Majoring in Real Estate

Program at the University of Northern Iowa is the only one in the state.

Who knew? Are you aware that it’s possible to have a college major or minor in real estate and all its interesting ramifications and nuances? In Iowa the only spot where that can happen is the business school at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Steve Bruere, president of Peoples Company in Clive, is a member of the UNI advisory committee on real estate and a staunch supporter of the program. “We have eight graduates of the real estate major in our office right now, and we go there to recruit twice a year,” he says. “Real estate can have the reputation of becoming a second career for some Iowans, and that’s just fine. But it also can bring college-educated young people right out of school and into the marketplace. At UNI many of them get their real estate license during their senior year or during an internship, and they are ready to hit the ground running.”

The UNI program was started in 1989, according to Dr. Arthur Cox, the associate professor of finance at UNI and head of the real estate program within the College of Business Administration. “Students study principles of real estate, appraisal and investment, finance, real estate law and brokerage, and commercial site selection, among other courses.” Cox came on board in 1995. The program started out as an emphasis field of study in the business school with about 25 majors and now has around 100.

UNI is the only school in Iowa with this program. Others in the Midwest, Cox says, include the University of Wisconsin at Madison; Marquette University in Milwaukee; University of Nebraska at Omaha; University of North Dakota; St. Thomas and St. Cloud State, both in Minnesota: and Texas A & M University. He says most Big 10 schools offer the sequence, except for the University of Iowa, which doesn’t have it because UNI does.

For the record, Grand View University in Des Moines had a real estate concentration that was discontinued this year. Other areas in the curriculum mix include marketing, construction principles, investments, and commercial bank management. Most students do two internships.

Jared Cuddeback, from Washington, Iowa, originally, graduated from UNI in 1999. He’s now the director of valuation management services at the Real Estate Research Corporation in West Des Moines. “We order and review appraisals on a wide spectrum of property types, from agriculture, agribusiness, and commercial properties,” he explains. Cuddeback followed his brother, two years older, to UNI and was a finance major first, before Dr. Cox helped him to focus on the real estate area.

“Real estate is a tough profession,” he says. “By being able to major in this area in college, young people are able to get a strong background early on.”

Now Cuddeback recruits at his alma mater for new employees. “Right now about 75 percent of the 40 people in our valuation department are UNI graduates. Real estate owners have to have valuations to report back to their investors, so hiring appraisers is so important.”

Austin Hedstrom, a sales associate at CBRE Hubbell Commercial, is a December 2014 graduate of the UNI program. The Woodbine native started out majoring in finance, figuring he would go into stocks and bonds. “I had some great internships through the program, including with Aegon USA in Cedar Rapids and Kum & Go in West Des Moines, where I learned so much about site selection in placing convenience stores.” Plus, he earned his real estate license while still in school, which gave him a head start on his career path.

After graduation Hedstrom knew he wanted to stay in Iowa and felt lucky to be able to do so. In his work at CBRE Hubbell, he represents tenants and landlords in securing commercial spaces. He was recruited from the program and says he works with five UNI grads from the program.

Kalen Ludwig, a 2005 real estate graduate, went to UNI from her hometown of Pella to study marketing. To diversify and broaden her skills, she wanted a minor area as well. “I figured I would choose public relations,” she explains. “However, PR and marketing overlap to some degree, so I was encouraged to get out of my comfort zone a bit, and real estate became my path. My grandparents had always owned several houses and a small hotel, and I was fascinated with that area.”

Focusing on real estate became a passion for Ludwig. She earned her real estate license during her senior year. During an internship she sold her first house in Cedar Falls. “I loved it, and the company let me keep the commission, which was amazing. I was hooked.”

Now, as one of two residential sales associates for Peoples Company, she says the best part is easy: “I absolutely love helping people through one of their biggest decisions, buying a home and making a dream come true. Plus, I so enjoy various home styles. It has just been a great career for me.”

Over her 10-year career, she says establishing long-term relationships with clients has been rewarding. “When they come back a few years later to purchase another property, that’s really special. I love it.”

Monopoly Tournament for Fun and Philanthropy

On April 30 there was a benefit Monopoly tournament—yes, with all the buying, selling, and developing property that many of the players deal with each day. Their day jobs might not include spots like St. Charles Place, Electric Company, Park Place, and Boardwalk, but it was still a good fun-raiser and fund-raiser.

The Embassy Club in West Des Moines was where players honed their skills at accumulating more wealth, property, and money than their board-playing competitors. Players sponsored a table, played in the tournament, or networked with employers and real estate and finance students and alumni from the University of Northern Iowa. UNI is the only state school in Iowa where students can major or minor in real estate.

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit program operating expenses, student activities, and continuing the curriculum in the UNI Center for Real Estate Education.