Michael Binning, Real Estate Consulting at Altus Group
Interviewed by Oriana Gertsman
Michael Binning is an Analyst at Altus Group Limited. Having completed his BCom at the Sauder School of Business in 2015, Michael currently splits his time between Altus’s “Property Tax” and “Research, Valuation & Advisory” departments.
We asked Michael a few questions about real estate consulting.
1. In a nutshell, what exactly is real estate consulting?
Consulting is a very broad term that is used in many places, but the general idea is that you are working towards completing a task for a client. A client will generally pay you for work that you to benefit him/her. The great part about consulting is that it is driven by having relationships with other people. You are always encouraged to grow your contact list for both personal and professional reasons. The more people you know, the easier it becomes when you need to call on them to ask for information that could help you complete a certain task. Not to mention it is fun meeting new people and learning what makes them tick.
2. What types of clients rely on the services of a real estate consultant?
Here at Altus Group we have a property tax consulting group, an appraisal group, and a cost consulting group. Typically, clients who rely on work that we do are commercial property owners in all shapes and sizes. From the individual who owns 1 parcel to REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts – companies which own income-producing real estate), developers and investment firms.
3. While some early undergraduate students have a clear vision of their dream career, many take time to develop a vision for their future. Did you always know you wanted to pursue consulting? If not, what was your first exposure to it and what led you to pursue it?
My path was shaped by what subject/ courses I found most engaging and interesting. I definitely did not know I would end up here. I knew that I was most interested in business classes and therefore knew that was the path I wanted to take. At UBC I focused in Finance, because I like working with numbers. It wasn’t until my last year of school when I took 3 core real estate courses did I discover that I also like that. The decision to pursue getting a job in the real estate industry came about because I wanted to make an effort to live in Vancouver for the long term and needed a job that could let me do that. In addition, it is very important to be social which works well with my personality. As for finding a job here at Altus, I began speaking with people in the industry right after I finished school, beginning with people that I knew, to help me better understand what my potential options were. This was extremely important and I recommend everyone to do this when they are ready to get a job. After learning what everyone had to say, I chose to focus on getting a job at a real estate appraisal firm and found Altus.
4. Were there any particular course(s) or extra-curricular activities you did during your undergrad that really prepared you well for this career path?
I took 3 real estate courses including real estate investment, real estate development and real estate finance. All three were very relevant for what I do today and did prepare me well for what I was about to learn at work. Real estate investment is extremely similar to what I do today, while real estate development opened my eyes to various terms and definitions I definitely did not know prior to the course.
5. What do you feel are most beneficial skills for a person pursuing a career in consulting? Or in other words, what qualities make for good consultants?
Consulting is another word for working with clients to help them complete a task that they cannot/ do not want to do. Saying that, communicating with clients is extremely important. Also, the more time I spend in this industry, the more I appreciate the ability to be organized. Both in presenting your facts on paper and expressing your thoughts verbally, this can influence how someone perceives the information you are giving them. The ability to be punctual and hit your deadlines is also important. Lastly, as a consultant you are looked at as a professional in your field - so it is very important you are interested and passionate in what you do.
6. Are there additional certifications/credentials that would likely be considered an asset for a student pursuing consulting?
For both working as a property tax consultant and appraiser, the AACI (Accredited Appraiser of the Canadian Institute) designation is very helpful and in the case of an appraiser, is mandatory.