Semi-Annual Newsletter: A Look at 2017, and a Look Back


By Matt Slepin

It has been a crazy six months since our last newsletter. The headline, of course, was the November general election and our new President. It was an all-consuming election process with economists holding out the results of the election, as well as political gridlock generally, as a wildcard factor in their market forecasts. The good news is that there seems to be a bump in the economy from Trump’s election, although whether this is a long term benefit or a “sugar high” is unknown. Political gridlock certainly looks like it is here to stay and therefore a continued stress factor. For my personal commentary on the Trump election, contrasting the leadership of Mr. Trump with that of Bruce Springsteen, an interesting mash-up, see here: “A Meditation on Springsteen’s Land of Hope and Dreams.”

The election notwithstanding and with the Trump bounce (or is it the success of the Obama years?), the real estate markets look like they will continue on a stable path at least for another year or more. We are now eight years since the GFC, a long expansion in the commercial real estate business. It is long-in-the-tooth for an economic cycle, but bar an exogenous event, it looks like we might have another several years before a meaningful downturn. The different real estate food groups seem at comfortable parts of their cycle, even with the celebrated growth in the apartment business and now its slowing, fairly in balance. We like stability, although some yearn for the buying opportunities that come along with crisis.

People ask all the time if there is a theme to draw from our recruiting work. Generally, it is hard to generalize from our current book of business and even discussions with clients. Nevertheless, it feels that we are at a normal part of the real estate hiring cycle, with supply (people) and demand (jobs) in fairly good balance. We are working in all aspects of the business including development, acquisitions, asset management, finance, property management, leadership roles and etc.

We continue to believe that there will be a wall of successions coming up as baby boomer leaders start planning for retirement (even though, for leaders that is now 70 or 75, instead of 65), with many now more thoughtfully planning for both leadership and balance sheet/equity succession. Given our West Coast home base, we also continue to see the build-out of real estate platforms with a need for on-the-ground presence on the West Coast.


Terra Search continues to grow and the business continues to thrive. We celebrated our tenth anniversary in 2016, so we are now in our eleventh year of business. We are proud of the firm’s accomplishments and our continued focus on pairing the depth and quality of our advisory role with the transactional nature of search. Some updates from the team:

  • Long term colleague, Stephanie Pearson, is moving from role as Partner in the firm to Of Counsel in order to spend more time with her family. While she will not be working day to day, Stephanie will continue her long-term association with Terra and continue to provide advisory work to our firm and clients.
  • Greg Melanson joined Terra Search in our Bethesda office to co-lead our practice area in Affordable Housing and Community Development with Partner Alan Greenwald. Greg joins us from a long career at Bank of America and, most recently, as COO of the Friends of the National Zoo.
  • Sharon Sterling, Managing Director with the firm, moved with her two daughters to Orange County, where she is now heading our Southern California practice, working alongside Ellie Gardner, a Principal with the firm.
  • Mary McCarthy joined the firm in June as a Managing Director. Mary comes to Terra Search after a long term career in capital raising, most recently with Hines. She heads our practice area in Investment Management.






  • I am the host of a new Podcast Series, entitled Leading Voices, for the Urban Land Institute. In the series, I am interviewing exceptional leaders from around the real estate world to understand their contribution, passions and perspectives on leadership. An initial tranche of interviews has been released, with more to come on a regular basis. Listen and subscribe to the series on iTunes or via your podcatcher of choice.
  • I have continued my interview column with The Registry, interviewing Bay Area based real estate leaders to help define the elusive meaning of “DNA in real estate companies”. All my articles can be found here, including those with Bill Stein of Digital Realty, Mike Schall of Essex Property Trust, and Craig Allison with Plant Construction. More to come.
  • Stephanie Pearson has completed the next installment of her video series for Builder Magazine. The next video in the “Gender and Leadership in Home Building” series features Kim Diamond of 7×7 Development and Kim talks about coming up in a male dominated industry. You can watch the inaugural video of the series, Stephanie’s interview with Cheryl O’Connor of HomeAid, here.
  • Bill Whitlow was recently published in Multifamily Executive Magazine. Contrary to many industry pundits, Bill draws a clear line of distinction between the roles of Property Manager and Asset Manager. Here’s the article.
  • Alan Greenwald was published by STRENGTH MATTERS where he offers a strategy for non-profit affordable housing companies to attract top executive talent. The article is here.

You can access our articles, podcasts, and videos by visiting the Terra Resources Library, here.


Anton Development Company
Jason Villarreal, Director of Asset Management, Foster City, CA

BRIDGE Housing
Erik Lund, Property Management Controller, San Francisco Jieyi Cui, Development Controller, San Francisco

Sarah Khu, Vice President of Human Resources, Rockwood, MD

William Cipes, Vice President, Multifamily Development, Los Angeles

Natalina D’Aliesio, Asset Manager, San Diego

Deutsche Asset Management
Megan Burrows, Vice President, Global Client Group, San Francisco

Abigail Dizon, Regional Property Manager, Northern California, San Francisco

Brandon Stein, President, Los Angeles

McCormack Baron
Sasha-Gaye Angus, Senior Vice President of Development

Dan Rosenbaum, Senior Vice President, Bay Area

New York Life Investments
Andrew Jenkins, Director, Real Estate, San Francisco

Charles Shin, Vice President of Development, San Francisco

Preservation of Affordable Housing
Anthony Waddell, Vice President, Real Estate Development, Mid-Atlantic Region, Washington, DC
Randy Parker, Chief Financial Officer, Boston

Ian Couwenberg, Director of Acquisitions, Laguna Niguel, CA

Sand Hill Property Company
Pat Coffey, Asset Management Menlo Park, CA

Angela Chen-Biggs, Portfolio Manager, San Mateo

Michael Fassler, Senior Vice President Corporate Real Estate, San Rafael, CA

Vertical Ventures
Christopher Aust, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, Walnut Creek, CA