Spotting the trends
This ‘real estate nerd’ enjoys digging into data to see what’s shaping the market
Scott Homa says he’s been a real estate nerd since childhood. He speculates that his condition was brought on by his first sight of the New York skyline. “The mystique, the skyscrapers,” he recalls.
That early glimpse of what heights commercial real estate could reach put Homa on the path to his current job, which he relishes: vice president of mid-Atlantic research for JLL, a global provider of commercial real estate information and services.
Homa’s arrival at JLL was practically preordained. High school and college internships with commercial real estate firms were followed by a degree in finance from Georgetown University. Within a year of his 2003 graduation, he had landed a job as a real estate analyst. Not long after that he went to work for JLL (formerly known as Jones Lang Lasalle).
Homa was one of the first hires of Vice President John Sikaitis, who was also new to JLL when Homa interviewed for a job 11 years ago. Hiring Homa, Sikaitis says, remains one his best decisions.
“We try to create research that inspires actions,” says Sikaitis, who is in charge of JLL’s office and local markets research for the Americas. “Our clients come to us for deep, substantial advice,” and that is what Homa provides. He repeatedly has won JLL’s VIP award, a testimony to his devotion to his job.
Homa’s assignment has three phases. First, using a network of public and private sources, he assembles masses of commercial real estate information, ranging from the granular to the macro, from boots-on-the-ground to broad economic trends. Then, he has to synthesize and analyze it.
“I love to figure out the dynamic,” he says.
That assessment, according to Sikaitis, requires the intellect to understand lots of disparate ideas, the organization to track a slew of data points, the confidence to believe in your findings, and, yes, even a geeky love for real estate.
“You need to be intrigued by the crane in the sky,” explains Sikaitis.
JLL counts owners, developers, tenants, public entities and potential investors among its clients, so the third element of Homa’s job is one somewhat outside the box for many researchers: Doing a face-to-face presentation of his findings.
“We want our people to be in front of clients on an everyday basis,” Sikaitis says, “not just heads down, pushing something out on a PDF. Scott’s DNA was perfectly suited to be a consultant, not a front-facing salesperson, but he has shifted into that [role] and is seamless at it now.”
Jim Gillen is one of the many JLL clients who have come to rely on what Homa calls his story of the market. The senior director in asset management for Invesco Real Estate, which manages about $70 billion in properties worldwide, says that he tries to meet with the researcher and his team every time he is in Washington, even if he has no specific agenda.
“Scott doesn’t just provide facts and figures,” Gillen says. “He gets behind the numbers to what is driving the numbers.”
What has been driving the numbers lately, Homa says, is transit-oriented development. People, especially millennials, want a walkable, car-free, integrated space where they can live and work, and the evidence of that is the number of mixed-use real estate projects going up along Metro’s new Silver Line in Northern Virginia, even while less-connected markets struggle with high vacancy rates. Homa expects that this type of development will be a defining trend for years to come.
Recently, the researcher says, he spent time taking pictures of the half-demolished Washington Post building in downtown Washington. He and JJL played a role in Fannie Mae deciding to use the site for its new headquarters.
“That block is going to be so activated,” he says with enthusiasm. “I am such a real estate nerd. I get a kick out of seeing development take hold that we had a part in.”
Years in the industry: 13
Where did you grow up? A slew of places: Chicago; Louisville, Ky.; Fairfield County, Conn.; Baltimore; Miami; Northern Virginia; and Washington, D.C.
Where did you go to school? Gilman School in Baltimore. Georgetown University.
Family: Wife, Jessica, executive director of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. They have two young children, Cooper and Maddie, and a terrier named Pepper.
Hobbies: Homa has recently joined his wife on the yoga mat to counteract his sedentary hours at the office. “Sitting is the new smoking,” he says.
Favorite app or mobile site: Twitter.
Favorite reads: “I love politics and current events, so I spend most of my time reading daily or weekly publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Economist. My favorite book is ‘You Can Negotiate Anything’ by Herb Cohen.”
On the bucket list: A trip to Walt Disney World with his son.