Author and developer Bob Wehrmeyer sat down with us to chat about how he’s built a successful career in CRE by marrying new technology with timeless real estate principles.
After a long career practicing law in San Antonio, Bob Wehrmeyer navigated a career transition into CRE — eventually becoming a major player in the city’s development, as well as a nationally known author.
In 2006, Wehrmeyer founded Wehr Ventures, a full-service CRE development group specializing in healthcare-related projects that offers comprehensive consulting services for commercial developers and private landowners across the country. As head of Wehr Ventures, Wehrmeyer became a prominent figure in the San Antonio real estate scene, eventually earning a position as a Senior Consultant at South Santikos Real Estate Services, as well as a professorship at UTSA. To boot, he is also a celebrated author, and has written numerous books including The Complete Guide to Developing Commercial Real Estate, a book we recently highlighted as a top pick for CRE developers.
We sat down with him to discuss what he’s currently up to, as well as where he sees commercial real estate heading in the next few years.
How Unprecedented Access to Information is Changing CRE
Development occupies the majority of Wehrmeyer’s time these days. He currently has several projects in the works — including building out an 81-acre parcel in West San Antonio. In the decade he’s been running Wehr Ventures, Wehrmeyer has noticed a substantial shift in the way CRE professionals approach development, a shift that has enabled independent developers to operate outside the strictures of the corporate CRE world.
“Before people really started to use technology,” Wehrmeyer explains, “you had to build a network and take a lot of time to understand how things work. Now you have instant access to essentially all the information you need.”
And while this access hasn’t changed the basic processes inherent to commercial real estate, it has made them more efficient — particularly when it comes to conducting due diligence.
Wehrmeyer cites a recent call with a healthcare client, during which he started Googling things about the client while they spoke. “Based on the information I found, I started speaking in detail about what was being developed around my client, much to their surprise,” he says. “It turns out that a competitor had picked up a piece of property nearby, catching my client completely unaware. We were then able to work on a development strategy in light of this new information, all because I was able to access it quickly and easily on the internet. This level of access to critical information has changed the way I do business.”
What About Retail? Where Wehrmeyer Sees CRE Heading
Despite the ways in which commercial real estate data sharing has helped the CRE industry, many are concerned that the rise of digital platforms is hurting brick-and-mortar retail properties. But Wehrmeyer views recent industry shifts as part of a larger cycle.
He cites Amazon as an example: bookstores were largely put out of business by Amazon, but as soon as Amazon became the main book purveyor, the e-commerce giant started leasing massive warehouses to be closer to consumers — a process that opened the door to a new real estate opportunity. Now, Amazon has gone so far as to set up Kiosks in the very malls where booksellers once resided. It may have taken ten years, but retail real estate is still valuable. “It’s already come full circle,” Wehrmeyer says.
Deloitte’s 2017 Commercial Real Estate Outlook report mirrored Wehrmeyer’s sentiments:
“Demand for large retail and industrial spaces will contract, and there will be a blurring of lines between these two property types. For example, retail properties could double as fulfillment centers. While retail owners can try different store formats and enhance end-customer experience, industrials should potentially focus on smaller and more flexible spaces within cities to enable faster delivery.”
In other words, retail spaces aren’t obsolete; they’ve just changed.
The New Path To CRE Success
Wehrmeyer also notes that traditional CRE career trajectories — wherein you start at the bottom and work your way up — are no longer as common as they once were. With the democratization of information, real estate professionals now have the opportunity to successfully navigate a career shift later in their professional lives. Similarly, young people can accelerate much more quickly.
Furthermore, the level of information to which CRE professionals now have access to has significantly sped up the path to purchase. Processes may not change, but the speed at which commercial real estate brokers, investors, and developers can check off each step of the process certainly has. “That access to information has changed everything,” Wehrmeyer says.
Wehrmeyer’s advice for people trying to break into the CRE industry is grounded in proven principles like consistency and focus. He admits that it’s easy to become impatient in the process-driven CRE industry, but “commitment and resiliency will take you far.”
Becoming a successful CRE developer takes dedication and hard work, but as Wehrmeyer reassures, “You can enjoy it along the way.”
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