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Local real estate investor Karlin Conklin of IMG Northwest reflects on 2017 as the Year of Financial Feminism

Women are better investors on average than men.

That's according to multinational financial services corporation Fidelity, which found that female investors outperformed males last year by 0.4 percent — after outdoing men for the past decade. Data from Openfolio found the same, reported CNNMoney.

In light of the gender wage gap month, an October observance of the phenomenon where women make lower salaries than men in the same jobs (October is the month where women stop being paid for the year compared to male counterparts, which varies based on ethnicity and field), the Business Tribune wanted to highlight how one Portland real estate investor overcame this hurdle.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - Karlin Conklin, vice president of private equity at Investors Management Group Northwest, helped the company close $90 million in multifamily commercial real estate deals over 2017.

Karlin Conklin is the vice president of private equity at Investors Management Group Northwest (IMG Northwest). Conklin has helped the company close $90 million in multifamily commercial real estate deals over 2017, and many of the properties are located in Oregon.

She told the Business Tribune having her MBA — and simply the letters behind her name — allowed her to bypass to much financial sexism (she also has the support of her husband and high school sweetheart Bill, who recognized her talent for handling money and investments and stepped back from the traditionally male-held role with no hard feelings as he contributed to their family based on his own strengths).

Conklin, a licensed broker in Oregon and Washington, has 15 years of experience in the industry and a transactional volume of more than $1 billion. She earned her bachelor of science in journalism and an MBA from the University of Oregon.

IMG Northwest focuses exclusively on multifamily commercial real estate. Her office, a live-work condo in Goose Hollow, opens off a vibrant sidewalk near the MAX train and a Starbucks, with retail along the fronting side of the building. Upstairs, a kitchen and closed-door offices look out onto a green roof and skyline.

Karlin Conklin was a manufacturing operations specialist in her first career, back in the 1990s.

"I did help create efficiencies within manufacturing. Once you do that, you're able to lay off a lot of people, or close plants," Conklin said. "At the end of 1999 I looked around and decided I am done with improving things and I am done with others making decisions that hugely impact people's lives that I may not even agree with."

So, she made the move into real estate.

"I had no experience, nothing, all I had was drive and the fact is it wasn't a dot-com: that dirt is finite, that building is finite," Conklin said.

Conklin started out as a commercial real estate broker in multi-family properties, and then in 2002 began working with Guardian Real Estate.

"What allowed me to be very successful at the start was because of an operations background," Conklin said. "The value of these buildings and commercial real estate is the value of the operations: how much money is generated, what's going on with expenses and income, I could understand operations extremely well to be able to help my clients with their real estate."

She and her husband Bill repeatedly saved up, and then bought.

"It was the ability to buy real estate and to hold real estate, to create more value with real estate that I believe has put us where we are today," Conklin said.

Conklin said at her level, about 80 percent of her peers are men.

"They oftentimes believe the way to get through a transaction or to bring parties together is just by the pushing and shoving and strength," Conklin said. "It has been a tremendous advantage that I am a woman, and I'll tell you why: I have seen with women, that women negotiate from a position where everyone can win, women are articulate, and the most important thing is women listen."

Women brokers here in Portland are the top of the game nationally, because they have those skills, too.

"Our primary business is putting together investor groups in acquisition of multi-family properties," Conklin said. "We did six buildings this year; our goal is to do eight next year, and I can just see us continuing to grow over the next eight to 10 years."

A better skillset

Some might attribute these as women's skills, but Conklin believes they're learned skills.

"I truly believe that the skills we learn as women are the skills that have propelled me in my career," Conklin said. "It is the skills that I think are going to propel this nation. What I am is an expert with listening to people, trying to be a facilitator to help them reach their potential."

She and her husband are both from big Catholic families. She's the third out of seven siblings, five girls and two boys.

"There was never any money, you're the bottom of the lower class, we didn't come from anything, but it was just persistence and working hard and believing in yourself and never veering from your values," Conklin said.SUBMITTED - Conklin

She avoided feeling the gender wage gap with a strategy she later encouraged her daughter to pursue.

"I'll tell you why. It's because of one of the reasons I went for an MBA: I wanted a credential," Conklin said. "I said you are a brilliant woman and you need that credential."

Her attitude has always been that she's not going to allow any hurdles to stop her.

"One needs to believe in oneself, one needs to know the contribution that she is making to the organization and she may have to make hard choices," Conklin said. "If you love your job, and you're not getting paid equally — and you demand, but don't get it — you're going to have to review your choices. Are you willing to sacrifice one thing for another? Some women do, and some don't, but that's a personal choice."

She's been married to her high school sweetheart Bill for 42 years, after meeting at age 14. His support of her was a hge advantage to them both.

"My husband had to change. I never changed. I was always very driven, always who I was, he had to change," Conklin said. "He had to rethink what is it he wants, moving into almost more of a support

role, and he's the one that changed and

it has been brilliant for our relationship, brilliant for what we have built together — but that's because he changed, and I'm forever grateful."

Commercial real estate

Investors Management Group has 12 employees in L.A. and five people in Portland.

"It's always a good time to invest in real estate because it's finite," Conklin said. "Somebody overseas is not going to manufacture land. You can invest in Mexico or in Europe or wherever, but tried and true the U.S. is the best place to invest."

When looking to invest, she looks for where the jobs and population growth are because that's what's driving the value of commercial real estate.

"Yes, Portland is crazy expensive. On the other hand, there are tertiary markets to Portland where somebody could start — in Salem, or Camas, Washington," Conklin said. "There are smaller communities where you may not have as quick of appreciation. On the other hand, there are tax benefits to owning real estate."

She invests in Seattle, Portland, the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, Charlotte, Atlanta, and southeast Florida only.

"Those markets we're in all have the same sort of benchmarks," Conklin said. "These markets have a diverse and growing job base and they have strong growing populations. If a market doesn't have that, we don't buy because we think that what drives multifamily is population and jobs."

She typically looks to yield cash distributions during the hold between 7.5-8.5 percent.

When they sell, she's looking for a two times multiple, which doubles the investors' money within five to six years.PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JULES ROGERS - Conklins office is a trendy live-work condo in Goose Hollow, with desks on the first and second floor (which has a kitchen).

"Commercial real estate is dog eat dog. I won, you lost in negotiations, you won, you lost," Conklin said. "Everybody has to win. Everybody has to win or otherwise it's not a good transaction."

Her investment strategy is long-game, never get rich quick today.

"It's never flip and toss, whether it's a stock or piece of land or a building — it's the long game," Conklin said. "The long game gets you through meltdowns like 2009, the long game allows you to maybe hold on a little longer even if you're in an upturn, because you're analyzing not only this market but the next market."

In doing syndicates, she raised $35 million this year for about $9 million in acquisitions. She closed an all high net worth investor deal here in Portland last week that raised $8.3 million in equity.

"I also believe everybody has to win. In many negotiations or with the stock market a great one, if one stock goes up, something else has to go down, seesaw," Conklin said. "In real estate, I believe everyone can win. Rather than I win, you lose, how do we negotiate to a point where everybody can win."

She's developing the company's next generation by hiring people in their 30s and investing generously in training with wisdom from her own generation.

"My goal is as I wind down perhaps with real estate, I want to be working with the next generation of women, I want to be working on both environmental causes — climate change is real — and I want the next generation after you, my granddaughters, I want them to never see a hurdle in front of them that they can't overcome," Conklin said. "Or they might decide to walk away. That's OK, you don't have to always overcome every hurdle you, you might decide to walk away from that hurdle — but it's never going to be 'I can't do it because I'm a girl,' maybe because I don't want to do it, or because it requires me to make too many sacrifices, and it's not because I'm a girl."

By Jules Rogers
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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