Outstanding young professionals often get started in business while still in college. But few manage to build a real estate empire by age 18.

Jeremy Shirley, now 26, originally intended to become a stockbroker and traded stocks while studying international business and finance at UCCS.

Inspired by an assignment for one of his classes, “I started looking at the incredible growth of UCCS and wondered how that impacts the housing around it,” he said. “I did a white paper studying supply and demand, real estate values and rental rates for students.”

Shirley determined student rental units were a pretty good investment.

“I purchased my first house my second year in college,” he said. “Then I convinced banks to lend me money and purchased a few more.”

Shirley continued to grow his portfolio until “prices started getting higher and a lot of people jumped on student rentals, so I slowed down on purchasing properties.”

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As president and owner of University Property Managers, he now has his sights set on building his own apartments from the ground up.

“There still is opportunity there,” he said.

Shirley said he didn’t have much time for extracurricular activities during college because he was busy building his real estate business, but he did manage to co-found the UCCS Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club.

“There was a lot of positive information coming out about young people like Mark Zuckerberg creating world-changing products,” Shirley said. “We founded the club to cultivate more interest in innovation.”

Upon graduation, he joined the Catalyst Campus and was an integral part of its early growth. As community manager, he helped the organization build an ecosystem to nurture new businesses. He also joined the board of Peak Startup, helping young entrepreneurs connect with the people and resources they need to be successful.

While at the Catalyst Campus, “I had wonderful mentors who empowered me to get my real estate license,” he said.

He joined The Paramount Group in 2015 as associate broker and property manager and since December 2016 has been a broker at Olive Real Estate Group Inc.

“When I joined Olive, it felt like family,” he said. “I absolutely love commercial real estate and see doing it for the rest of my life.”

Shirley has already been recognized by his peers for his commitment to and innate “feel” for the real estate business. He recently was named Rookie of the Year by the Southern Colorado Commercial Brokers organization.

— Jeanne Davant

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I am lucky enough … to have landed where I have always dreamed to be working in commercial real estate. My goal is to create meaningful, sustainable and community-focused development projects.