Category Archives: Real Estate

Meet REED’s New Program Director

Seema D. Iyer, PhD

It is my honor and pleasure to now serve as program director for the University of Baltimore’s Real Estate & Economic Development Program (REED), the only bachelors program in Maryland designed to prepare graduates for careers in real estate investment, commercial property development and/or management, economic development and related fields. Students explore the connection between theory and industry practice as they delve into a curriculum developed in collaboration with real estate professionals, bankers, property managers and others. Our partnering industry experts serve a guest speakers, adjunct faculty and Advisory Board members (see below) to lead classroom discussions, facilitate field trips and site visits, provide internships and offer students invaluable guidance and career opportunities.  UB’s applied and practical approach to the business of real property prepares our students for their future employers and the real estate community. Examples of core courses include:

  • Real Estate Principles and Transactions
  • Real Estate Market Analysis
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Law
  • Property Management
  • Introduction to Economic Development
  • Real Estate Investments

By way of background, I am the Associate Director of the Jacob France Institute, the Merrick School of Business’s economic research center. I oversee the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at JFI which collects, integrates and disseminates community-based quality of life indicators. BNIA-JFI annually produces the City’s Vital Signs report that “takes the pulse” of what’s going on in Baltimore’s neighborhoods. The indicators are bits of information that, when compiled together, reflect the profile of places. By continuously monitoring neighborhoods, we can notice changes that might not be evident without this ongoing measurement. The data has proven invaluable to real estate industry professional, particularly those working in New Market Tax Credit areas.

When I arrived at UB in 2011, I brought with me an idea for a project that would both create a database of as well as expose students to the development review process that most projects need to go through before building permits are issued. Understanding and keeping track of the status of projects during the development review phase is complicated because projects evolve as developers ensure compliance with local land use regulations and produce contextually sensitive final designs. I invited student volunteers to work with me during that first summer semester to develop a sustainable, reliable way to track projects based on publically-available information that did not infringe on the potential need for confidentiality as projects moved through the process.  Based on a prototype developed by the students in 2011, the Baltimore Chapter of the Association of Builders & Contractors has supported ongoing development of the database so that their members of contractors and developers from across the region can efficiently plan and track the status of projects as early as possible in the developmental stage.  In 2014, the Baltimore Pipeline was launched and continues to not only provide early information but also employ the talents and ingenuity of UB students.

This is just the beginning of where the REED program is headed.  I invite all real estate industry professionals to connect with UB’s REED Program in any or all of these potential ways to advance the programs strategic goals:

1)      Raise awareness of the program among Baltimore area industry firms and professionals—Learn more about the program during our Lessons From Legends series and other events hosted at UB

2)      Increase student enrollment—The REED program began in 2007, and aims to grow to 25 new students enrolled per year

3)      Mentor current UB students—Formal internships and informal mentorships are vital ways that students apply classroom knowledge to real work experiences

4)      Ensure timely completion/graduation—Whether students are full-time or part-time, our goal is to identify and overcome barriers to timely completion of their degree

5)      Align curriculum to meet industry needs—Our curriculum is developed in collaboration with industry professionals so that students have the needed skills to hit the ground running on the job or in advanced degrees

Finally, I want to sincerely thank past and present board members for their time, thoughts and support to the REED program and students.  For more information, visit www.ubalt.edu/realestate or contact me at siyer@ubalt.edu.

 REED Board Members, 2014-2015

 Robert M. Aydukovic, CRE (Chair), President, Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation

Nichole Battle, Executive Director, GEDCO

Wendy Blair, Senior Vice President, Remax Commercial Logic

Jeffrey R. Connolly, Director, Asset Management, Enterprise Community Investment, Inc.

Karen Forbes, Asst Dir. Community Access& Partnerships, Md Dept of Housing & Community Development

Kathleen Flynn, Vice President, Alex. Brown Realty

Terri Harrington, Senior Vice President, Jones Lang LaSalle

Toni R. Harris, Regional Property Manager, WPM Real Estate Management Co.

Elizabeth (Liz) Jones, Esquire, Managing Settlement Attorney, Home First Title Group

Jeffrey Kayce, Development Manager, Bozzuto Development

John (Chip) Lambertson, Senior Cost Manager, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

William (Willy) H. Moore, Vice President, Southway Builders

Josh Neiman, Assistant Director for Development, Maryland Economic Development Corporation

Monica A. Robertson, AIA LEED AP, Principal, Hord Coplan Macht

Barbara Simmons, Group Manager / Administrative VP, M & T Bank, Commercial Real Estate Finance

Joseph L. Sutton, President, Insurance Services Group, Inc.

 

What is the Real Estate Industry?

So, how many times have you heard the phrase “the real estate industry” tossed around? In reality, the real estate industry is more than buying and selling real estate, renovating or constructing buildings, or renting versus owning property. It encompasses products and services that make a structure possible to be designed or located on a specific site, utilized or occupied for a specific purpose, or purchasable by an individual or entity. Products are not limited to raw materials which are combined to produce a structure. Services are not limited to listing, showing and transferring of property, or financing the acquisition of a property.

By definition, an industry is a particular form or branch of economic or commercial activity. The real estate industry encompasses design (architecture, interior or landscaping), engineering, buying and selling of land and buildings, financing, insuring, property management and construction. Each of these components has subsets or specializations. There are so many different aspects that you are not limited to a single area if one of the components is of interest.

Designing a building includes architecture, specifically interior design or decorating, and engineering. Architecture is the style and method of design and construction of a building. Interior design or decorating is the art and process of setting up a room, including colors, layout and placement of furniture and decorations.  Engineering is the science and design associated with site layout (civil engineering), including site setup such as grading (slope of the land) and the need for utilities to reach the structure, as well as structural integrity (structural engineering) which is the skeleton of the building and its ability to support the load or weight of the structure and its use. Other types of engineering are also critical, such as mechanical, plumbing and electrical, each of which is responsible for systems specific to each type of service required by a building for its intended occupancy and use.

There is also much to learn about the financial side of the process. A purchase transaction is more than simply borrowing money to buy a property. It requires a clear title to the property, so you can legally transfer ownership and rights of a structure or lot to another individual or entity. Sometimes legal agreements are made through contracts so that the continued assume use can transfer with the property to  its next owner.  Financing can include a third party lending money, such as a bank or a private lender, someone with the cash available loan it to another for a predetermined interest rate, or someone who can buy the property outright with cash. More often than not, an independent appraisal is required to determine if the purchase price is at market rate for the value of the property. If not, then the third-party lender, or even private lender, may require additional cash contributions or collateral to the purchase. If a transaction is made possible by any means other than buying with the proposed owner’s cash, then insurance is required to guarantee that the value of the structure is maintained in the event of damage.

For each of the previously defined components of the real estate industry, the need for entitlements exists. This includes approvals for use of the land for the intended purpose, which may require zoning variance approvals; design approvals of the proposed development, which may require design review approval or urban design approval, depending on the jurisdiction; approvals for construction or installation of utilities in the public right of way, which may require a public works agreement approval or developer’s agreement approval; and most definitely building permits for construction if that is part of the process.

Architects, civil engineers, financing institutions, developers, builders, all need to have their part of the project reviewed and approved at some point during the transaction or development stage. These entitlement stages can be managed by each participant, or it can be taken care of by an individual known as an expeditor. This role requires the ability to logistically manage the flow of information as well to understand the high priority of providing and disseminating information in a way that keeps the project’s review moving forward, while responses are being provided or changes being incorporated.

As generic as your interest may currently be in real estate, you will find that there are multiple areas of opportunity for you to learn about and eventually pursue.  Starting in one area does not limit you in terms of your professional development. In fact, the pursuit of multiple areas of knowledge and experience will only strengthen your core understanding, and make you a stronger participant in this vital industry.

Lisa Junker is an alumna, advisory board member of UB’s Real Estate program and Vice President, Project Coordination at Colbert Matz Rosenfelt, Inc.

Diversity, Innovation and Courage

Look up and not down; look forward and not back; look out and not in; and lend a hand.
-E. E. Hale

Hello everyone! I’m Monica Robertson, MSB Real Estate board member and architect.  Over my sixteen-year career I’ve seen many highs and lows in a profession that is always evolving.  The real estate community in general has experienced one of the most trying economic periods of our generation.  As an architect, I had the unfortunate position of feeling the effects of the credit crunch early.  Given that my area of practice focuses on multi-family housing design, it didn’t take long to see developers put their projects on hold, mostly to lack of debt and equity financing sources.  In a typical project, the design process for an apartment building takes around nine months and anywhere from twelve to twenty-four months to complete construction.  I remember thinking to myself that the contractors were going to be in for a big surprise once they finished projects that were already in the pipeline and that I’d need to do some planning with my colleagues for ways to brace for the downturn.  So, I wrote three words down in my notebook: diversity, innovation and courage.

The first word, diversity, reflects my thoughts on good business practice.  In general, it correlates to the old adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. With anything in your life I feel this saying holds true.  Be diverse, learn and do many different things.  While my firm has a significant practice designing housing, we also design places to heal, learn and play – hospitals, schools, arenas and many other building types in between. This diversity was like an airbag for us.  As a firm we were able to absorb the crash of the housing market better than some of our competitors.

The second word, innovation, came to mind because I knew we were going to need some new tools in our toolbox to set ourselves apart from our competition.  For the limited work that was in the market, there was downward pressure on our fees and upward expectation of better and more efficient designs.  Given that less money was available, we had to design smaller and smarter, capitalizing on well-organized floor plans.  The developers were rewriting their proformas based on new unit mixes, trending toward more studio and one-bedroom units, and increased density.  All signs were pointing to urban, transit-oriented sites with efficient unit plans and amazing resident amenities.  Looking back, I can truly say that some of our best multifamily designs were born in this recession.

The third word, courage, reflected my fear at that time of not knowing what was to lie ahead and knowing that I would need to find courage in times of challenge.  There are many things in life that will require you to be courageous.  If you do not have it, find it.  How? Empower yourself with knowledge and self-confidence.  UB is full of learning and networking opportunities. Ask yourself what interests you most in real estate, find purpose and direction. Absorb as much as you can while you are in school.  As your knowledge base increases, so will your self-confidence.  This will give you courage to move forward and not look back.

Today, my firm is busier than ever.  In nine months, I know that the contractors will be smiling again.  While we may not be out of the woods, the world is looking great out my window. Embrace diversity, be innovative, have courage and you will succeed.

Monica A. Robertson is AIA,  LEED, and  AP certified and a Principal and Vice President, Hord Coplan Macht, Inc. She is also a member of the UB Real Estate Advisory Board.