CPE’s Stars to Watch 2019: Never Bored With Real Estate

In 2018, Sarah Harmeling was part of Phillips Edison’s successful internal acquisition of Phillips Edison Grocery Center REIT II, a 100 percent stock-for-stock transaction, which created a $6.3 billion REIT focused exclusively on grocery-anchored shopping centers.

Sarah Harmeling, 32

Director of Portfolio Management/North Region, Phillips Edison & Company

Sarah Harmeling is responsible for more than 80 retail properties, which keeps her engaged and interested in her job. Image courtesy of Phillips Edison & Company.
Sarah Harmeling is responsible for more than 80 retail properties, which keeps her engaged and interested in her job. Image courtesy of Phillips Edison & Company

In 2018, Sarah Harmeling was part of Phillips Edison’s successful internal acquisition of Phillips Edison Grocery Center REIT II, a 100 percent stock-for-stock transaction that created a $6.3 billion REIT focused exclusively on grocery-anchored shopping centers. A year before that, she led the successful negotiations of 45 property-level debt consents, including 10 full loan assumptions, with numerous lenders and servicers. The effort was essential to Phillips Edison Grocery Center REIT I’s acquisition of the real estate and asset management business from Phillips Edison L.P.

Harmeling knew she wanted to be in the industry ever since she was young, so she studied real estate and finance at the University of Cincinnati, and the field “fits like a glove,” she said.

She got her start as a mortgage analyst at Ohio National Life Insurance Co. “At first, I didn’t know how a life insurance company was involved in real estate,” she said. “I didn’t make the connection at the time. Jumping in there was great to learn. This helped me decide that I wanted to work for an owner or an operator of some kind—just to get more hands-on.”

erry Burian, Phillips Edison Company’s vice president, values Sarah’s upbeat attitude and work ethic. Image courtesy of Phillips Edison & Company.
Terry Burian, Phillips Edison Company’s vice president, values Sarah’s upbeat attitude and work ethic. Image courtesy of Phillips Edison & Company

Harmeling joined Phillips Edison in 2013 and worked for the company’s transactions division. There, she handled a new deal every month, and after closing, her colleagues would take over, which made her miss out on how a property grew and bloomed. “When I transitioned to our asset management group (in 2017), those properties became my responsibility,” she said. Phillips Edison owns 82 grocery-anchored shopping centers in the north region. “I joke and I refer to them as ‘my children.’ I need to know what is happening with them at all times, making sure we make the right decisions to keep them going.”

Harmeling named Stephen Bien, Phillips Edison & Co.’s vice president of transactions, as one of the figures that has mentored her through his candid feedback and guidance. “Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed trying to raise my hand for everything, and he has been very good in helping narrow down that focus and put my time and energy into specific projects instead of spreading myself too thin,” Harmeling explained.

What She Finds Attractive About Real Estate: “I hate being bored and I don’t like to be stuck in one thing. It goes hand in hand with my personality, which is why I’ve always liked it.”

If She Wouldn’t Be in Real Estate, She Would Be … in the tourism industry. She started traveling as a child and has ticked off 38 out of the 50 states. “Maybe a tour guide or travel agent. I love planning trips and traveling. This has always been a passion of mine,” she said.

What Others Say About Her: “She is a driven professional with an upbeat attitude and strong leadership skills. Her creativity, organization, work ethic and willingness to listen and adapt to feedback will take her far as she continues to grow in her career,” said Terry Burian, vice president & assistant general counsel, Phillips Edison & Company.

Meet the rest of CPE’s Stars to Watch for 2019—commercial real estate’s top young talent.