The pandemic has upended the real-estate industry, forcing offices and shops to reinvent themselves and causing millions of Americans to relocate or reconsider their home bases for work, financial, or personal reasons.
Against this backdrop, we’re spotlighting professionals who are thriving, seizing opportunities despite, or because of, COVID-19’s effects on commercial and residential real estate in the US.
These 30 young professionals stood out as the vanguard of the next generation in real estate, from prodigies who’ve risen through the ranks and innovated at established firms to startup founders looking to disrupt pockets of the sector with deeply traditional roots.
We’ve included people with a variety of roles and experiences. Some come from finance behemoths like Blackstone and JPMorgan, others from industry mainstays like CBRE, Colliers, Savills, Cushman & Wakefield, and JLL. Top-selling, trend-setting brokers hail from Compass and Brown Harris Stevens. Then there are the startups, like Mosaic and Doorkee, whose names you might not recognize now but are bound to sooner than later.
Emily Neff, 32, CBRE
Emily Neff’s year changed drastically in March as offices closed across the world. Her clients, who usually would ask her about how much office space they need and how they should use it, were now asking her how they could use the offices at all.
“That’s been a curveball that’s been thrown at us,” Neff said.
Neff stepped up to help CBRE pioneer its Workplace Reset service, which prepares companies to reenter the office during a global pandemic. She’s been navigating clients on which safety measures to put in place, which signage should be set up around the office, and overall office design. She’s also been advising them on the price of all these changes.
“We help clients understand how much it will cost to make these changes and reopen, and are those costs worth it,” Neff said. “We help them understand the road map to reopen.”
While she’s become a trusted confidante for some of the biggest corporations in unprecedented times, Neff’s original plan was to advise families, as a financial planner. She studied it at Ohio State, and spent her first year out of school at the life insurance and retirement provider John Hancock.
When she realized that her career path would require as much sales as consultation, she began to look for a new career. She started at CBRE in 2011.
“Real estate brought what I wanted: engaging with people to help them implement their plans,” Neff told Business Insider.
Tyler Biddle-Barrows’ first client was a celebrity.
In 2012, he represented Charlie Sheen as a buyer’s agent when the “Two and a Half Men” star bought a two-bedroom condo in Hollywood.
“I started at 18 interning then sold my first place at 21,” Biddle-Barrows told Business Insider.
After a successful start with the Beverly Hills agency Hilton & Hyland, he took a leap to move to New York, where he’s mimicked what he did in Los Angeles: cultivating a list of clients strong enough to rank him in the top 1% of agents in the city.
So far the Brown Harris Stevens agent has participated in about $90 million in sales. To do so, Biddle-Barrows had worked alongside top producing teams in three of America’s major markets — Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami.
When the pandemic upended life in the spring, Biddle-Barrows’ business goals immediately shifted, and he struck up a deal with the private aviation provider Blade. Brown Harris Stevens is its exclusive real-estate partner.
The arrangement enabled buyers, sellers, and property owners to travel by semi-private planes to and from Miami and New York during the coronavirus crisis, a creative solution to the lack of travel that earned Biddle-Barrows confidence from clients and colleagues in times of uncertainty.
He sees the future of real estate as intertwined with other sectors, including tech, luxury, and travel, and he is determined to continue to act as an innovator in the field.