Dan Berkus '05 (MSRE)

MSRE Alum Finds Opportunities in Market Challenges

Three years ago, Dan Berkus was writing papers, studying for finals and doing homework to earn his Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) degree at USD. These days, he is wheeling and dealing as an investment manager for Paragon Real Estate Investments, which he joined in 2006.

Berkus (MSRE '05) is currently in the midst of the most ambitious projects of his young career. He is contributing to an endeavor at Paragon to obtain $150 million in joint venture equity from a major institutional group to acquire existing multi-family properties in Hispanic markets throughout the Western United States. Over the next few years, Berkus hopes to leverage that equity into half a billion dollars of multi-family acquisitions for Paragon.

"It's extremely exciting here, considering I head up all acquisitions for Paragon, and we'd be more than doubling our current real estate portfolio," he says. "Paragon would be going from $350 million in holdings to $800 or $900 million." In addition to his acquisitions role at Paragon, Berkus also oversees the entitlement of a 160-acre industrial development project in Otay Mesa.

The joint financing venture comes as a welcome change-of-pace for Berkus, who, in a previous acquisitions role, had been stopped cold by the recent downturn in the market, which has changed markedly since he entered it after graduating in 2005. "My job went from being exciting and dynamic to a standstill, and just not being able to buy anything," he says. "All of a sudden, no deals worked, no landowners wanted to sell. It just made my job so tough."

Berkus believes that experiencing such an extreme dip in the market so early in his career will help him in the long run. "Real estate is a cyclical industry, and I think the earlier you become exposed to the downturn of a cycle, the better understanding you will have of the market," he says. Berkus also remains optimistic about the industry. "With that cycle comes opportunity," he says. "Even during the down times, there are still opportunities to make a lot of money."

In addition to his work at Paragon, Berkus is also actively involved in the USD Real Estate Alumni Association as the co-founder and current vice-chair of the organization. Over the past two years, he has seen the association's numbers swell to over 100 members, and he has been involved in planning the association's social networking, fundraising and educational events. Berkus believes networking connections to be a priceless commodity in the real estate industry and plans to tap into his USD connections to help him in the sourcing of multi-family deals over the next few years.