architectural designer.

I got interested in Real Estate after I realized I can’t make as much as I want o make an as architect.

There’s this understanding ( the architecture profession is for affluent ppl) as an immigrant, I actually need to make money to survive and to send back home in forms of gifts as well in the form of leading development in my home villages.

The goal is to Brr until I can replace my income,

Once my income is replaced I can then quit my job and design the projects I actually want to design. Which is institutional infrastructure/ buildings that will further my ppl... I

Comunity centers, schools, water wells, energy farms.... it might be a bit too ambitious, but even if I just accomplish portion of my goals, it’ll still be a victory.

SO, in the end, THE COMBO OF REAL ESTATE AND BUILDING DESIGN AND PLACE MAKING IS JUST WHAT I NEED.

@Samuel Pavlovcik

To be fair the low outcome for the call for “architects” compared to the call for “engineers” could also be because “engineer” is a much more broad term... everyone from data architects to civil engineers was on that other post.

Thought I do recognize that like most creative fields, architects don’t think much about money, and most of us are not in it for the money... vying to save money and just designing for the most income producing properties is not really as sexy as a working for a START-Architectural firm for a fraction of our worth compared to other professionals in the field of design and building.

Originally posted by @Maimouna Sow :

@Jason H.

I’m currently an architectural designer.

I got interested in Real Estate after I realized I can’t make as much as I want o make an as architect.

There’s this understanding ( the architecture profession is for affluent ppl) as an immigrant, I actually need to make money to survive and to send back home in forms of gifts as well in the form of leading development in my home villages.

The goal is to Brr until I can replace my income,

Once my income is replaced I can then quit my job and design the projects I actually want to design. Which is institutional infrastructure/ buildings that will further my ppl... I

Comunity centers, schools, water wells, energy farms.... it might be a bit too ambitious, but even if I just accomplish portion of my goals, it’ll still be a victory.

SO, in the end, THE COMBO OF REAL ESTATE AND BUILDING DESIGN AND PLACE MAKING IS JUST WHAT I NEED.

Totally agreed.  If you walk into any of the boutique starchitects offices, they are often staffed with young designers that come from families that aren't "starving" by any means.  But it works somehow, the pay is notoriously low in those firms, and yet there are people knocking on the door wanting to work there accepting low pay for a chance to work with a celebrity.  The corporate firms are where you start to see less of that and more professionals earning a decent salary through a gradual career trajectory.  However, glad to see another architect who jumped out from the tunnel vision that so many of us fall in...there's definitely a balance worth striving for.

 

I’m 42 and a recovering architect. Although I remain licensed, I changed my registration to “inactive”.

I was a partner in a small firm when I started flipping houses. I found it to be more satisfying and financially rewarding than working as an architect. As I developed other business interests, and continued real estate investing, I just didn’t have enough hours in the day to do it all and had to make the hard decision to give up practicing architecture. It was a hard decision because I had probably one of the better experiences as an architect. I worked with wonderful people and had my own projects. We designed a variety of buildings and it was often enjoyable.

Reflecting back, it’s a tremendous effort to become an architect. I’m not sure that those outside of the profession comprehend what it takes. 6 years of school. 4 years of internship. A year of preparing for and taking numerous exams. When making the decision to leave, it was hard to think about all the effort that I put in for so many years to get there. That experience will always be with me.

@Jason H.

Exactly.

Though to be clear my family isn’t “STARVING”

I meant as an immigrant there are certain things expected of you, and one of those things is to actually make money when u come to America. It’s not enough just to have a cool job. U gotta be able to come home with something to show for.

Originally posted by @Maimouna Sow :

@Jason H.

Exactly.

Though to be clear my family isn’t “STARVING”

I meant as an immigrant there are certain things expected of you, and one of those things is to actually make money when u come to America. It’s not enough just to have a cool job. U gotta be able to come home with something to show for.

of course...I wasn’t referring to yours and was just saying it as a figure of speech to explain my point.  I was born here but come from an immigrant family so I know what you mean.

 

@Jason H. @Ted L. @Samuel Pavlovcik  
I feel like this has become "Architects Anonymous" and while I didn't realize it when I first read the post, it's exactly what my soul needed, LOL. Ted makes a few great points, especially about the amount of work and effort that goes into getting the license. I made it through the IDP, got all the hours I needed and stepped away right before I would have started taking the tests. By then it was multiple summer internships, and around 1.5 years of FT work. 

I often tell my friends who's jaw drop after telling them that I quit my job as an architect that my degrees will never expire and I can always go back if I choose to. I don't see it happening, but hey, you never know.

I also just remembered a buddy of mine who I went to school with is also on this forum. @Bryan LaRoche check your notifications bud. ;)

I am an interior designer and just got my real estate license. My plan is to learn the industry, make some money from RE, continue freelance design and help other realtors with design along the way - I am hoping that one end feeds the other and vice versa. My ultimate goal is investment properties, rentals, flips, etc. I think that the ID and RE compliment each other well and if I am smart about it, I can raise my our starting capital in the next couple years to control the investments myself. 

@Filipe Pereira Thanks for the mention!

@Jason H.  I'm an Architect in New Hampshire. Went to 5+ years of architecture school in Boston, completed all of the required hours and internships, took the ARE, and have been licensed for about a year and a half now. I work for a firm that designs commercial, educational, and government buildings and I do some small residential projects on the side. I have a residential construction background as well so real estate has always felt like a natural path that combines my skills, experience and interests. I don't see myself leaving the architecture profession anytime soon but building a real estate portfolio on the side seems like a great balance.

It is surprising how few people in the architecture/design field are also real estate investors. Although this could be said for a lot of other professions that would seemingly make successful players in real estate (contractors, home inspectors, CPA's, etc). I know several engineers that invest in real estate, but I can't say I know anyone from the architecture/design field that does.  

Originally posted by @Bryan LaRoche :

@Filipe Pereira Thanks for the mention!

@Jason H.  I'm an Architect in New Hampshire. Went to 5+ years of architecture school in Boston, completed all of the required hours and internships, took the ARE, and have been licensed for about a year and a half now. I work for a firm that designs commercial, educational, and government buildings and I do some small residential projects on the side. I have a residential construction background as well so real estate has always felt like a natural path that combines my skills, experience and interests. I don't see myself leaving the architecture profession anytime soon but building a real estate portfolio on the side seems like a great balance.

It is surprising how few people in the architecture/design field are also real estate investors. Although this could be said for a lot of other professions that would seemingly make successful players in real estate (contractors, home inspectors, CPA's, etc). I know several engineers that invest in real estate, but I can't say I know anyone from the architecture/design field that does.  

Dad always said "ya know Filipe, some people can't see the forest because the trees are blocking the view". I think that's exactly what those people are experiencing. To you and I it would be such an obvious move, but they're so deep into what THEY are doing that they don't even take a second to recognize what everyone else around them is doing. I'm glad that we "get it" though. In this case I'm glad I'm not "normal", haha. 

@Jason H. I read the engineer thread and thought of doing an Architect these as well. I'm glad you did. I have seen a few Architects post on BP and I even wrote about 10 blog post on BP a few years ago about real estate investing from an architects perspective. I need to start that again. I graduated with a BA back in 2001 and finally got licensed in California in 2012. Now I live in the DC area and am licensed in DC, VA, and MD. In 2018 I started my own firm and it was the best decision I made. I make more, work less, and spend more time with my family.

I agree with you that we work for developers and get nothing in return so my goal is to become an Architect + Developer with my own projects. BP has helped me understand the thinking of an investor or flipper and about 50% of my clients are real estate investors. It is different speaking to an investor compared to a home owner. It is a completely different set of goals.

My wife and I built our own modular house in Alexandria and we own three properties in Ecuador so we have some passive income and the goal is for that to grow. Eventually I want my firm to slowly die out and the developing side with my own project to become my sole focus. I tell all my clients my business plans and it has lead to a few good contacts.

Architecture is a tough field and we don’t get that much respect. The problem is that there is a lot of bad architecture out there and DIY shows that do not show reality.

Architect here.  Similar to @Eric Teran I started my own company about 3.5 years ago.  I wish I could say I make more and work less, lol, but it's slowly growing.  The freedom and flexibility alone are worth it.  I tried for a long time to land a flip but really was not very good at it, then looked at buying out of state but didn't appeal to me, so decided to stick with what I know (multifamily) and try my hand at developing.  I'm currently in the permit phase on a ground up project for 14 units in National City, CA and looking for partners and/or a buyer if the price is right.  Not the greatest time to be looking for those things but its in a great location, walking distance to the naval base and 5 mins to downtown SD, and in an OZ so confident I'll get it to the finish line. 

Originally posted by @Ali Altieri :

I am an interior designer and just got my real estate license. My plan is to learn the industry, make some money from RE, continue freelance design and help other realtors with design along the way - I am hoping that one end feeds the other and vice versa. My ultimate goal is investment properties, rentals, flips, etc. I think that the ID and RE compliment each other well and if I am smart about it, I can raise my our starting capital in the next couple years to control the investments myself. 

Hi Ali...Great to see an interior designer joining in on the discussion.  If you have experience with residential interior design, I can definitely see you capitalizing on your skills in the short term rental market.  Obviously the virus has temporarily killed off a lot of the metro market STRs but if you can somehow break into the vacation markets and market to those who are looking to up their listing and make them stand out more with professional interior design services, that would be a great opportunity. 

  @Colin L. @Eric Teran @Bryan LaRoche I’m glad to see all you architects finally coming out of the woodwork...j/k.  Funny how it took an engineer speaking out to make the architects have a conversation amongst their own.  Obviously our road to becoming an architect with the years of education and training, licensure and practice were all very similar, but what’s interesting is the diversity of how we adapted the mindset shift towards real estate to our own unique careers and goals.  

I’m also curious to hear how your experience with building, design and architecture has influenced the way you invest in real estate compared to other non-architect investors.  I often think our biggest strength which ironically is also our biggest weakness, is the emotion that we have with design that on one hand is the catalyst that produces great architecture, but at the same time such emotion allows us to willingly work for low pay or accepting a lower fee, just so that we have the opportunity to get something built...again to satisfy that emotion.  

How does ‘emotion’ factor into your investing strategy? Or does it?

@Jason H. The emotion aspect definitely has both positive and negative consequences as an investor. I have done a couple renovations and the perfectionist in me wants to upgrade beyond the budget and spend way too much time on the small details that don't really matter in the end. It's easy to go overboard in a rental trying to create the same high level of aesthetics and quality that we usually strive for at work, that probably wont get us a return as a buy and hold investor.

On the other hand I think we can use that to our advantage by being a little more "emotionally invested" than the typical owner to strategically create a level of quality that is above average (whether its to attract great tenants, get top dollar when selling/refinancing, or help build a solid reputation.). It's not easy to swap out our Architect hat for our investor hat at the end of the day, but maybe we should keep looking for those connections so we don't need to!


I am not a architect I'm a master plumber and only know 2 architects in person but one has a nice portfolio going. He also has a general contracting company that accompanies their architect license though. 

I always thought architects made big money, I'm suprised to learn its not like that. It's not about what you make, its about what you save to invest though.  

Architectural Designer out of Los Angeles here. I completed my BArch from Woodbury Univ. in '14. I was a project designer/ manager for 5 years at a small arch firm in Culver City. I have slowly transitioned into more of a design/ build / superintendent role managing construction. On the cusp of turning 30 I just purchased my first real estate piece- a homestead cabin in JTree. I've submitted plans to the city to begin on my first real estate development piece. I've been networking like crazy on instagram and trying to continue the momentum into 2021 so I can hopefully launch into more real estate investing. Although the pay isn't great I do love the freedom and flexibility I have with my profession.

@Bryan LaRoche   This was exactly what I was referring to.  I've been through two renovations and find myself often treating it like a 'real' project and 'agonizing' over material selection and details.  Although the final product didn't cost that much over a builder's grade reno, I can sleep soundly at night cause it's something I'm happy with, considering they're all buy & hold rentals.

Originally posted by @Art Marquez :

Architectural Designer out of Los Angeles here. I completed my BArch from Woodbury Univ. in '14. I was a project designer/ manager for 5 years at a small arch firm in Culver City. I have slowly transitioned into more of a design/ build / superintendent role managing construction. On the cusp of turning 30 I just purchased my first real estate piece- a homestead cabin in JTree. I've submitted plans to the city to begin on my first real estate development piece. I've been networking like crazy on instagram and trying to continue the momentum into 2021 so I can hopefully launch into more real estate investing. Although the pay isn't great I do love the freedom and flexibility I have with my profession.

Welcome to the group.  It's great to see more and more architects emerging and chiming in.

Your story reminds me of this guy who did a series of videos documenting the building of a container home in Joshua Tree.  You might have seen it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA5fh29rhLs

 

Originally posted by @George W. :

I am not a architect I'm a master plumber and only know 2 architects in person but one has a nice portfolio going. He also has a general contracting company that accompanies their architect license though. 

I always thought architects made big money, I'm suprised to learn its not like that. It's not about what you make, its about what you save to invest though.  

Glad to see related trades/non-architects chiming in on the discussion!  Your impression of architects is pretty much in-line with what greater society thinks of architects. Depending on how you look at this, what's fortunate about the profession is that I believe the social status of architects has always been relatively high (especially in recent decades of the emergence or starchitects) but unfortunate in that the vast,vast majority of anonymous architects making a living, the pay is not equivalent to the perceived social status...well unless you are one of those aforementioned starchitects.