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I consider myself a behaviorist who pays special attention to how individuals and institutions make decisions regarding real estate. My behavioral orientation is part of my natural inquisitiveness which asks "why it is?" versus "what it is?" as well as my academic training at the University of Wisconsin in the 60s and 70s. During that period, the UW real estate program was steeped in tradition, building on the theoretical foundation established by urban land economists (e.g., Ely, Andrews) and the behavioral leanings of other real estate thought leaders who helped establish and lead the program to national prominence (e.g., Ratcliff, Graaskamp). To develop a more formal introduction into behavioralism, I took my masters degree in marketing with an emphasis on market research. During my Ph.D. studies, my major field of study was Real Estate and Urban Land Economics which was supplemented by an internal minor in marketing and an external minor in law.
In addition to my behavioral orientation, I consider myself a real estate theorist and a fundamentalist. In terms of theory, I am committed to linking contemporary real estate studies to the theoretical foundation established in urban land economics, a predecessor field from which real estate emanated. I am also a pragmatist, having split my career fairly equally between the academic and professional sides of the discipline. As a professional, I developed a greater appreciation for how the real estate market works and where there is room for improvement. In addition to helping focus my attention on key industry issues that I might affect in a positive way, this experience also gave me the insight into how I should prepare my students so they can assume industry leadership positions to help advance the discipline and create a more vibrant, livable, affordable and sustainable world.
Lessons Learned Interview. "Industry and Academia: The Combination for a Winning Team, A Discusion with James R. DeLisle," Retail Property Insights Vol. 16, No. 3, 2009: p 51-58.
Personal Philosopy on Real Estate
Real estate is a physical asset that is comprised of three major dimensions: static, environmental and linkages. On the other hand, the real estate discipline is a behavioral science which is properly focused on the information processing and decision-making processes applied by space producers, space users, and space facilitators. It is the interaction of these players which ultimately determine what is built and where it is built. In the aggregate, the outcome of decisions made --and actions taken-- by these players comprise the built environment in which we all reside. It should be noted that real estate professionals must operate within a social, political, economic and regulatory environment which can have a material effect on what can and should be done with specific real estate. Due to the durable, capital-intensive nature of real estate, the actions taken by various parties comprise an irretrievable commitment of scarce resources. Thus, it is critically important that we “get is right,” that we make sustainable, economically viable, market-based solutions which achieve a balance between individual, institutional, environmental and social needs.
While real estate has been studied in the academic community for a number of decades, it has failed to emerge as a distinct discipline. Rather, many academic leaders have been content to borrow from other disciplines, particularly finance. While other disciplines can indeed contribute to an understanding of real estate and are an inherent component of the field, to achieve proper recognition, real estate must draw on its own theoretical foundation. It must also ensure that it strikes a balance between spatial and capital market and does not overlook the importance of market fundamentals of supply and demand. The failure to approach real estate as a unique discipline has resulted in inconsistent and often myopic approaches to land use and development that have led to suboptimal and unsustainable real estate solutions. Given the diverse skills and perspectives that must be marshaled to arrive at optimal land use and development decisions, real estate should be approached as an interdisciplinary field of study.
I will expand on these thoughts and hope to stimulate more discussion on the nature and scope of real estate. Please contact me if you have any questions or suggestions as to how we can advance the discipline. If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, please Contact Me.
Brief Career Capstone
I took my first undergraduate course in real estate from the late James A. Graaskamp in 1969. Since that time, I have either studied and/or practiced real estate. I completed my BBA in Real Estate in 1971 and received my Ph.D. in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics from Wisconsin in 1981. Between those dates I played a little football to learn real estate from the ground up, worked as a consultant, completed a MS in Market Research, ran a for profit development company, helped run a non-profit student housing corporation, worked as a teaching assistant and as an assistant professor. After gaining tenure and a promotion, I changed universities and then was drawn to Wall Street in 1987 and joined Prudential Real Estate Investors, helping found the Investment Research Department; the first in a real estate advisory firm in the world. My initial strategy --developed in concurrence with my friend and mentor Jim Graaskamp-- was to work in institutional real estate for a couple of years to build up some equity and to learn about the capital markets which were becoming more important to the industry.
In 1989 I was recruited to join Equitable Real Estate and founded the Investment Research Department which became one of the top research units in the industry. In addition to research, I was a member of the Investment Committee and reviewed and voted on all acquisitions, dispositions and major client account activities that comprised our $38 billion portfolio. During this period, I developed a proprietary Holistic Portfolio Management Model to over 25 key clients with over $100 billion of assets and to our internally managed portfolios. I was promoted to Executive Vice President prior to our acquisition by Lend Lease, a global company based in Australia that acquired us in 1997. After the acquisition, I turned the department over to my colleagues and moved over to create the Strategic Planning Department. In 1999, I "retired" from Lend Lease and returned to the academic community, joining the Real Estate Department at Georgia State University. Thus, my brief sojourn to the "dark side" turned out to be longer and more circuitous than envisioned, but I ultimately returned to my academic roots.
In 2001, I was recruited by the late Bob Filley to join the faculty at the University of Washington to head up the real estate initiative, which was envisioned to include a graduate-level Concentration in Real Estate and a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program. I also served as the Director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies. In 2008 I became the Director of Graduate Real Estate Studies at the UW with the charge of leading the MSRE program for which we received approval in 2006 and which is being launched in Fall 2009. In addition to helping refine and enhance the MSRE, my current goals are to expand my publication and research activities, as well as champion the emergence of real estate as a legitimate academic discipline. I will also continue to try to help bridge the gap between the professional and academic communities to help advance the discipline.
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