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Master’s in real estate alumnus views MRED as favorite educational experience

Billy Cundiff (MRED ’16), Managing Director of Greystar, enjoys being a part of the alumni community and establishing connections with current students — his involvement gives him the opportunity to give back to the program, and appreciate how far he’s come in his own career.

Madeline Sargent
Billy Cundiff

Billy Cundiff (MRED ’16) Managing Director of Greystar, enjoys being a part of the alumni community and establishing connections with current students — his involvement gives him the opportunity to give back to the program, and appreciate how far he’s come in his own career.

The W. P. Carey School of Business interviewed Cundiff to learn more about his master’s in real estate development experience, why he chose to pursue a career in real estate development, and what’s next in the industry.

Why W. P. Carey?

When Cundiff received his MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business, he was in a much different place in life. “When I decided to pursue my master’s in real estate development, I had gone through a career shift,” he says. “The MRED was a conduit to get into real estate in Phoenix and develop a network and the baseline education I needed to have some success.”

He discovered that real estate development isn’t linear. “There’s a lot of people involved, and you’re going to have public input,” he says. “Development is really complex, and the program encouraged me to make sure that I had more tools in my toolkit if I was going to be a developer.”

Some of the key takeaways from the program surprised him. “I realized I don’t have an artistic bone in my body — my design professors were amazing. As a developer, I’m going to appreciate designers based off my experience in the MRED.”

Cundiff valued the opportunity to work with faculty and classmates with different perspectives and areas of expertise. “My interactions with classmates were amazing because we had a chance to tap into knowledge sets from completely different backgrounds,” he explains.

“During our final synthesis project, we had somebody in the group with a construction background, and somebody that was a landscape architect.”

Developing a work life balance while raising three kids with his wife, Nicole, was crucial to achieving success in the program. “Trying to manage my plans for after graduation was difficult,” he says. “Even though it presented a challenge, I found that I thrived in a structured environment."

Ultimately, Cundiff wants students to understand the commitment the program requires. “The MRED provides a full immersion into the real estate world. I think that’s a positive,” he says. “It’s a chance to get an education that’s going to wrap you in this environment that’s going to challenge you, and get you excited about the prospect of what your future holds.”

Why real estate development?

Cundiff’s participation in the CBRE rotational program during an NFL off-season helped him decide to pursue real estate development as a career. “During the rotation, I followed everybody in the company, and learned from the employees I met,” he says.

He appreciated the enthusiastic environment at CBRE. “I asked myself why wouldn’t I want to be a part of this,” he says. “In the next off-season, I decided to get my real estate license.”

Cundiff has benefited from networking as a student and an alumnus. “My advice to students is to take advantage of your time here by developing a network,” he says. “It’s so easy to grab coffee or lunch with people that are in the industry you want to be in.”

After graduating, the benefits of networking continue. “There’s a shared bond between those who’ve shared an educational experience,” he says. “If you stay connected, it offers you a talent pool as you move up."

“You’ll know people who would be great employees and great teammates, who can deliver the kind of performance you’d expect of somebody coming from W. P. Carey.”

Although his life has changed since graduation, Cundiff has always dreamed of being in his current position. “I was just promoted to Managing Director of Greystar — I’m in charge of Arizona and Southern Nevada.”

He also realizes that his journey is just getting started. “I’m looking forward to continuing to build my team,” he says. “Finding team members who are as excited about development as I am and hopefully giving people the professional satisfaction and growth they’re looking for in their roles.”

“I’ve hired a few MRED graduates,” he says. “Having a talent pool that I know has capability in the development world has helped me as I’ve grown our business here.”

What's next?

Cundiff hopes to see a more development-friendly environment in the Phoenix market — similar to Nevada. “The housing market is currently undersupplied,” he says. “We need to meet the demand and also exceed that because we have such pent up demand from other years.”

“Phoenix should understand that apartments do not devalue homes,” he explains. “It’s about re-educating the public about what happens when apartments are built, and how they are a value add and an important part of the housing inventory that exists in the Valley.”

The W. P. Carey MRED gave Cundiff the chance to receive an education that fully immersed him into the world of real estate. “It has been my favorite educational experience,” he says.

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