Why I Started Break Into CRE, feat. Justin Kivel

5 min read
Tyler Kastelberg
Founder & CEO
Published on
August 17, 2020

Justin Kivel, Founder of Break Into CRE, has done what many entrepreneurs dream of doing, evolving an idea into a successful business (from 0 to 1 in the words of Peter Thiel).

The Q&A that follows is a compilation of my questions and Justin's responses from a recent interview.

Learn more about Break Into CRE's courses here.

Check out Justin's YouTube channel here.

Where are you from, and why did you choose to go into real estate?

I’m originally from a small town in upstate New York.

I decided to go into real estate because I’ve always loved math and finance, been fascinated with exploring cities and travel, and been very entrepreneurial in nature.

Real estate investing is a great way to blend all of those things together.

What’s your most memorable deal and why?

The first deal I ever closed was a single-tenant retail acquisition, including the existing business. We had another tenant "in-tow" that was going to lease up the space.

At the 11th hour, the deal fell apart with the new tenant. We were left acquiring the property and the existing business with no income source.

It all worked out and we ended up selling the deal at a profit. It definitely wasn’t the least stressful way to start out my CRE investing career.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen an investor/developer make?

Being too aggressive on assumptions.

Things won’t always go as planned. Make sure you’re able to weather the storm if things go sideways. This is the key to success in CRE.

Why did you start Break into CRE?

As I progressed in my career, I started being on the other end of informational interviews where I would talk to younger people looking to break into the industry.

When they asked about training, I didn’t have a place I could send them that I felt could teach them what they needed to know to break into the industry in an understandable way.

In a sense, I scratched my own itch and built what I wish I had when I first started out.

What asset classes do Break into CRE training programs cover?

Multifamily, office, industrial, and retail.

What is the format of your courses?

All Break Into CRE courses are video-based, and they generally fall into one of two categories - exercise-based and full model build-outs.

The exercise-based courses are chunked down into bite-sized examples, going in-depth on terms and definitions and then applying those to Excel exercises to practice each concept.

The full model build-out courses take what you learn in the exercise-based courses and apply those concepts to building out full pro forma acquisition, development, and equity waterfall models for multifamily, office, retail, and industrial properties.

How did you choose the format of your courses?

This was another case of scratching my own itch - this is the way I would have liked to learn, and have found over time that students really appreciate the hands-on, step-by-step training.

Where do you want Break into CRE to be in 2 years?

I want to continue to help people break into the industry and scale that reach. The more people we can access, the more people we can help.

What accomplishment are you most proud of to date in Break into CRE?

How many people we’ve helped and where our students have gone with the material.

Our students have used our material to land jobs at an extremely impressive list of companies. I’m really proud of our students who have applied what they’ve learned in the coursework.

You did something that very few people have done, started a business from nothing. Was it luck or skill?

I think I created something I wish I had when I was starting out, so I created something for my “past self” and can relate very well to people coming up in the industry.

Luck definitely plays a part, but I think listening to my students and adapting to meet their needs over time has been the biggest positive factor in Break Into CRE’s growth over time.

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