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Meet Jamestown Invest Investor, Jonelle Faal

Tell us about yourself; specifically, about your career, what recreational activities do you enjoy outside of work, any new hobbies that you’ve picked up during the pandemic?

My career in commercial real estate has evolved into a daily, multifaceted adventure that is not easily placed into a descriptive box. In a professional role, I serve as Vice President of Asset Management at Greystone & Co., Professor of Real Estate at Georgia State University, and as an investment partner in various real estate ventures. In previous roles, I spent time as a commercial real estate agent, legal assistant, and investment consultant. I have been fortunate to take part in nearly every facet of the industry, across all real estate asset types, and throughout every stage of the investment life cycle – from acquisition to disposition, and everything in between. I intentionally seek out opportunities to stay active and knowledgeable. With that in mind, my favorite hobbies outside of “work” are, ironically, filled with planning the next real estate venture to get involved in or the next philanthropic effort that I may best serve through real estate expertise.

The Covid quarantine allowed me to reflect on the way we are drawn to recreational activity and non-traditional vacations, which influenced my latest “hobby” investments, one of which involves lake-front cottage rentals, and the other which involves vacation villas on the coast of West Africa.

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With 15 years as a real estate professional, can you expand on what initially drew you and continues to draw you to a career in commercial real estate?

Looking back, I think I always knew real estate was my calling. As early as I can remember, my favorite activities, even as a child, included some aspect of the industry. While most kids were building toy collections, I was – in hindsight – already building real estate portfolios: physically, with Lincoln Logs or Legos; hypothetically, on a Monopoly game board; or virtually, through a game of SimCity. I was always drawn to architecture, design, and the overall built environment, but at the time, did not realize the inherent passion that was brewing. My first real estate investment was a 2-unit rental property that I purchased shortly after graduating high school. Once I understood the earning potential, both in cash flow and sale profit, I never looked back. I focused my undergraduate and post-graduate studies on the business of real estate investment; and from there, my childhood interest grew naturally into a career that is driven by a passion for all things real estate. While profit is part of the motivation, it is true love of the process that keeps me coming back for more. When you enjoy what you do, it never feels like work. I am always in pursuit of the next venture.

How does your experience working in commercial real estate influence your personal investment thesis?

Naturally, my investment of choice is almost always real estate-related. Having first-hand knowledge of the process and the ability to thoroughly size up a deal allows me to pursue more high-risk, high-return investments. My portfolio consists of more than 80% real estate, primarily multifamily -- both direct and passive investments.

As a professor of real estate at a local university, you are producing innovative real estate research and empowering the next generation of real estate business leaders. Can you share your insights on how you envision the future of commercial real estate to look?

Commercial real estate will always be an integral part of our economy, but the way we use our physical space will continue to evolve as our needs change. We are witnessing this in real-time as Covid-19 has challenged our norms and caused a shift in demand in almost every real estate asset type. For example, think of how the shift to remote working has affected the need for physical office space; or how the shift to online commerce has diminished the need for physical retail space and increased the need for industrial warehouse space. I envision the real estate professional of the future as one who can anticipate these shifts and adapt to an ever-changing environment.

What would you say to a first-time investor looking to diversify their portfolio with an investment in commercial real estate?

Depending on one’s individual risk tolerance, real estate remains one of the best investment options with the potential for the highest returns. Including commercial real estate in your diversification strategy may serve to enhance portfolio returns and may also hedge against losses in a down market. With the introduction of REIT platforms and crowdfunding, opportunities to invest in commercial real estate have never been more accessible.

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Having obtained both of your degrees from Georgia universities and now living and working in the state, what does it mean to partner with Jamestown on investments locally?

As a real estate professional and educator in the state of Georgia, I stay involved in many civic and business engagements throughout the greater Atlanta area. I have been a huge fan of Jamestown’s work since witnessing the transformation of Ponce City Market in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward and its impact on our city’s development. The Jamestown team consists of creative visionaries who consistently pioneer a movement, not just deliver real estate. With that in mind, the opportunity to join Jamestown as an investment partner meant I could take part in a collective effort to improve my community.

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