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By | February 1, 2023

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What is a real estate controller?

Real estate controllers deal with real estate and its purchase, sale, maintenance, management, appraisal, development, new construction, rehabilitation and financing.

That’s a broad field… Because ‘real estate’ has very different meanings depending on the company – it can be the focus of the business activities as with real estate companies, be part of investment portfolios alongside other investment opportunities as with investment companies or banking products, be mainly ‘managed’ as with housing associations and property management companies or belong to the land of an industrial company and, for whatever reason, are currently not or no longer used for their business activities.

Constantly new challenges

The basis of value creation in real estate is its valuation and development. Existing properties have to be managed and maintained, real estate projects have to be found, planned, realized and marketed. All this requires comprehensive information about the current value, the observation of the current and the assessment of the short, medium and long-term developments.

There are plenty of statistics and surveys on the development of the real estate market – but usually only past data is really reliable. With existing properties, you can plan reasonably well due to existing, often long-term leases. However, when it comes to developments, i.e. essentially changes in use and new buildings, a number of imponderables must be considered for long-term planning – and this is where looking into the future becomes more difficult:

  • Political requirements: The housing market is highly political, and each government sets different priorities, which are then reflected in development plans. This can mean that the permitted use of building areas changes and planned building projects have to be adapted to the new use or have to be rejected completely. Examples of this are the question of the densification of inner cities or the preference for multi-family houses over single-family houses.
  • Conditions: In particular, the energetic upgrading and upgrading of buildings means that both existing properties and new buildings have to be redesigned and calculated. However, monument protection requirements can also completely jeopardize or significantly delay construction projects.
  • Changes in ongoing projects: If builders change their minds in the course of a project and – for example the Elbphilharmonie – want to raise a building by a few floors, this may require a complete recalculation of the statics. That, and especially the consequences, will be expensive.
  • Changes in behavior: The pandemic has fueled the trend towards working from home and has shown how our work can be reorganized. This has consequences: it is estimated that the market for office properties will shrink by around 30% in the next few years, and the idea of ​​converting office space into apartments will revitalize the issue of urban densification. The possibility of working more at home increases the need for space there, which in turn means that more people are thinking beyond the suburbs of the cities and want to (or have to) realize their dream of owning their own home in the country – also for cost reasons ).
  • New ideas: Not only the conversion from office to living space, but also the increase in discounter buildings is currently being discussed. Especially if these are in or near the city, this (obvious) idea has met with broad approval and, according to press reports, has already been taken up by the large discounter chains for both new buildings and existing spaces.

Different priorities, different tasks

Real estate controllers always have to keep an eye on the entire real estate market, but rarely deal with all facets at the same time, because there are usually specializations – depending on the way, what role ‘real estate’ plays for a company and what meaning ‘real estate’ has in the context of business activity.

Examples are mentioned here

  • Companies that view real estate primarily as an investment and e.g. B. set up real estate funds,
  • Companies that plan, develop and implement real estate projects,
  • Companies and private individuals who own, hold and manage real estate portfolios, but whose ‘actual’ business is different.

The activities of a real estate controller are correspondingly different: Depending on the focus, they are mainly in the area of ​​organization and administration, financing, buying and selling or in the field of developing commercial areas, districts or entire cities.

A distinction that leads to further differentiation is also the focus on commercial and non-commercial properties.

Real estate controllers can therefore be found in real estate companies, which often deal with all aspects of the real estate industry, but also in the special departments of banks, in industrial companies with real estate ownership, but also in private offices, where they look after the real estate holdings of wealthy private individuals, and also in state offices and city authorities.

The most important things in 5 seconds

  • Education: Economic studies (computer science, business administration, economics) with a focus on controlling, accounting and real estate management as well as relevant professional experience
  • Starting salary: €46,000
  • Top salary: over €100,000
  • Opportunities for advancement: In companies with pure real estate business up to the management level


What does a real estate controller do?

  • First of all, the real estate controller is responsible for the database. This is fed from many sources and its evaluation must be efficiently organized and coordinated. The constant improvement of data collection and presentation and possibly the methodology is also one of the tasks of the real estate controller.
  • Another focus is the reporting on the current real estate business, the preparation of special analyzes on current issues and the interpretation of the available information on the planning and development of the real estate portfolio. This is about a meaningful and target-oriented processing and presentation of the available information for the management, which together with the real estate controller is usually responsible for a larger number, often a large number of objects and projects – a real estate portfolio.
  • The strategic tasks of the real estate controllers lie in the combination of the data that can be recorded internally with the data from the real estate market as a whole. This includes observing market developments and currents and comparing them with your own performance, recognizing necessary changes, be it in individual properties or in the structure of the entire real estate portfolio. Real estate controllers are involved in the development of planning figures and budgets and ensure that the tools for control and forecasts are made available and continuously improved.

What information does a real estate controller use?

The basis of activity in real estate controlling is the analysis of figures and data from the operational business and from market observation with the aim of developing strategies for investors and owners and ensuring compliance with them through control and management.*

Standard reporting on operational business is usually based on two sources of information:

  • On the data of the house and building management (sometimes also called property management); she primarily takes care of the operational, i.e. commercial, contractual and technical aspects of letting and administration (letting, leases and rent adjustments, utility bills, incoming and outgoing payments, maintenance, business plans for homeowners’ associations, compliance with house rules, but – primarily in the case of commercial properties – also around market value revaluations after conversion, renovation and change of tenants).
  • On the information of property management (also called strategic facility management); it is responsible for the implementation of the corporate real estate strategy, ie for planning and adhering to budgets and achieving the goals agreed with the investors or owners.

In addition, real estate controllers provide essential support for (real estate) asset management in the development of strategies for the medium and long-term composition of real estate portfolios and in the definition of measures that lead to an improvement in performance.

[*The introduction of new and the adoption of Anglo-Saxon terms sometimes leads to different demarcations, overlaps and interpretations in the German-speaking world.]


How to become a real estate controller

  • Successfully completed business studies (computer science, business administration, economics) with a focus on controlling accounting/accounting and real estate/property management
  • Relevant professional experience in accounting and/or controlling in the real estate sector
  • Professionalism in dealing with common software tools in real estate management and in the processing and preparation of larger amounts of data
  • Very good Excel and PowerPoint skills


What does a real estate controller earn?

von 46.000€

bis 100.000€

The starting salary of real estate controllers with a few years of professional experience is around €46,000. As the scope of work and portfolio grows, and with staff responsibility, her salary can increase to over €100,000.


What do you expect from the real estate controller?

Real estate controllers need a high affinity for numbers and data. They have the ability to interpret these in a goal-oriented manner and to present them in such a way that they lead to stringent conclusions and recommendations.

Analytical thinking, a structured, results-oriented way of working and clear reasoning are essential.

You have a keen interest in the further development of programs for data collection and processing and independently develop suggestions for improvements and optimization.

You are able to involve others in current tasks and projects in a motivating way, because you work closely with various departments and management.

Fluent spoken and written English is a matter of course for real estate controllers.


Opportunities for advancement as a real estate controller

Real estate controllers have the best chances of advancement in companies that deal exclusively or primarily with the development, financing and management of real estate; there are often project teams and working groups that offer opportunities for professional development. The same applies to companies from other sectors that have founded independent companies for their real estate business – here, too, with growing experience and probation, a promotion to the management level is possible.

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