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A couple of weeks ago, some of our students organized a competition for students across Canada.  As much as I would like to think that everything educational happens only in a classroom, much learning happens outside of a classroom.  Future leaders take advantage of the opportunities offered to them and show what they are capable of.

The Undergraduate Real Estate Case Competition (URECC) invited teams from universities across Canada to study a property for more than a month and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges drawn from the most senior level of the industry.  The organizers, led by Sam Ives, Dan Adams, Sarah Reeve and Jill Brown, talked friends in the industry, such as the title sponsor Allied REIT, and raised about $40,000 to host the event at the Ritz Carleton in downtown Toronto.

The prizes included $5000 to the winning team (with lesser amounts to the second and third place teams).  This competition was noteworthy since select sponsors offered prizes to individuals or teams who excelled in specific skills: sustainability (Reid’s Heritage Homes), financial analysis (Oxford Properties) and best presenter (Deloitte).  Members of those organizations read and judged the student’s proposals.

As a teacher, I know that each class focuses on a specific skill or idea.  Students do not always see how the pieces fit together.  Each of the finalists did well in each component separately, because the field was very competitive and judging often focused on a weakest link.  The finalists connected ideas.  To be convincing in the area of sustainability, knowing the science helps.  To have convincing financial numbers, a careful risk and sensitivity analysis makes sense of those numbers.  The winning team displayed such unity of vision that, during the presentation, they were nearly completing each other’s sentences.  All of the finalists gathered extra information to convey an atmosphere, not simply proposing a building with some financial statements, to show how their ideas would add value.

This competition shows what the top real estate students at Canadian universities can do.  The experience gives team members something concrete which they can talk about during a job interview.  In that sense, the future of the profession is safe as it manages the coming generational change.

The organizers made sure that participants and judges could meet and pick each other’s brain.  The real estate business is varied and there is always something more to learn.  For example, the judges noted that one team had a great idea but “undersold it”.  Another team wanted to build parking in a way that the City of Toronto would not allow.

The URECC competition is a good introduction to the stress of a real business proposal.  As careful as the teams were and as smart as they are, the judges noted that nothing can prepare you for the feeling of having a winning proposal.  The first feeling is “Yes!!!” followed immediately by “Oh S***!  What did we miss that caused the competitor to bid less?”

Congratulations to the organizers and all of the participants.