Choosing a Networking Group
Choosing a Networking Group
The world of real estate is so diverse that when you decide to attend a networking group, the options can be quite daunting. So how do you go about deciding what group to attend?
The best way to answer that question is to ask yourself a different question. What are you hoping to get out of a networking event? Are you looking for education? Are you looking to meet other people, and if so, what kind of people do you want to meet?
Two Types of Groups/Events
Generally speaking, you’ll find two types of groups and events. First are the professional organizations. These are typically national organizations that advocate on behalf of members, sometimes lobbying politicians, other times putting together public education campaigns, putting out newsletters, holding live events, and sometimes offering some form of certification or licensure.
The other type are more informal groups and events. These are sometimes managed by a larger body that organizes events across county and state lines, though can just as likely be run by a private individual. As a result, these groups can vary significantly in their offerings with some providing education as a primary or secondary focus and others being exclusively informal networking with very limited structure. Others may be primarily sales-oriented; whether blatant or discreet… they have an underlying motive to promote a product, service, or person.
Examples of Professional Groups
If you’re interested in a professional organization, you may want to spend some time getting to know the different groups out there. To a large extent, the group that makes the most sense for you will be based upon your desired career path. These groups are often tailored to specific niches within the larger real estate industry.
For example, the Appraisal Institute would naturally cater to those who are or who want to become appraisers. BOMA, or the Building Owners and Managers Association provides another example of a group whose name suggests who they serve. Two other such groups are the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Congress for New Urbanism (which focuses on designing walkable communities).
Other groups aim to serve a broader spectrum of the real estate industry. The Urban Land Institute aims to serve a wide range of professionals interested in the built environment. NAIOP is another large organization. Formerly known as the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, this group has expanded beyond office and industrial properties but decided to keep the familiar name. Thus, NAIOP is now their name, but it’s no longer an acronym. They are now known as the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. In case you’re wondering, no, they’re not using the acronym CREDA at this time.
Interestingly, NAIOP isn’t the only organization undergoing a rebranding. ICSC was formerly known as the International Council of Shopping Centers. As they’ve grown, they’ve made the decision to expand to all types of marketplaces, which they define as places where people shop, dine, work, play, and gather. Going forward, the abbreviation ICSC is being changed to “Innovating Commerce, Serving Communities”.
Examples of Informal Groups
As already mentioned, informal groups are often run by private individuals and groups. In larger metropolitan areas there can be a dozen or more such groups. You can find most of these groups on meetup.com by searching for “real estate”. BiggerPockets is another great resource. In addition to listing live groups and clubs, the site offers forums for those in real estate to talk amongst their peers, asking questions, offering suggestions, and reading articles such as this one.
While many of these groups are run by a single person or a small group, there is also a national organization known as REIA or the Real Estate Investors Association. They serve as a governing body for several locally run chapters. People often misuse the term and refer to REIAs when what they actually mean is any local meeting. To be precise, only certain groups operate under the REIA umbrella.
As you can see, there are a number of options, and it can take time to decide which meetings and which groups make the most sense for you. The informal meetings tend to hold more frequent in-person events and thus can be beneficial for networking. They also tend to attract new and prospective investors looking to learn more about the real estate industry.
Professional organizations on the other hand tend to be more advocacy-oriented, educating the public about developers, appraisers, land planners, lenders, architects, etc., connecting professionals to the public and other professionals who may need their services, and serving as a governing body especially as it may pertain to credentials and ethical issues.
Finding the right group or groups can take time. Be patient and be willing to spend some time learning about some of the different groups out there. There’s also nothing that says you can be a member of multiple groups, being more active in some and more passive in others.