Real Estate Programs: How the Universities of the USA stack up


The unpleasant working hours and the grim atmosphere in the Finance industry has caused many gifted students to jump ship into the sector of real estate and Entrepreneurship. Firms like Google and Facebook have long taken over major banks as dream employers while real estate offers a myriad of job opportunities.

Yet compared to (investment) banking and consulting, recruitment for jobs in the real estate sector is less structured. Large companies in this sector don’t focus their recruitment like tech firms and investment banks at prestigious campuses with set amounts of students hired per year, rather revolving it through personal connections.

This approach seems logical, as many of the skills for real estate jobs for hedge funds or private equity firms require skills like those used in Finance: analysis, pricing, logic. A major difference are people skills.

With such similarities, and current development in job prospects, real estate programs and business programs carry many similarities. It is therefore vital to evaluate both: undergraduate business programs and real estate programs to judge among the most exceptional programs in the nation.

The rank of each program is usually measured through various metrics, as the methodology of Forbes, Princeton Review, and the US News & World Report suggest. Unfortunately, many of these rankings are geared towards prospective students with wellness in mind, emphasizing various metrics that are of little importance for recruiters and businesses.

“It is always important to keep in mind the different interests of the parties involved; the characteristics of a university that stand out to a student are not necessarily aligned with those of a recruiter” said Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

For example, the Forbes ranking bases 50% on the happiness and debt level of students, and an additional 7.5% on students’ graduation rates.

The Princeton Review bases its ratings “on surveys of 137,000 students at the 382 schools,” with each survey covering 80 questions. The questions cover a student’s opinion on:

  • school’s academics/administration,
  • life at their college
  • their fellow students
  • themselves

While this approach certainly creates results with large samples, the qualitative nature of the questions, unreliable nature of peoples’ opinion, and lack of relevant information make it difficult to take such results as a serious metric for program rankings.

The US News & World Report on the other hand arrives at its results for Undergraduate Business rankings by surveying “deans and senior faculty members at each undergraduate business program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.” The opinion of those surveyed is assessed, creating the ranking seen on the website.

Additionally, those same respondents nominate the ten best programs in business specialty areas like accounting, marketing finance, and real estate. Those programs that received the most mentions in each area appear on the site ranked in descending order by number of mentions.

Under these metrics, the real estate rankings for 2017 are as following:

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Southern California
  • New York University
  • University of Texas – Austin
  • University of Florida
  • Marquette University
  • Cornell University

This mention-only ranking notably differs from the results of the overall best undergraduate business programs which are:

  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • New York University
  • Carnegie Mellon University (tied)
  • University of Texas – Austin (tied)
  • University of Virginia (tied)
  • Cornell University (tied)
  • Indiana University – Bloomington (tied)

Other methodologies such as the College Report from Payscale rank schools by the average starting pay and mid-career pay of alumni. The value behind such information is well-reasoned, but the data lacks information regarding graduate degrees and doesn’t cover a considerable portion of students. Until such data can be more comprehensive, it seems as if the US News & World Report has the most usable information for businesses and recruiters alike.

Shopping from The Outside


Among the uncertainty of the retail industry, open-air shopping centers have been outperforming. According to an index that tracks shopping center Real Estate Investment Trusts, shares of REIT’s that own and operate the sector of open-air shopping centers are up 7% since June 3rd. However, year to date, the sector is still down 14%.

“The retail industry is currently very unpredictable” said Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

An open-air mall is comprised of strip malls that don’t have enclosed walkways linking stores, food courts, and power centers which serve as broad, open, centers that include department stores and a few small tenants. It also includes community centers, which are neighborhood shopping centers that offer convenience oriented stores.

Retail landlords have been shaken up in recent years as the online shopping market dominates and major retailers continue to close stores. Occupancy rates declined in the first half of the year, however most 2017 store closures have already occurred due to the fact that tenants usually stay in the second half as they look to the year-end holiday profits. As a result, some REITs are gaining a lot of traction.

Federal Realty, a major REIT focusing on shopping centers, has recently announced a $345 million joint venture this month with Primestor Development Inc. This comes as an attempt to overtake a majority stake in a portfolio comprised of retail properties in several communities in Southern California.

Strip centers are not as susceptible to the shortcomings of the retail industry because they have less exposure to apparel retailers and offer more affordable leases for their tenants. Mall landlords are working harder to woo tenants that are more in tune with customer preference and provide a leisurely shopping experience.


Beating Forecasts, Germany Gallops into Online Retail


Alike other develop markets across the world, traditional retail continues to face pressure from the growing e-commerce sector in Germany. Data from the Germany Consumer & Retail Report Q4 2017 suggests that within 10 years online purchases rose from 37.3% of the population to 70.4%. The response of retailers is typically expanding into the online sales themselves,  increasing competition within the industry.

Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors commented, “despite Germany’s conservative market structure, past forecasts regarding online retail were underestimating the adaptivity of the German consumer,” further adding, “analysts might be wrongfully tempted to limit the horizon of technology to retail even though there is a myriad of opportunities for the market to expand.”

Within this online marketplace, Amazon Germany remains the industry leader. It established a workforce of 10,000 people and nine major logistic sites in a rapidly developing market. The opportunity for Amazon’s third party retailers outside of Germany to establish steady cash flows from sales in the market further presents dependency and growth potential on the retailer.

Another major player in the industry is the online fashion retailer Zalando, founded in Berlin in 2008. Spanning over 15 markets in Europe, it has grown to over 10,000 employees and serves as a key entry point for brands new to the German market. The company envisions an increasing demand across Europe for online retail, investigating opening additional fulfilment centers outside the country.

The growth of online sales is eating into the profitability of major department stores, but investors should be careful of completely dismissing opportunities in this sector. While Karstadt’s recent bankruptcy serves as a reminder for the difficulties in this space, M&A activity could predict a reversal in the trend.

Prosperous European Real Estate Market Leads to Growth for Alternative Assets


Low interest rates imposed by the European Central Bank have made the European real estate market surge in foreign investments in recent years. The artificially low rates deem stocks risky and bonds expensive, nudging people to real estate investments instead. Additionally, momentum on real estate prices has occurred amidst quelled concerns regarding a rise in European populism, pricing in political stability and success of the Eurozone’s economic recovery.

CBRE Group analyzed investor’s preference for the European market and attributed it to widespread attractive Sharpe ratios, liquidity, transparency, and strong economic fundamentals growing rental value in the area.

In these flourishing market conditions, Germany emerges as a hotbed for real estate investments, while ongoing Brexit negotiations have seized London’s long-established place at the top.

The European real estate transaction volume has been experiencing steady demand and shortage of supply. Yet it is the new market trends are hidden within the promising industry performance; investments in alternative real estate (e.g. datacenters) are benefiting due to urbanization and changing consumer habits of e-commerce. Per the Global Alternatives Survey 2017 produced by Willis Towers Watson, investments in alternative assets have hit $6.5 trillion for the first time, with real estate managers managing the largest share of assets at 35%. While the report cautions investment strategies on debt leverage, European investment are regarded as safe for “as long as prolonged deflation can be avoided.”

Keith Knutsson from Integrale Advisors commented on the growth of alternative assets, stating that “for investors to continue locking-in alpha opportunities in a capital-filled, low supply market, new forms of alternative assets are vital.”

Principle Valued Approach outlined by Keith Knutsson


Successful real estate investment requires an enormous amount of commitment, sometime requiring more hours than the typical 40-hour work week. But, this comes easily when you are incredibly passionate. Investment management professionals must balance on the entrepreneurial tight rope, sticking to their niche market, seeking off market deals, and leveraging the full capacity of your team. Naturally, tension arises and there is a need to change gears, which requires patience.

Some of the most successful centi-millionaire family offices steward their money effectively because the approach is concise, with efficient means of implementation, and strategic. While some deals go smoothly and others feel like roller coasters, being able to maintain composure and patience while enduring the short-term calamity is key for focusing on the end-goal.

In contrast, those who fail to occupy enough valuable land, don’t envision the long-term, don’t add value, don’t optimize their operations, and are impatient. As specified by Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors, “the key is to identify a niche and commit, regardless of distractions.” A niche offers credibility as well as an ease of communication with a common goal in time. Intrinsically investing in your company is important because it is ultimately the driving force that sells others and convinces others that they feel comfortable putting their money with you.

Keith Knutsson evaluates Blockchain and the Commercial Real Estate Industry


“Blockchain will have a significant impact on he Commercial Real Esate Industry” states Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

A blockchain is a type of decentralized database that supports and provides a constantly expanding inventory of records, termed blocks, which are fortified against alteration and adjustment. Each block possesses a timestamp and a link to a previously created block. As a blockchain runs, it effectively serves as a log for all transactions. Every user is able to link up to the network, post new transactions and authenticate transactions. Blockchain has seen tremendous growth in the past couple of years. In fact, some of the world’s largest banks, central banks, governments, universities and technology companies are working with blockchain, with implications soon to be seen in the commercial real estate market.

If the commercial real estate industry utilizes blockchain, the impact would be huge. The blockchain could provide information regarding all buyers, sellers, title work, reporting, lease comps and vendor work on any individual commercial property. Having this information at your fingertips could cut out paperwork, enhance market transparency and shorten the speed to competing a transaction from days/weeks/months to minutes or seconds.

Blockchain has the potential to:

  • Enable a commercial property to have a digital signature containing building reports, performance, and legal information. This information could be easily accessed online by authorized users.
  • Allow for commercial real estate deals to be concluded in a matter of seconds.
  • Better administer the commercial property sales or lease payment process.

Real estate transactions will start to resemble the buying and selling of commodities. With blockchain, properties in popular areas could change owners many times a year, month, or even week. The system aims to make property purchases quicker, cheaper and more secure by storing all title information digitally and enabling virtual transactions to take place. This is the future of the real estate market.

The Benchmark Developments on the East Coast


All around the United States, particularly in big cities, there is rampant construction as capital flows into large urban areas. Q1 and Q2 2017 have revealed construction of 40 million square feet of office development. At this pace, new office space will, for this fiscal year, will be more than this past year’s construction of 76 million square feet and already more new space than all of 2015. Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors claims, “current market indicators point to commercial real estate remaining on a strong path for investors in 2017.” On the East coast, Washington D.C., New York City and Boston all have significant high-rise developments in large downtown markets.

In Washington, DC, developer Hoffman-Madison is overhauling 24 acres of waterfront land along the Potomac River. The Wharf project, once completed will bring 3.2 million square feet of new space to the area. A unique component of the development is an entertainment street named Jazz Alley, containing a concert hall, boardwalk and pier, rum distillery and one of Hilton’s popular Canopy hotels. In addition there will be two waterfront luxury condos, as well as the prior announcement from the American Psychiatric Association to occupy 63,000 square feet of office space, the first tenant for The Wharf.

New York, New York continues to find new plots to develop. Most recently, the Hudson Yards and West Manhattan are being developed. The Related Cos. $20 billion development is speculated as the most expensive development currently in the world. This investment is a composed of EB-5 investors that will fund the new mega development. EB-5 investors consist of foreign investors that reap benefits from the United States government, such as expedited citizenship for family members, while helping out with domestic jobs and capital flow into the United States. Related along with Oxford Properties Group have already raised $600 million in EB-5 funds. U.K. based Children’s Investment Fund agreed to a $1.2 billion construction loan to both developers in order to commence construction. The development is leasing up quickly with tenants, most notably Time Warner along with several of its subsidiaries.

In West Manhattan, Brookfield properties is leading the development of 1.5 acres of mixed-use space consisting of a 60,000 square foot Whole Foods, and is being viewed as a “major culinary anchor” to the area. Notable tenants are the National hockey League and the Skadden Arps law firm, who will occupy some of the 2.1 million square feet of space in the emerging 67-story One Manhattan West tower, making it one of the tallest buildings in the city.

Finally, the Seaport project by WS Development is underway in Boston. Located on the waterfront and only minutes from Logan International Airport, the aim is to convert 23 acres into one of Boston’s most vibrant mixed-use communities. The development is composed of 2.8 million square feet of office and research space and 3.2 million square feet of residential space. This will be blended into the landscape containing 8.8 acres of green space and four new hotels.

The Safety Third Culture


Frequently in the work place we are bombarded with the redundant safety protocols and procedures to ensure injury prevention. Safety Third is a concept that Mike Rowe of Discovery Channels, ‘Dirty Jobs’ came up with after filming several seasons in uniquely dangerous situations. The underlying idea behind it is to promote safety for yourself first, then others around you, and finally what the company would like you to be safe about. However, for good reasons, companies invest significant resources into reducing exposure to risks for their tenants, employees, and customers.

Frequently we look at these sometimes-ridiculous regulations and restrictions as inhibitors to what we really want to do. But what cannot be debated is the positive effect of health and safety legislation over time. Namely, since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act passed in 1974 in the United Kingdom, there has been an 85% decline in the number of work place fatalities.

A firm’s brand success is defined by the service excellence and the provision of encouraging safe places to work, shop and live. Serious damage can be done to a firm’s name in the event of an unexpected incident. At Cushman & Wakefield, they promote a Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE) in their company culture. They conduct this in way that blends into every aspect of their working lives through partnerships with employees and security in the environment, based on continuous improvement.

To incorporate this philosophy effectively three components must be implemented: Leadership, systems, and culture. By endorsing strong leadership involvement in safety programs, this benefits employers and employees alike. If there is an area of concern an employee becomes aware of, they can give feedback to their line management to seek implementation of new safety procedure. Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors speaks on means of implementation claiming, “systems offer streamlined and integrated implementation of new safety protocols.” This open dialogue of HSSE allows for better management of risk and encourages innovation and improvement in services and products that would not otherwise come about.

Eurozone Industrial Output is shining


Output at the eurozone’s mines, factories, and utilities rose at the fastest annual pace in more than five years in May, a clear indication that the area’s economic recovery is picking up.

The eurozone economy grew at the fastest rate in over two years during the first three months of 2017, outcompeting the U.S., U.K. and Japan. The European Union’s official statistics agency released output numbers, indicating Eurozone output was up 1.3% from April, and 4% from May 2016. The annual rate of increase was the fastest since August 2011, exceeding expectations.

Industrials, accounting for one fifth of total economic activity in the eurozone, contributed to 0.2% of growth. There were signs in April and May that the second quarter has seen more normal levels of output from the utilities, with energy production up in both quarters.

The positive results in industrial output was supported by a large increase in the production of capital goods, serving as a sign of increased investment by eurozone and international businesses. Among the zone’s largest members, France led the way with a 1.9% increase on the month.

According BNP Paribas, the eurozone economy grew by 0.7% in the past three months, marking an acceleration from the 0.6% rate of quarter-to-quarter growth recorded in the past

“Such improvements will force the European Central Bank to revise some of its policies moving forward in order to adjust to growth projections” said Keith Knutsson of Integrale Advisors.

ECB’s economists have raised their growth forecasts twice in the past year, now predicting growth to continue at 2% a year. In response to the strength of the recovery in the first half of the year, the European Central Bank has indicated it may soon withdraw some aspects of it’s current stimulus package. On the other hand, there are a few indications that inflation is to rise and stay at the central bank’s target.

Disruptions Through the Lens of Opportunity


Amid competing to be a top performer in macro real estate markets, there are certain traits that distinguish the good from the great. Many occupiers have been forced to adjust to market demands, specifically – new technology, the battle for talent, and slower economic growth – compelling investors to adjust to meet the needs of their tenants. Huge demand across global markets is the result.

Technology continues to influences our everyday lives more and more whether we are paying attention to it or not. Technology continues to mold the way in which we conduct business. Traditional businesses are having to adapt to the new methods to stay competitive. The ‘how?’, ‘why?’, and ‘where we work’ has been completely deconstructed taking on new meaning. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 71% of individuals believed that enhanced digital capabilities increased profitability. On the other hand companies resistant to change may face uncertain futures due to the magnitude of the digital disruption.

The work force has also seen a large disruption due to technology. In a survey of C-suite level executives 90% report that a retention among technology talent is a priority amongst the gamut of business challenges. To expound upon this, in the U.S.A.’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicted by 2020 for there to be a shortage of 1 million technical professionals. Therefore, the battle for technical talent will continue to grow, according to statistics.

Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a global economic forecast called ‘Too slow for too long’. Although the IMF does not seem optimistic, there is always opportunity. Disruption through corporate response combined with slow economic growth is a breeding ground for ideas. On one side, stymied growth has forced businesses to become savvy in reducing operational costs and protecting margins. However, corporate confidence is low and acts as a brake on business investment. Many commentators are referring to this established reality as a ‘new normal’.

Global Cities are seeing increased levels of occupier mobility as disruptions continue and new geography of occupancy emerges. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been steadily increasing since 2012 and provides strong evidence to support the globalization of occupier activity. As reported by, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), global FDI flows were up 25% year-on-year in 2015 at around $1.7 trillion. Both financial and corporate restructuring contributed to this being the highest volume of flows since the beginnings of the financial crisis in 2006.

The traditional spatially fixed occupier is being questioned and redesigned to accommodate a nomadic type of worker. It is noted in Knight Frank, Global Cities, that “fragmentation of business processes ha[ve] led to the rapid rise of ‘shoring’. . . [and] relocated to locations that have clear labour or cost advantages.” Cities that have benefitted greatly from this are Bucharest, Manila, Shanghai, Warsaw and Bangalore. There is also anticipated growth in Trinidad & Tobago, Kenya and Peru.

Young vagabond workers are seeking a more flexible space in densely populated cities such as Berlin, Austin, London, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and San Francisco. These cities have prospered due to the strong digital demographic. An example of corporate leadership through future foresight can be observed in General Electric’s decision to relocate from Fairfield, Connecticut to Boston, Massachusetts. Their vitality as a company is contingent upon their success in the software innovation and finding tech talent. Another example is Amazon’s decision to move from Slough, in Berkshire to the Shoreditch tech cluster of London. Also noting this shift is Integrale Advisors’ Keith Knutsson, claiming “flexibility is the driving force today for choosing a dream workplace.”

Emerging in the background, there will continue to be an onset of robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will disrupt current market conditions and create new business processes. As these altering forces take root, new property and location choices will be essential. Dr. Lee Elliott, head of Commercial Research for Knight Frank, said it best, “as many age old businesses will testify, complacency never pays in a disruptive environment.”