CRE Takes First Place at the 20th Annual National Real Estate Challenge in Austin, Texas

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For students in the Master of Science in Real Estate Development (MSRED) program in the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE), the fall semester wrapped up with a Texas-size celebration. The six-member team took first place in the annual National Real Estate Challenge hosted by the University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business Real Estate Center last month.

The invitation-only case competition involved analyzing a recent real estate transaction consummated by a leading global real estate firm. Contestants from some of the nation’s top-ranked schools competed for the title and cash awards. The judges consisted of senior executives from leading real estate companies from across the U.S. 

Each year, up to twenty universities with real estate programs participate in the annual competition in Austin.  Upon accepting the invitation to participate, students begin the process of researching data related to the real estate case. Each team is required to submit a high-quality report and pitch deck with their analyses in 72-hours.  The findings are subsequently presented to a number of judges live in Austin.

The MIT team — Christopher MSRED ‘23, Will Gietema MSRED ‘22, Steven La MSRED ‘22, Clemens Reimer MSRED ‘23, Frank Weiss MSRED ’22, and Ryan Wu MSRED ‘22 — represented the fictitious company, CR Capital, with students serving in a variety of executive roles. It was the first time MIT students had won the UT-Austin Real Estate National Case Competition.

For me, the highlight of the competition was working with the ’22-’23 cohort and seeing how people from different professional backgrounds can come together and create a wining pitch

Frank Weiss ’22
Steven La presenting on stage at national real estate case competition
Steven La ’22 presenting in UT-Austin case competition

This year’s case devised a scenario where participants were members of an investment team managing a real estate private equity fund. The fund was an evergreen fund focused on residential real estate assets that included high-rise apartments, garden-style apartments, single family rentals, affordable housing, student housing and land for development.

As part of the case competition, teams were first asked to discuss the macro-economic conditions that were prevalent in today’s market condition such as high levels of inflation and analyze how this would affect the fund’s performance. Then, teams were provided two specific investment opportunities into an Operating Company and Property Company in the single-family rental asset class and asked to provide a recommendation on whether to invest.

Structurally, the presentation format of the competition consists of a preliminary round, where teams are held to a strict twenty-minute time limit.  CR Capital had done a series of dry-runs beforehand, but nerves were still high – especially going into the final round.  Advancing teams squared-off in a final round with another twenty-minute presentation and ten-minutes for Q&A.

While there were a lot of nerves going through the pitch in front of such seasoned individuals when presenting investment advice – it was a great learning experience.

Steven La ’22

CR Capital’s faculty advisor was Kairos Shen, CRE executive director. The team also attributes success to taking Real Estate Private Equity a new subject within CRE taught by Professor Nori Gerardo Lietz of Harvard Business School. Having that knowledge allowed the team to outline a main objective for the fund, which became their north star – underpinning the entirety of CR Capital’s investment advice – and thus they put forward a highly compelling case.

The Center supported the students by covering a portion of their travel expenses. In addition to their first-place title, the team was awarded $12,500. The team is happy to have participated and to bring the 1st place prize to MIT for the first time in the history of the UT Austin Real Estate Case Competition. 

Placing in the top four after MIT were University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of business; University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management; and Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business.

It was definitely the highlight of my semester and one of the best memories I will take away from my MIT journey.

Steven la ’22

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CRE Takes First Place at the 20th Annual National Real Estate Challenge in Austin, Texas