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Now in its sixth year, the Cornell International Real Estate Case Competition has become a crucible for students interested in a real estate career. In the most recent edition, the competition brought a total of sixteen teams of six students each from four continents to New York City to prepare an analysis and presentation regarding an actual commercial real estate transaction—and doing it all in just five days.

In a newly released video, competition organizer Daniel Quan, a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and academic director of the Cornell Center for Real Estate and Finance, points out that the experience goes far beyond the competition itself, although that’s a key element. “The video captures the incredible support offered by our judges, along with the tension that the student teams experience as they analyze the transaction,” he said. “It was clear that all participants see the value of this competition.”

The November 2014 competition required the student competitors to imagine that they were the development team of an international real estate private equity fund. Their challenge was to evaluate a project in Redwood City, California, where a local developer was planning to redevelop a vacant office building into high-end multifamily residences. The case required teams to conduct both a careful market analysis and feasibility study as well as to evaluate the soundness of the partnership agreement proposed by the developer.

Quan added that the student teams stepped up their presentations this year. Although the judges asked the student teams challenging questions, the judges were also impressed by the students’ knowledge and extensive analysis. He also noted the support coming from numerous real-estate organizations, such as WX (New York Women Executives in Real Estate). “WX gave a presentation to 18 students, to encourage those women to continue in real estate,” he said, expressing his appreciation to the organization’s members who took the time to spend with students to encourage them in their pursuits.

During the five days of the competition, the student teams prepare their analysis of the case and make their recommendations regarding the transaction. After a preliminary presentation round, five remaining finalist teams present their case solution to the full panel of judges. Throughout the process, these real estate experts not only determine a winner, but also ask key questions that help the students develop their analysis. The teams are judged on their investment recommendations, their approach to the problem, and their presentation skills, as well as their ability to answer and respond to those questions.

The top teams in the 2014 competition were, in order, University of British Columbia, University of Wisconsin, University of Connecticut, University of Aberdeen, and University of Guelph. The top winning teams share in the nearly $22,000 in prize money offered by sponsors. Other competing teams were Brown University, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Cornell University, Indiana University, McGill University, New York University, Renmin University, University of Cambridge, University of Sydney, University of Texas, and Villanova University.

The competition is supported by an all-star lineup of corporate sponsors, led by Title Sponsor TIAA-CREF. Other sponsors include YOTEL (the official hotel sponsor), Ackman-Ziff, Cantor Commercial Real Estate, Clarion Partners, Criterion Real Estate Capital, Grove International Partners, Macklowe Properties, Moody’s Investors Service, National Realty & Development Corporation, Paramount Lodging Advisors, Prudential Real Estate Investors, Sawyer Realty Holdings, Silverstein Properties, Inc., The Carlyle Group, Tishman Realty Corporation, Westbrook Partners. The competition is also funded in part by the Marjorie Boas Levins and Jack Levins /F.H.T. Rhodes Real Estate Case Competition Fund.

To learn more about CREF, visit