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Graduate Real Estate Series: University of Denver’s Master of Science in Real Estate and the Built Environment

My path to pursuing a graduate degree at the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management at the University of Denver (DU) started when I realized that I wanted more freedom than my 40-hour-a-week career would allow me. Investing in real estate seemed like the obvious path to financial freedom, so I started reading all the real estate investment books I could get my hands on, acquiring single-family rental properties, and looking for ways to take my investment skillset to a professionalized level. The Master of Science in Real Estate and the Built Environment (MS-REBE) program seemed like a perfect fit. I was especially excited by the chance to network with the local investment community.

University of Denver Real Estate

University of Denver campus. CW221 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

University of Denver Student Interview Deep Dive

University of Denver Real Estate

As for costs, the base tuition for 2022-2023 is $73,680, but the typical scholarship range covers 10-40% of tuition. If you’re a GI Bill recipient like me, the program has an unlimited Yellow Ribbon match, which means $0 out of pocket in most cases. It’s definitely an incredible value for veterans. The school also has a “4+1” program which allows certain undergraduate students to begin taking MS coursework during their senior year and carry straight into the Master’s program, compressing the timeline and cost to receive both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the program.

The MS-REBE curriculum at DU is divided into four pillars and runs on a 10-week quarter system. However, Master’s candidates are free to build their 48-credit degree plan as they see fit from among the classes within each pillar, and there are no restrictions aside from a few courses which have prerequisites within the program. The four pillars are Property Development, Real Estate, Construction Management, and Integrated Project Delivery. There are also four suggested Core classes to the degree which give a baseline in each of these areas, but they are not mandatory. For my degree, I focused on courses primarily in the areas of real estate investment, asset management, and finance. For students who want to take even more control over their education, faculty may sponsor up to two 4-credit directed-study quarters per student, which can encompass unique or highly specific studies in the field.

Dr. Vivek Sah, former Director of the Lied Center for Real Estate at UNLV, is our new Director of the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management. The faculty members are all PhDs, and among the other prestigious qualifications attached to various faculty members are CCIM, SIOR, FRICS, CPM, and many more. These are not just academics; they are truly elite practitioners in their fields. DU is also committed to pushing the envelope technologically, evidenced by the recently opened Marion J. Crean Collaboratory. This space at the Burns School is equipped with a Liquid Galaxy panoramic multimedia wall, a Bluescape collaborative workspace, and advanced telepresence equipment. Using these technology suites, students and faculty are expanding the art of the possible for Real Estate education.

The Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) Club organizes regular meetings, outings, and networking opportunities. The school also encourages students to participate in challenges and contests such as the Colvin Case Study Challenge and the NAIOP Challenge. In fact, the NAIOP Challenge is even available as a course for credit, for students who wish to participate.


Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) Club

The Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) Club is open to any Undergraduate and Graduate students to join. The purpose of the club is to create opportunities/events that interest Burns students. Typically the RECM Club hosts a couple of events a quarter, such as site tours, networking events, industry coffee connections, panels, etc. Click here to signup for RECM.

NAIOP Challenge

Student teams analyze and formulate real-world solutions for an existing complex real estate problem, culminating in internal and external competitions. Includes a comprehensive written report and oral presentation. This course will carry into part of the Spring Quarter for those on the external competing team.

Colvin Case Study

The Colvin Case Study Challenge is a national intercollegiate real estate case study competition for full or part‐time students enrolled in a college or a university real estate program (undergraduate or graduate or a university-sanctioned real estate club/organization). The Challenge is to document a recent innovative real estate project within the team’s metropolitan region. Unlike many other case competitions, this is a post‐development report and documentation of a recently completed project (or project phase). The Challenge is designed to hone professional skills and reveal the knowledge base and understanding of markets, project valuation, finance, urban design and sustainability, entitlement processes and operational issues. Round 1: Teams submit a written case study of an existing real estate development project. Round 2: Four teams will be chosen to present their case study, in person, to an industry panel of judges at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Course Offerings

REAL 4000: Triple Bottom Line and the Built Environment An exploration of the importance of real estate and the built environment through triple bottom-line analysis of its social, environmental, and economic impacts. The course considers a “cradle to cradle” sustainability model that links the various phases, functions, and professions of real estate, project delivery, and asset/facility management to create holistic, value-generating solutions for society. Professional practices/skillsets associated with the many career options that engage the built environment are demonstrated.
REAL 4007: Real Estate Financial Analysis Alternative analysis formats that can be applied to a wide array of real estate analysis issues; simulates working/decision-making environment; structured overview of analysis tools focused on specific facets of multidimensional real estate decision-making environment; applications in investment analysis, feasibility analysis, valuation, market analysis, and report writing and presentation.
REAL 4010: Real Estate Capital Markets This course exposes students to the commercial real estate capital markets; including real estate investment trusts (REITs) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), plus institutional investors. The complexities of capital market products are discussed, students receive a greater understanding of the alternatives that are available. The class includes lectures, guest speakers, readings, class discussions, a major REIT analysis project, and case studies.
REAL 4140: Global Perspectives in Real Estate Focus on inbound and outbound U.S. real estate transactions and the cultural issues that impact these transactions.
REAL 4210: Planning, Entitlements and Public Finance Real estate development, place-making, and community building require the combined efforts of the public, for-profit, and non-profit sectors. Participants in the real estate development process need to understand and appreciate the sometimes competing, and sometimes collaborative interests of governments, agencies, and the private developer. This course is designed to familiarize students with the overall context of urban planning and land use. Students will discover the variety of participants in the development process and will become familiar with the project entitlement process, zoning and land use regulation. Students will also examine public/private financing structures such as public-private partnerships (P3s) and will become familiar with detailed calculations relating to Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) and Metropolitan Districts.
REAL 4337: Real Estate Securities/Syndications/Entrepreneurship Introduces real estate securities with emphasis on private offerings, securities, registration requirements and exemptions, investor suitability, syndication, property acquisition, marketing the property, and tax and legal structure considerations.
REAL 4347: Management of Income Properties Explore the complexities of managing apartments, condominiums, office buildings, industrial property and shopping centers. This course covers rental markets, development of rental schedules, leasing techniques and negotiations, repairs and maintenance, tenant relations, merchandising, selection and training of personnel, accounting, and owner relations.
REAL 4357: Corporate Real Estate & Management This course provides a snapshot view of the corporate real estate life cycle and how to strategically plan and manage it. The course addresses key CRE issues including globalization, technology, sustainability and the enterprise business model. Within the framework of a corporate or agency structure, facility management is addressed as a distinct and critical component of successful performance. Topics include facility planning and forecasting, lease administration, space planning, allocation, and management, workplace planning, budgeting, and economic justification, real estate acquisition and disposal, sustainability management, construction project management, move, add, change (MAC) management, operations, maintenance and repair, technology management, emergency, security and life-safety management, and general administrative services.
REAL 4369: Real Estate Taxation Tax factors affecting real estate investments; legal forms of ownership, depreciation, tax basis, tax impacts on exchanges, syndications, real estate securities, and other federal laws affecting real estate.
REAL 4400: Real Estate Principles & Practices Principles of real estate, real estate industry and its markets; legal aspects of home ownership from consumer’s point of view, including property rights, title concepts, deeds, purchase contracts, listing contracts, law of agency, environmental issues and disclosures, types of mortgages, basics of home loan finance, appraisal investment and tax benefits. Partially satisfies Colorado real estate broker licensing requirements.
REAL 4407: Income Property Finance Conventional and alternative (creative) financing techniques, mortgage banking, law and markets, loan underwriting analysis, the impact of monetary and fiscal policies on the real estate and mortgage markets, emphasis on case studies and microcomputer applications.
REAL 4417: Income Property Valuation & Appraisal Residential/Commercial appraising, including market cost and income approaches to value, gross rent multiplier analysis, neighborhood and site analysis; valuation of income properties including market cost and income approaches to value; capitalization theory and techniques, mortgage-equity analysis, and investment value concepts.
REAL 4467: Property Development & Feasibility Commercial real estate development analysis & feasibility includes economic base analysis, tenant demand analysis, development and construction cost analysis, lease-up analysis, financial feasibility, leasing and property management practices. 5 major property types, office, industrial, retail, apartment and hotel are covered.
REAL 4477: Income Property Investment Comprehensive analytical framework for real estate investment decision-making, equity investment decisions via discounted cash flow, and risk analysis models and strategic planning concepts, structuring parameters to maximize rates of return while controlling downside risks; emphasis on theory, concept building, growth, sustainability and environmental issues and practical application to various types of investment properties.
REAL 4500: Argus Financial Analysis The central focus of this course is to expose the real estate student to a broad array of analysis and presentation tools, with practical applications of the Argus software through interactive examples and case studies. The course covers applications in Investment Analysis, Lease Analysis, Valuation, Feasibility Analysis Budgeting, Report Writing and Presentation. It is assumed that the student understands basic real estate principles and financial analysis.
REAL 4701 – Topics: CityCrafting – Scaling the Regeneration of Cities CityCraft® is a process that has been in the making for more than 100 years over the course of three generations and is deeply rooted in the “Master Building” tradition. The course begins with the definition of Master Building at the building and community scale and its implications for the long-term sustainability of buildings and neighborhoods as well as the holistic health of human community. We will explore how the tradition of Master Building has been lost over time and the resulting implications of that loss for our society, including why our buildings and cities are no longer viable in the long term and harm the economic and social health of our communities. We will outline the CityCraft® process and the pathway forward to a 21st century Master Building tradition that requires integrated thinkers and holistic solutions for our buildings and neighborhoods. These solutions heal the social, economic and environmental fabric of our cities and address the most challenging economic, environmental and social justice issues of our time. This course will be directly connected to the CityCraft Integrated Research Center. We will use specific projects and issues identified for participants to allow them to test and apply what they are learning in the classroom, generating real world experience in applying the CityCraft® process as part of an ongoing CityCraft Center.
REAL 4701 – Topics: Real Estate Market Analysis Real estate investment decisions are increasingly informed by data. This course explores the modeling tools and techniques used across the real estate industry. The course introduces foundational demographic and economic models and focuses on data collection, analysis, and modeling through spreadsheet and statistical applications.  Students are introduced to data sources for demographic, economic, industry, and real estate market information. Statistical models as decision-support tools are taught. Student projects focus on data collection, data analysis, decision analysis, and written presentation skills.
REAL 4800: NAIOP Challenge Student teams analyze and formulate real-world solutions for an existing complex real estate problem, culminating in internal and external competitions. Includes a comprehensive written report and oral presentation. This course will carry into part of Spring Quarter for those on the external competing team.
REAL 4980: Advanced Valuations & Report Writing Learn techniques not yet institutionalized nor commonly practiced in the field. Includes writing skills appropriate to specialized nature of appraisal reports, and composition of a complex filed problem report to prepare student for writing “demonstration” report required for MAI professional designation.
CMGT 4110: Pre-Construction Integration & Planning This course examines the role of preconstruction services, team integration, and joint design planning in in various Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) approaches. Various tools and techniques associated with preconstruction services and design planning from the proposal stage through the design stages of a project is considered.
CMGT 4120: Construction Planning & Scheduling Understanding and applying scheduling and control to construction projects is essential tosuccessful construction management. Project scheduling emphasizes network-based schedules, such as critical path management (CPM), network calculations, critical paths, resource scheduling, probabilistic scheduling and computer applications. Project control focuses on goals, flow of information, time and cost control, and change management.
CMGT 4155: Sustainable Development/LEED The course includes many case studies of historic and contemporary structures exemplifying various sustainability features. Emphasis will be placed on how LEED project certification influences the overall construction project. Topics will include LEED certification techniques for sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy & atmosphere, materials & resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation and design. The following topics will be covered from a LEED perspective: ventilation, air conditioning, heating, electrical lighting, energy efficiency, and building control systems. The student will study and analyze how management and LEED techniques are applied to current construction projects.
CMGT 4177: Environmental Systems & MEP Coordination A study of mechanical and electrical systems (MEP) used in the construction of buildings. Course content will include system design, component selection and utilization for energy conservation, cost estimating of systems, coordination and management of installation. Specific systems included are electrical, air conditioning, heating, ventilation and plumbing, fire protection, life safety, communication, power systems and lighting. The course will also consider coordination of MEP systems and explore emerging technology and environmental issues related to mechanical and electrical systems in buildings.
CMGT 4200: Lean Construction Project Management  This advanced course focuses on cutting-edge lean tools and other productive strategies for the management of people and processes in the construction industry. The tools and strategies presented draw on the very successful Toyota Production System adapted to the construction industry. Lean construction methodologies such as the Last Planner® System, the Lean Project Delivery System™, and Integrated Project Delivery will be discussed. Topics also include sustainability and the emerging interest in “green construction,” as well as the use of Building Information Modeling to enhance the development and management of integrated projects. This course also looks at the human element in relation to motivation, safety, and environmental stresses. A number of case studies will be presented to highlight best practices in Lean Construction Project Management.
CMGT 4230: Design Management & Schedule Control This course examines the various strategies and techniques associated with managing the design delivery process to align with the construction schedule needs in an integrated fashion. Design planning, scheduling, and resource allocation are considered along with design value determination and management of the various design-construct interfaces.
CMGT 4250: Construction Job Site Management This course addresses how a successful construction project is managed and administered from design through construction to closeout. Emphasis will focus on how to unite the key stakeholders (contractors, architects, engineers, etc.) to provide them with a workable system for operating as an effective project team. The latest technology, laws and regulations associated with contract administration will be presented. Topics pertinent to each stage of a project are introduced and discussed as they occur throughout the life of the project. Numerous real-world examples will be utilized throughout the course. Various electronic project administration tools and techniques will be demonstrated including Building Information Modeling.
CMGT 4310: Cost Modeling and Trend Management This course covers various approaches to construction cost estimating at the conceptual stages of planning and design through detailed construction. Students will learn parametric estimating techniques and how they are applied to construct and predict reliable budgets at the earliest stages of design. Students will build cost models and refine those models with greater detail as design develops through a project. Building information modeling will be introduced and used to create massing models to demonstrate design impacts on project costs. Cost trending techniques will be presented to manage, monitor and document project performance relative to cost.
CMGT 4320: Introduction to Architectural Planning & Design Management This course introduces students to the significant value that architecture brings to real estate and the built environment and the various services and professions associated with it. Students will be introduced to principles, protocols and the planning process related to the design function and the link between the architect’s vision and the finished physical structure. Students will be introduced to design thinking theory and application. Students will learn to read and interpret the various graphical and written construction documents, know how they are developed and what information they contain. Coverage of architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and civil drawings and specifications. The business model for design services will be explored as well as the unique risks and challenges associated with managing the design throughout the various stages of development and construction.
CMGT 4410: Construction Building Systems A survey of residential and commercial construction materials, means, and methods associated with the various structural and architectural systems used to design and construct buildings. Project plans and specifications will be incorporated to teach the basic sequencing and overall construction process. The influence of sustainability in construction will be introduced.
CMGT 4420: Construction Estimating This course is designed to provide the student with the theory, principles and techniques of quantity analysis (take-off), labor determinations, overhead and profit analysis. It offers insight into the construction estimating process. The role of the estimator, types of estimating, CSI divisions, bid/contract documents, change order pricing, design/build projects and estimation compilation will be introduced. Discussions regarding the cost/benefit of sustainable materials and typical construction materials will enhance the requisite knowledge of construction estimating.
CMGT 4438: Legal Issues & Risk Management General contract and real estate law, including property rights, title concepts, deeds, purchase contracts, law of agency, environmental issues and disclosures, basics finance concerns, tax law, landlord-tenant law, construction contracts, indemnity agreements, rights and remedies of property owners, contractors and subcontractor’s issues, and various areas of liability for real estate practitioners and property owners.
CMGT 4480: Construction Project Management Principles and techniques of construction project management, use of systems analysis, internal and external procedures, planning, programming, budgeting and staffing, controlling major projects, emphasis on construction scheduling techniques with case application.
CMGT 4490: Residential Development A course sequence designed to emphasize the practical application of the theories and concepts of residential development. The course provides a capstone experience for seniors. Students are expected to apply their knowledge of general business, real estate and construction management practices by forming a student business entity, acquiring land, building and selling a residential property in a case format. Students will apply accounting, finance, marketing, real estate and construction management techniques in the planning for a residential development. The application of green building materials and methods is emphasized. Off Site visits will be arranged during the first class.
CMGT 4560: Relational Contracting & Risk Mitigation Relational contracting is a construction project delivery framework for multidisciplinary, integrated projects that focuses on aligned goals, high performance, innovation, mutual respect, open communication and a “no blame” culture between Client, Contractor, and Design Team. This approach to contracting, also known as Alliance Contracting, is becoming more prevalent in the United States and is often applied when using integrated project delivery systems. This course compares and contrasts transactional contracting methods with relational contracting methods and the influences on the project team and projects outcomes. Relational contracting will also be considered in the context of risk mitigation and project optimization.

For more information on Denver University’s Real Estate program check out these course pamphlets here:

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About the Author: James Fisher is an Air Force Veteran and real estate investor graduating from the MS-REBE program in Fall of 2022. During his 12 years of service in the USAF he was stationed in California, Texas, Maryland, and Hawaii, and has been investing in real estate professionally since 2020.