Since 1972, the Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies (the Center) at the University of Connecticut has sponsored the Real Estate Intern Program. It is an integral part of the academic program offered to students concentrating in real estate and finance. The Program evolved in response to students’ interest in brokerage and brokerage activities. The Intern Program offers a distinct learning experience that supplements real estate and finance courses.
As interest by both students and the real estate industry has increased, so has the demand for expansion of the Program. Credit and appreciation for growth of the Program are due, in part, to the assistance of the Connecticut Real Estate Commission and the Connecticut Association of Realtors.
The Program includes a wide range of sponsoring firms involved in real estate related activities. In addition to brokerage firms, the Program is directed toward savings and loans, mutual savings, or commercial lending institutions; insurance companies; appraisal firms; property management firms; and government agencies.
Goals of the Intern Program
The Intern Program is based on the assumption that more college graduates would choose the real estate profession for their career if they were given the opportunity to participate in on-the-job experience. Under the guidance of real estate professionals, interns learn that the real estate profession is dynamic and challenging.
In addition to providing interns with summer employment to help pay tuition, the Program creates an opportunity for students to apply the fundamentals and theory they have acquired in the classroom. While actively participating in a real estate oriented firm, students gain valuable knowledge of practical facets of the field. Therefore, interns are provided a sound balance to supplement their academic studies. Allowing interns to gain experience in the industry subsequent to completion of their undergraduate education encourages students to pinpoint weaknesses in their academic backgrounds that they can correct in the following year.
As well as allowing students to gain practical knowledge to go along with their academic instruction, the intern experience can act as a means by which students can clarify career alternatives. One of the direct benefits includes obtaining a future market advantage in terms of personal contacts within the industry. Real estate students who have been interns are actively recruited. The business community looks upon an internship during a student’s academic career as good preparation for the job market. Some of the larger real estate firms use the internship experience as a screening process for prospective employees. Less direct benefits are derived through interactions with firm members on the subject of careers, experiences, and expectations, which are also helpful in clarifying occupational goals.
Benefits for the Firm
Just as the Intern Program allows the student to see the real estate field from a practitioner’s point of view, it also exposes professionals in the industry to the changing academic side of the profession. Acting as a bridge between academics and professionals in the real estate field, the Intern Program can be an exchange of experience and new viewpoints.
An immediate benefit a firm can expect from an intern is assistance from an individual who is knowledgeable in the real estate field and capable of handling many responsibilities. Firms not only benefit from having a well-directed trainee, they also receive recognition from the industry and the Real Estate Commission for the community service apparent in its support of the Program. Helping young people has a great impact on the public. Some of the best and most effective publicity a firm can get is letting other people know it is concerned with and actively involved in its community and with upgrading the profession.
Background – While there may be some exceptions to the general rule, the Program is available to juniors in the School of Business Administration at the University of Connecticut who have earned a “C” or better in Real Estate Principles (Finance 230) and who have expressed an interest in the real estate profession. In certain instances (because of timing), some students will have had additional courses in either or both Real Estate Investments (Finance 232) and Real Estate Finance (Finance 233). Each student who participates in the Program must have an academic standing of at least 2.0 Grade Point Average.
Seminars – All intern candidates must attend a seminar during the spring semester prior to beginning the summer internship. In addition, candidates are assigned a limited title search in order to become familiar with market information available at a Town Hall. A mandatory seminar is also scheduled during the fall semester following the Intern experience.
Academic Credit – It is possible for students to earn three (3) academic credits for the internship in the semester following completion of the Intern Program. The School of Business Administration listing for the Intern Program is Finance 289 (Field Study Internship). In addition to the ten-week work experience, students are required to attend the spring and fall seminars and submit an in-depth written report on their internship. An intern sponsor participates in evaluating the performance of the student intern.
Placement – The careful placement of students is vital to the success of the Program. To improve the chances of successful placement, the Center requires that interested students prepare a resume including their background, interests, and what they expect from the Program. The Center staff interviews each prospective intern. The staff will assist students in identifying real estate firms that appear appropriate to the students’ needs (in terms of the kinds of activities undertaken by the firm) and one within location constraints. However, a major portion of the responsibility for locating the sponsor is the student’s. The student and the firm are then brought together for a personal interview to explore further the possibilities of the summer Intern Program. It becomes a process of mutual selection; students must feel firms are right for them and the firms must want the students as interns.
Structure of the Intern Program
The internship will last for a minimum period of ten weeks during the summer. Longer periods of employment are a possibility. The intern should work at least 35 hours per week. Longer hours are permitted when agreed to by the firm and the student. Working hours are arranged between the intern and the sponsoring firm. Also arranged between the intern and the firm is compensation. (The Center does not recommend compensation on a fee or commission basis as it would shift the emphasis from learning to selling.)
Communication: The Student, the Firm, and the Center – Each intern situation is unique with regard to the student, the firm, and the person from the firm who will deal most directly with the student. Bringing about the right combination in each intern placement and maintaining the best learning experience for students during the internship requires considerable time.
During the summer Program, a member of the Center staff will visit the intern and their supervisor from the employing firm for an informal discussion relating to the intern’s work experience and progress. The purpose of this meeting is to provide additional analysis of both the student and the firm, and to make sure that the relationship continues to be compatible and that the purpose of the Program is being carried out properly.
During the fall semester following the internship, a member from the Center staff conducts seminars with the interns to discuss the summer’s activities and the potential for improving the Program.
Activities and Responsibilities of Participating Firms and Interns – The firm and the student must have a detailed understanding of how the Program operates and a real commitment for its success. The student must have some knowledge of real estate in order to derive the most benefit from the Program and to be of the most value to the firm.
The program should center on information and learning as opposed to an apprentice-type training program. The firm should give the student an opportunity to become acquainted with the various phases of the real estate business being carried out by the firm. The student should be assigned to a specific staff member to whom the intern is directly responsible. This relationship should remain flexible so that the student will have the opportunity to get to know and work with other staff members. (First time intern sponsors are asked to provide a listing of job assignments for the student to the Center for review.)
The intern should attend various activities as an observer, and should become involved in productive learning activities; i.e., activities productive to both the intern and the firm.
Suggested Intern Responsibilities
Assigned duties and responsibilities for interns vary from firm to firm. The following list is a sample of responsibilities performed by students serving as real estate interns:
- Participating in market analyses. Developing questionnaires; performing door-to-door and telephone surveys; assisting in calculations and quantitative analysis; and researching necessary records and statistics.
- Applying computer skills to solve real estate problems and assisting employees in using personal computers.
- Surveying financing terms available. Contacting lending institutions concerning loan availability, loan terms, and general data gathering. Also, contacting public agencies (e.g., CHFA, FHA, VA) concerning government financing opportunities.
- Participating in the mortgage loan process, including credit ratings; underwriting verifications; truth-in-lending reports; closing documents; packaging loans for the secondary mortgage market; and so forth.
- Inspecting properties (single-family residential or income-producing) with appraiser or supervisor to gain experience in recognizing desirable and undesirable features. Accompanying the appraiser through all facets of an appraisal.
- Performing “in-house” appraisal functions such as obtaining comparable sales data, cost and income figures, and assembling reports for the appraisals.
- Performing appraisals (after observation and under guidance) on single-family residences, both on existing structures and those under construction.
- Preparing portfolios (property briefs) of prospective properties to be provided to a sales agent after the agent has qualified the client.
- Developing and maintaining lists of “for sale by owner” properties for follow-up mailings and contact by the regular staff.
- Preparing advertising copy and news releases. Also, developing layouts, plans, sketches, and photography for other media. (In writing advertisements, the intern will learn the strategies and policies of the participating firm.)
- Performing functions such as maintenance and update of records; posting listings, sales, and trades and analyzing MLS data for absorption rates. Also, assisting in the preparation of escrow papers and placing entries into escrow accounts.
- Performing functions relating to property management. (These might include, for example, showing apartments for rental, assisting associates at open houses, telephone answering assignments, maintaining records and clerical work on listings, bringing comparable files up-to-date, or handling direct mail, etc.)