The Creation of a Student Housing Platform

An entrepreneur at heart, Travis Prince made his foray into investment real estate in 1999 buying and renting out houses throughout Nashville, Tennessee. Travis sold his holdings and moved to Tampa with aspirations of becoming the next South Florida real estate tycoon. In 2006, it became clear his path in real estate would look a bit different than planned— he transitioned to commercial real estate brokerage, joining Marcus & Millichap as a multifamily specialist. Eventually, a trip to Gainesville, Florida to inspect a student housing property would change the trajectory of his career. He has been selling student housing assets ever since.

Fast forward to April 2018. Since the beginning of my career, I have been interested in the Student Housing sector. Therefore, I was thrilled when I saw the internal announcement come over the wire that Travis had been hired to create a national student housing platform at our firm. I emailed him a note of congratulations and told him of my interest in student housing and my past experience in the space. We have gotten to know each other over the past year and I see why C&W has chosen Travis to create the student platform.

Travis was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to elaborate on his background, why he chose Cushman & Wakefield and what the future holds. Please find my Q&A with Executive Managing Director Travis Prince below:

SL: How did the Opportunity to create Cushman & Wakefield’s national student platform evolve?

TP: In 2010 I started a very small Real Estate Private Equity shop and have done numerous direct and joint-venture investments in multifamily, senior housing and recently launched a company developing self-storage from the ground up. In the initial years, I was buying exclusively conventional multifamily with a partner in Nashville. Through that, I met a number of brokers at a company called MHA, founded by Marc Robinson and Josh Goldfarb. Three years ago, Cushman acquired MHA, and Marc reached out to me and told me how great the firm’s platform was and that I needed to come over and run the student housing business. I was focused on other projects at the time and, candidly, wasn’t sure how much longer I was going to stay in brokerage, so I didn’t jump at the opportunity. Fast forward a couple years and I met Larry Richey (Florida Managing Principal for Cushman & Wakefield). Circumstances had evolved and Larry and I really connected, so I did my due diligence and was thoroughly impressed with everyone I met and made the move.

SL: What about Cushman & Wakefield drew you to the opportunity?

TP: When I started to meet the people at Cushman, I was most impressed by the professionalism, talent and drive. What sealed the deal for me, was the entrepreneurial approach of a massive global operation and a culture of collaboration I’d never seen in the industry.

SL: How is your team at Cushman & Wakefield unique when compared to your competitors?

TP: As I mentioned, we’re a huge global organization that’s still very entrepreneurial. We have tremendous teams with resources that can help clients execute on any phase of their business plan. The level of collaboration here is truly a radical concept in our business. Other firms promote collaboration but they do not achieve it the way Cushman does. I have helped recruit a few groups to the firm since I have been here and it’s been very satisfying to witness their level of excitement about what’s possible here at Cushman. Executing on the clients’ mission is 100% the priority without regard to who gets the fee or the accolades. It’s impressive and it’s given me a renewed excitement for the brokerage business.

SL: What were the growing pains in 2018 associated with kicking off the new platform?

TP: There is no great time to make a move, but I transitioned in early April and it was just me initially, so I had to rebuild the entire team. After I settled in, I brought over my lead analyst, Victoria Marks, who has been with me for almost 6 years. After Victoria, it took a few months to find an exceptional Brokerage Coordinator, Erica Groom, to lead the marketing efforts. It wasn’t until July that we could execute on a BOV, so we missed the important window of spring / summer prospecting to drive listing assignments in August.

SL: Were you able to overcome the delay? Any success stories for 2018?

TP: Despite missing the spring / summer prospecting season, we had respectable first year. While we were more focused on building our team and creating a solid foundation at Cushman & Wakefield, we still closed seven deals totaling 2,900 beds and have an additional eight properties with 3,910 beds under contract. The momentum is building, and we currently have several properties on the market and are working on a handful of off-market deals.

SL:  What are your goals for 2019?

TP: We are excited to be promoting Victoria to a brokerage role with deal execution responsibilities. We are in the process of interviewing analysts to backfill her position, and we also plan to add one additional broker with production responsibilities. We expect big things this year.

Travis’s contact information can be found below. Please reach out with any of your student housing disposition needs.

Travis Prince
Executive Managing Director
Student Housing Capital Markets