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A Closer Look: Brittany Freund

Senior vice president, WB Realty Co.


Brittany Freund graduated from Loras College in 2009 with a degree in graphic design and no job prospects.

At the time, Iowa’s unemployment rate was 6.6% and more than 52,000 people were out of work. 

“It was just not a good time to find a job in marketing or design,” Freund said. “My dream job was to design magazines. … 

“A lot of people in the field were getting laid off and so not only could I not get the job of my dreams, I couldn’t get any job because I was competing with people who had a lot more experience than I did.”

Freund, who was living in the Des Moines area, began working as a server at an area restaurant. After nearly 18 months of searching, she landed a job in marketing at a firm in Ames. The position, though, meant commuting daily from West Des Moines to Ames during a time when gas prices were $4 a gallon and higher.

Freund accepted the offer of a neighbor who worked at a staffing firm to post Freund’s resume on the company’s website. A couple of weeks later, a job as a marketing assistant with R&R Realty Group appeared.

“My neighbor called and told me that [R&R] liked my resume and wanted to know if I was interested in the job,” Freund said. “I thought, ‘OK, I can do that.’”

Freund worked at R&R for more than 10 years, advancing from a marketing assistant to a vice president at the firm.

“When I was growing up in Primghar, I didn’t even know commercial real estate was a career option,” Freund said. “I didn’t see any commercial development. … Working at R&R really opened my eyes to all of the possibilities.”

In February, Freund left R&R Realty Group to become senior vice president at WB Realty Co. in West Des Moines.

“The job offers me a little bit more flexibility,” she said.

We recently caught up with Freund.


What do you like best about working in commercial real estate?


I like that you’re working on different things every day. Different transactions. You are juggling a few different opportunities at a time. You’re meeting new people. You’re getting to network, and because of that you get to be involved in different organizations. 


What part of the job don’t you like?


Early on, you are working longer hours because you are younger and you’re really trying to get your feet wet. That is kind of difficult when you have younger kids. As I’ve grown and gained more experience, there’s been more flexibility.


For years, commercial real estate was a male-dominated field. Today there’s more women in the profession. Talk a little bit about what, if any, hurdles women in the profession face.


I feel like there are still a lot of those kinds of male friendships that are out there that can sometimes be difficult to overcome. But I also think that if you work hard, they see that. … Now, if I’m at a commercial real estate event for brokers, there’s probably only going to be 10 women in the room. Because of that, I’m more memorable because I’m one woman out of 10. I think that’s helpful. People are aware that I’m here, I’m in the industry, I show up to events. … That’s what I’d recommend to women who are joining the industry: Make yourself seen and known and get involved. That way, people will know that you’re serious about the job.


What is one or two of the big things you’ve learned in the past nine years of being in commercial real estate?


Transactions take a long time. In residential, you’re really running through deals pretty quickly. In commercial real estate, a deal can take two months or two years to get done; it just depends on what you’re working on. You have to make sure you have patience for that. Even when you close the deal, that doesn’t mean you get paid right away. Sometimes you have to wait for that, too. 


I’ve also learned that there are many different facets to commercial real estate. You can be a commercial real estate attorney. You can be a commercial real estate banker. You can be a broker, a property manager. There are a lot of different people involved in one transaction.


What prompted you to decide to change jobs during the middle of a pandemic? 


Ryan Wiederstein is the owner of WB Realty. He left R&R [Realty Group] to go out on his own … and started WB Realty. He had some rental properties and was doing some things in residential real estate. He has been getting more involved with commercial development in the last few years. 


He approached me and said he was really busy and needed help. I thought maybe now was a good time to make a move, especially with my son going to kindergarten in the fall. [Wiederstein ] offered a bit more flexibility for things like being able to walk my son to school in the morning and pick him up after school. My goal is to have a life-work balance, not a work-life balance. I want the “life” part to be a little bit bigger. This position will help me do that. 


The front part of the job is a bit more of a heavy load right now. At R&R, we had 135-plus employees to help with some of those things. Right now, I’m at a smaller company where we all pitch in and do a little bit of everything. So right now, the front part of this job is a little bit heavier lifting. Down the line, it will be better.


Explain what you mean by the “front part” of the job.


Ryan’s been focused on residential and hasn’t had enough time to really put into the commercial aspect. So I’m doing things like making sure that all of the listing information is on every listing site and accurate to the way we want it to be seen and making sure that all of the brokerage houses are aware that we do commercial real estate. Getting signed up for all of the chambers [of commerce] that we have developments in. … So a little bit more legwork up front.


Where do you see yourself in five years?


Doing this. Because of the flexibility that this job provides, I can see me doing this for a long while. Maybe we would bring some additional brokers on and I can see myself mentor them. 


What advice do you have for young people entering the commercial real estate business?


Take a chance because it’s a really fun career choice. Make sure you’re involved in industry organizations and also philanthropic groups. Explore different nonprofit groups to see what fits best and where your talents could help out the most. A group I’m involved with is Dorothy’s House, [a Des Moines nonprofit that provides a safe place for survivors of human trafficking]. I think I’m lucky to be on the board and involved and can help. It means something to me. I’ve been involved in other nonprofits where I’ve done whatever they needed but it hasn’t meant as much as this does. So finding that out when you’re younger and spending your time wisely so you can devote more time helping the nonprofits that you care about.


What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to travel, but COVID kind of put a damper on that last year. We traveled a lot more before kids, but this summer we’re going to take a family trip to Colorado. 

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