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Walker & Dunlop Lays Off 8% Of Employees, Citing Slow Deal Volume

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker at a 2018 Bisnow event.

Real estate finance firm Walker & Dunlop is laying off 8% of its staff, following industry giants like JLLCBRE and Cushman & Wakefield in making cuts as the market faces low transaction volume and economic uncertainty.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based firm revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday it is cutting 110 jobs. In a letter to staff included in the filing, Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker said it is a "sad day" for the firm. 

"We held on to our entire team entering 2023 thinking that commercial real estate transactions would recover once the Federal Reserve stopped raising rates," he wrote in the letter. "Unfortunately, with the Fed still raising rates, and the market disruption caused by the recent bank failures, we simply don't have visibility into when market activity will return to normal and must take action."

Walker & Dunlop experienced a 31% year-over-year decrease in revenues and a 59% decrease in transaction volume, it said in its fourth-quarter report.

A Walker & Dunlop spokesperson told Bisnow that the cuts came across all roles and levels in the company. With the layoffs, the firm said it will incur one-time costs of up to $4M, but it projects they will save $25M in annual personnel expenses.

Walker's letter also said the company will continue to push forward with aspects of the business that are struggling in today's environment.  

“We could dramatically cut or exit businesses that the market is severely impacting today. We are not," the letter said. "We have the financial wherewithal and confidence in our future growth to continue investing in these businesses."

Tuesday’s announcement goes on to point out factors about which the company is optimistic, including its lending activity guaranteed by the U.S. government and its multifamily-heavy portfolio. It also said the recent bank failures could provide opportunities for its debt brokerage and asset management businesses as local and regional banks pull back on lending. 

Walker & Dunlop was founded in 1937, but it remained a small firm with around two dozen employees up until 2007, when Walker became CEO and began to scale it up rapidly. He took it public in 2010 and has made a series of acquisitions, growing the firm to more than 1,300 employees before this week's round of layoffs.

Many of the largest commercial real estate brokerage firms have similarly announced layoffs or expected layoffs in the last six months.

In February, JLL announced it is preparing for cuts, following weak performance in Q4. In October, CBRE projected it would conduct layoffs early this year as part of a $400M cost-savings move. In Q4 earnings reports, Cushman & Wakefield and Marcus & Millichap said they had reduced headcounts.