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

Students credit team’s diverse background to developing a strong winning pitch

By R. Kelly Cameron, EdD  | MIT Center for Real Estate

For students in the Master of Science in Real Estate Development (MSRED) program in the MIT Center for Real Estate (MIT CRE), the fall semester wrapped up with a Texas-style celebration last month. In their first time participating in the contest, 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.

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 competition in Austin.  Upon accepting the invitation, students begin the process of researching data related to the real estate case and submit a pitch-deck with their analysis within 72 hours. The findings are subsequently presented in person to a panel of judges.  

“This year’s case outlined a set of facts where we were members of an investment team managing a real estate private equity fund,” says Steven La MSRED ‘23. “We were asked to discuss the macro-economic conditions prevalent in today’s market condition, such as high levels of inflation, and analyze how this would affect the fund’s performance. We were then given two specific investment opportunities and asked to provide a recommendation on whether to invest.”

The MIT team consisted of a diverse group of students from around the globe and from the program’s 2022 and 2023 cohorts. In addition to La, the team included Christopher (who prefers a mononym) MSRED ‘23, Will Gietema MSRED ‘22, Clemens Reimer MSRED ‘23, Frank Weiss MSRED ’22, and Ryan Wu MSRED ’22.  

“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 winning pitch,” says Weiss. 

The format of the competition consists of a preliminary round, where teams are held to a strict twenty-minute time limit for a first presentation.  Advancing teams squared-off in a final round with another twenty-minute presentation and ten minutes for a question-and- answer period with judges. 

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

The team’s faculty advisor was Kairos Shen, MIT CRE executive director. The students also attributed success to taking a new course, Real Estate Private Equity, taught by Nori Gerardo Lietz, a professor at Harvard Business School. The students say that lessons from that course prepared them to outline a main objective for the fund — which became their north star — and allowed them to put forward a highly compelling case.

The department also supported the students by covering their travel expenses. In addition to their first-place title, the team was awarded $12,500.

The department also supported the students by covering a portion of their travel expenses. In addition to their first-place title, the team was awarded $12,500.

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.