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Catchin’ Up With...W. Andrew Hanson

W. Andrew Hanson

Since even before attending Salisbury University, working in real estate has not only been my career path but also my passion. Thanks to the encouragement of a friend and employer, I began working in real estate for Long & Foster as a senior in high school, earning my real estate license at the age of 18. I worked first in commercial real estate but switched to the residential side due to the prospect of more consistent sales. In my first year, my sales resulted in an invitation into the $1 million Executive Club. For the next five years, I lived and breathed real estate while attending SU as a full-time student. I struggled with my academics, especially as a freshman when I landed on the academic probation list. It was a difficult balancing act. I quickly learned that although professional success and making money seemed important, my education outweighed everything else.

In 2003, I earned my bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies of French and Spanish, and a minor in business. I then enrolled in the M.B.A. Program at the Perdue School, plotting a course to graduate in 2005 by taking classes part time, as my real estate business continued to flourish.

I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Ecuador and France during my time as an undergrad as well as in Germany as a grad student at SU. These were amazing opportunities for me and I really enjoyed the foreign culture and chance to hone my language skills.

In 2005, my then longtime girlfriend Whitney Laatsch graduated from the Henson School at SU with her bachelor’s degree in nursing. Whitney and I had a nice life in Salisbury, and she had originally planned to work at PRMC post-graduation. She surprised me when she announced she had taken a job in Baltimore at Johns Hopkins and wanted to know if I would go with her. This was a real challenge, as my business was booming and I had just one semester left at SU to complete my M.B.A. Thankfully I decided to follow Whitney back to Baltimore. We sold our home in Salisbury and I commuted back and forth two and a half hours each way for classes two nights per week. Whitney and I were married later that year at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. We are celebrating our 15-year anniversary together and 10 years married. We have two boys, Gabriel age 5 and Noah age 3.

I was honestly sad to leave Salisbury, my home for the last 20+ years at the end of 2005, but it was a good change – personally and professionally. I began exploring new careers, as picking up and moving a real estate sales business was not a simple task. Despite having a struggle in looking for work, I did secure a real estate position that put my experience and M.B.A. both to work. I was hired by Osprey Property Company, a boutique real estate development firm, to open an office in Towson, MD. Osprey is a niche firm, with a specialty in affordable rental apartment development. Essentially, we use federal tax credits and state funding, coupled with both private debt and investors. To me it sounded like Greek, but it has since become my real passion: developing truly affordable, high-quality housing in a well-planned, attractive product that compliments the area and serves the hard-working people of the community.

In any given day I am traveling throughout the great state of Maryland looking at prospective sites (both raw land and existing developments), meeting with investors, engineers, lawyers, architects, working with the local jurisdiction and community, while ensuring the contractors can get it built. There is never a dull moment – my job is filled with many challenges but is very rewarding. I am tasked with keeping our development pipeline full, taking projects from ‘concept and proposal’ all the way to ‘built and complete,’ ensuring they are fully leased, all the while keeping the project on schedule and within budget. In my nearly 10 years with Osprey, I have overseen $150 million of development projects. I am most proud of the fact that $94 million of this investment has been on the Eastern Shore of Maryland – which, thanks to a 2010 move – is the area I proudly once again call home.

My most recent projects include the acquisition and complete redevelopment of Riverwoods at St. Michaels, 40 apartments in St. Michaels, MD, across the street from the Inn at Perry Cabin with average rents of about $700 per month. In the very near future, I am working to complete Rivers Edge Apartments and Studio for the Arts, a $15 million acquisition of the blighted building on the Wicomico River next to Brew River and the Salisbury Marina on Fitzwater Street. This project turns the abandoned concrete and metal building that sat for over seven years into a new community of 90 apartments for artists with an average rent of about $600 per month. We are opening very soon! Later in 2015, I will start Cannery Village: 45 single-family lots in Berlin, MD, which will be built as rentals for the first 15 years and will then convert to homeownership thereafter.

Each day I try to surround myself with the best team I can that includes bankers, investors, engineers, architects, contractors, designers, support staff and many others – as certainly I cannot successfully complete these projects without a great team helping me. My education at Salisbury University, and specifically at the Perdue School, both in and out of the classroom helps me every day, coupled with my family and friends. I encourage everyone to pursue his or her passions and success will follow. If I can go from a French and Spanish major at SU to a real estate executive overseeing large-scale development projects, you can too! I am happy to help network or provide some further insight into my profession if you are interested in real estate development.

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