Five Questions with Essex Director Brian Karmowski
June 24, 2020

Welcome to “Five Questions,” a monthly series where Essex Realty Group, Inc. brokers share their observations and experiences gained while working in Chicago’s real estate world. This month we are getting to know Essex Director Brian Karmowski.

Introduction: Brian Karmowski joined Essex Realty Group, Inc. in 2011 as an Associate and has since been involved in over $400 million of investment real estate transactions. Brian focuses primarily on the acquisition and disposition of multi-family and mixed-use assets in the Chicago metropolitan area. Prior to joining Essex, Brian worked as a portfolio analyst for four years within Northern Trust’s Private Equity Division in downtown Chicago. His central duties included cash flow and investment analysis, market research, and working as a relationship manager with Northern Trust’s private wealth and institutional clients.

Brian graduated from the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business with a B.B.A, majoring in Finance and Economics.

Q: Why were you interested in starting a career in real estate? How did you get your start?

Brian: As early as I can remember I was always interested in real estate. As a kid I loved attending open houses and watching developments in the neighborhood progress. Though I started my professional career in banking, I soon realized it wasn’t for me. Unfortunately, the timing was less than ideal, just a few months later the Great Recession began and any sort of move into real estate was a significant challenge.

I continued working as a portfolio analyst in the Private Equity Division at Northern Trust and networked constantly, talking to anyone in the real estate world that would listen. Once the market returned, I finally made the jump and joined Essex in 2011. I purchased my first multi-family property in Wicker Park in 2014 and moved into one of the units. Living rent-free was an eye opener and a small glimpse into the power of real estate investing. Being a landlord contributed greatly to brokerage success. You can relate much more with your clients and have a better understanding of how they evaluate deals. In other words, you simply ‘get it.’

Q: What is your favorite thing to do when you are not touring properties?

Brian: Meeting new people. The real estate industry is more so about the people than the tangible assets. That may surprise some, but this is a people-first business. Meeting new clients and hearing about their path to success is always fascinating. There is nothing better than learning how someone came to the U.S. with nothing, worked hard and has since accumulated considerable wealth by investing in real estate.

Q: If you could teach someone starting as a broker tomorrow just one thing, what would it be?

Brian: Resiliency. This business is filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows the first couple years. Heck, even after several years it’s still a roller coaster. Only focus on the things you can control – daily routine, constructive habits, etc. If you keep grinding and do the right things, you will start to see success.

Q: Describe the impact of google maps and technology on the industry

Brian: Google Maps is a game-changer. If I’m not familiar with a property or the pocket in which is located, Google Maps is the first resource I use. More recent property intelligence websites are also incredibly useful. Easily looking up an owner, when they bought the property, etc. is powerful and saves considerable time.

Q: Describe one lasting effect on the industry you see stem from the reaction to COVID-19?

Brian: This is a tough one since we are just starting to understand the pandemic’s effect on the industry. In speaking with dozens of owners, both city and suburban, I would not be surprised to see more tenant demand for apartments in the suburbs and various neighborhoods as opposed to the urban core. We are starting to see companies establish increasingly flexible work-from-home policies, allowing workers more freedom in deciding where to live.

Add in the fact that the primary rental cohort (twenty- and thirty-somethings) are entering the family-formation age, which creates the need for more space. Historically this has led to a retreat to the suburbs, and the pandemic may work to accelerate this trend.


Since 1990, Essex Realty Group, Inc. has served Chicago's investment real estate market as a top multifamily brokerage firm. Contact us today to learn more about our recent multifamily and mixed-use property sales.

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