• Americas

Rob Vodinelic – 20 years in commercial real estate and how one appraisal assignment changed his life

by Nicole Urquhart-Bradley, MAI, FRICS, President, Valuation & Advisory Americas

Rob Vodinelic, MAI, MRICS, is next in our series recognizing the individuals within our Valuation & Advisory (V&A) group who have hit major anniversary milestones. I’ve asked these veterans, who have been with the firm for 20 years or more, to answer a few questions about their experience, tenure, and what keeps them going…

You’ve now been with the firm 20+ years and focus on managing the Ohio V&A office and appraising office properties. What changes within the appraisal industry and/or your market have you seen since you began your career? Where do you think it is heading?

When I first started working in V&A, we would use disposable cameras on inspections, send the cameras out for film development, and then scotch tape the pictures to paper. So I’d say the technology has changed quite a bit! The tools that appraisers have at their fingertips now are light-years ahead of where it was “back in the day”. While technological advancements have made us much more efficient, for appraisers to truly be successful and stand out from the pack, they have to reinvent themselves from simply being report preparers, to acting in more of an advisory role.

From a local standpoint, when I first moved to Ohio, the majority of the assignments we worked on had one lender and one intended user. Now, the financing of larger properties in Ohio has become so much more complex that it’s not uncommon to see a capital stack with 10 to 20 different capital sources listed. The increased exposure this has given our work in the open market has grown exponentially. Opportunities for our work product to be viewed by an array of potential clients has become a great business development tool.

How did you get your start in commercial real estate/why did you choose to go into the appraisal profession?

I had originally graduated with an accounting degree from Hofstra University on Long Island, NY (Go Flying Dutchmen!). I spent a few years working as an accountant outside of the real estate industry, and was eventually hired by Cushman & Wakefield to work in their corporate accounting group. After a couple of years of the accounting “routine”, I started to see the potential of working in other divisions within the firm. One of my old accounting teammates called to say that Matt Mondanile, one of the top appraisers in our Valuation group, was looking for a new junior appraiser. I met with Matt in his office, spent more time talking about boxing than real estate, and within a few days I had embarked on my new career!

I’ve mentored several younger professionals, taught a college class at Ohio State, and spoken to countless young professionals over the years, and what I always tell them is that there are a million different routes, but no one “right path” to becoming an appraisal professional. Every little bit of knowledge you gain along the way can find its way into making you a successful appraiser.

What is it about Cushman & Wakefield that has helped you reach this anniversary/keep you here?

I think there are two main reasons. First, it’s the type of properties and the stature of clientele we work with as appraisers with Cushman & Wakefield. Assignments our V&A professionals work on are some of the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding within the market. We have the opportunity to serve clients from all over the globe and work with real estate professionals and industry leaders that are truly the cream of the crop.

Second, it’s the people I have had the opportunity to work with over the years. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best and most dedicated appraisal professionals in the New York and Ohio offices. I’ve lived in Ohio for nearly 15 years now, and yet every time I see some of my old co-workers from the New York office, it’s like I never left. Having that kind of interaction with a core group of teammates really does make the years fly by.

What was the most unusual assignment you’ve ever had or what has been the most memorable/your favorite?

I have three I can think of pretty easily. Relatively recently, I worked on the appraisal of a massive planned redevelopment and expansion of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Getting to meet David Baker, the President of the Hall of Fame, and hearing some of his stories was pretty memorable. How cool is it to meet “the guy” that gives out the rings every year to the select few that make the Hall?

Second, I was able to work with Matt Mondanile and the NY office specialty team, on the appraisal of the World Trade Center from 2000 to early 2001, prior to its sale in the summer of 2001. Working on such a complex asset, with a value in the billions (which was an unheard of sum back then!) was maddening, exciting, exhausting, and incredibly memorable. I’ll never forget running cash flows in DOS-based Pro-Ject for that assignment. You could literally change one tenant, hit “run”, and then go get lunch as the system could take an hour or more to run. Needless to say, that assignment took on even more meaning after the tragic events a few months later.

Finally, my favorite assignment should have been one of my most boring ones! Only 9 days after September 11, 2001, I took on an appraisal assignment of a couple of suburban office buildings in Columbus, Ohio. I’ll never forget taking a cab to LaGuardia Airport and being in one of the few cars there. Walking through that empty terminal and boarding a flight with just myself, an air marshal, and the flight crew, it was an inspection that would change my life in many wonderful ways. At the first office property I toured that day, I met the property manager who, two years later, would become my wife! A little over a year after we met, I was moving out to Columbus, Ohio and have been here ever since. She swears that she was withholding property information from me so that I’d have to keep emailing and calling her, which made me late on the assignment.

How do you plan to spend your next 20 years at Cushman & Wakefield?

Hopefully continuing to grow both professionally and personally. I figure that I’m only a little over halfway through my career as an appraisal professional and I NEVER want to stop being challenged or grow “stale.” I’ve always been willing to work hard, love developing an operation, and am energized taking on the many challenges that come from problem solving.

When you’re not out appraising an asset or writing a report, what do you like to do?

While appraisers tend to work a lot of hours, I love spending as much time as possible with my wife, Heather, and two kids, Ella and Michael. We usually travel a few times a year and I love staying active with their various sports and local events. I’m also heavily involved with the local Appraisal Institute Chapter and am hoping to get more involved with other local boards once my time serving with the Appraisal Institute starts to wind down.

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