A history of Faith

Greystar Chairman and CEO Bob Faith wound up in the real estate profession almost by default, after plans to follow his father into engineering as a petroleum engineer were stymied by the downturn in the energy sector in the 1980s.


He decided to continue his education, since jobs were scarce, looking at either business school or law school, and ended up going to Harvard Business School to pursue his MBA.

After graduating in 1986, Faith was hired by Trammell Crow, whose eponymous company is known for mentoring newly minted MBA’s and testing their mettle; many of the real estate industry’s most talented leaders began their careers at Trammell Crow Co.

Starting out in Oklahoma, where there was little development going on at the time, Faith helped to grow the service business, focusing on leasing and management. When he later moved to Charlotte, he began doing development for the company, while continuing to grow the service business in that market.

“Mr. Crow was a visionary in the real estate industry. He was one of the first to recognize the importance of having a well-established service platform to provide a sound foundation for investment and development, which tend to be more cyclical. That evergreen business model is the same model we have followed at Greystar for the past 20 years. His influence on our company and the industry endures to this day,” said Faith.

By 1991, the S&L crisis had disrupted the real estate market and Faith left Trammell Crow, cofounding Starwood Capital with his Harvard Business School classmate, Barry Sternlicht, in order to take advantage of opportunities created by the market’s disarray.

Over the next 18 months, Starwood bought approximately 7,000 apartment units at a fraction of replacement cost through purchase of equity and distressed debt from troubled lending institutions and the RTC.

The Starwood Capital funds contributed much of that portfolio to the IPO of Sam Zell’s Equity Residential Properties Trust in August 1993.

Also in 1993, Faith went out on his own, purchasing the Greystone Group and combining the Greystone and Starwood names to arrive at “Greystar.” The new company started with a sound foundation in the service business, initially managing 9,000 apartments in Houston.

Greystar’s fee management grew at first organically then at a faster clip through acquisitions, finally landing at the top spot of the NMHC’s top 50 managers list in 2011, where it has remained.

Since 1994, Greystar has sponsored funds and separate accounts that now total over $7.5 billion of assets under management, partnering with some of the top investors from the U.S. and around the globe.

While continuing to lead and grow Greystar, Faith also served as Secretary of Commerce for South Carolina from 2002 to 2006.

Greystar gained a national footprint and a student housing management portfolio with the 2008 acquisition of JPI’s management business and continued to execute a series of acquisitions that culminated this year with Riverstone Residential Group. These acquisitions gave the company a leading position in many of its markets and helped propel its growth and international presence.

“Our recent expansion in Mexico and the U.K. is likewise driven by our clients’ interest in owning residential real estate in these international markets and our desire to deliver to them the same quality of real estate services in those markets as they have come to expect from us in the U.S.,” said Faith.

Like his mentor Mr. Crow, Faith is changing the landscape of the multifamily service business. Also like Crow, he never underestimates the value of human equity and is quick to recognize the talent and hard work of his team.

Greystar Executive Director Stacy Hunt describes Faith as a true innovator, who comes to work each day with a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye, his labs, Goose and Dakota, close by his side. “He has a deep understanding of domestic and international markets and real vision for our industry,” said Hunt.

What does Faith love most about running the most prolific apartment company in the nation? “The pace of the business. There is never a dull moment at Greystar. We work for the premier institutions in the industry. They are constantly challenging us with interesting ideas and assignments. Sometimes those deals and assignments take us to new markets and even new countries. It’s hard work, but very rewarding,” Faith responds, adding that the most rewarding aspect also is the most challenging.

“There is no resting on your laurels. Usually there is little time to celebrate the win before we have to move on to the next stage of the assignment or take on a new important project for a client or partner,” he said.

When Faith is not working, he spends time with his three children: one who is at the University of Virginia, one who is at Columbia University and the youngest who is still at home in high school. “They are my passion,” he said.