When Bernie Ocampo, ’05, first arrived at Booth, there was a seeming lack of real estate focus. After some quick research, he discovered plenty of alumni in the real estate arena. They just needed someone to bring them together.

“I spent a year digging around in the database, compiling the most accomplished alumni I could find,” Ocampo said. “After a year, I invited these folks to be advocates or sponsors, with the idea of building a community.” In 2006, Ocampo helped found the Real Estate Alumni Group (REAG), a global network of alumni led by Ocampo and multiple regional co-chairs based in Chicago, New York, and California.

Last October at Gleacher Center, REAG hosted its 10th annual conference, titled “Market Disrupters,” bringing together real estate professionals from around the country to listen to experts and panel discussions on topics ranging from an overview of the US real estate market to the value of big data. “We like to say we built something from nothing,” said Ocampo.

Eteri Zaslavsky, ’04, one of the founders of the group, has spearheaded the conference from the very start a decade ago. “We considered whether we wanted to make it as big as possible,” Zaslavsky said, taking a brief break from networking with fellow real estate alumni and Booth students at the conference to talk with CBM. “But over the years we decided to keep it more intimate. The folks that attend can really get in on discussions of relevant topics and also build a network. They get to know and recognize each other.”

This year’s conference highlighted the impact of new technologies on the real estate industry. Case in point: the room was asked to weigh in on what they believed was the biggest real estate disrupter on the horizon—by voting via their cellphones. They swiped and tapped for a few moments, and the results appeared live on the big screen. The conference attendees tabbed millennials, demographic shifts, autonomous cars, and taxes and regulation as likely future market disrupters.

“One thing that sets our conference apart from other practitioner-oriented conferences is this reliance on data rigor and analytics.”

— Joseph L. Pagliari

In a data-packed keynote, Roy March, the CEO of New York–based Eastdil Secured, explored whether the real estate market would soon begin to decline, in keeping with its standard cycle of rise and fall. The news was cautiously optimistic. “We think it’s a fairly good outlook—unless, and there’s always an ‘unless,’” March said. He concluded that the fundamentals of the domestic market looked promising and steady. But he also emphasized that geopolitical unrest, as well as any lost faith in central banks, could disrupt his generally rosy forecast.

Throughout the day, as speaker after speaker enlightened the crowd, data ruled. Sanjog Misra, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow, gave an illuminating presentation on big data. To help illustrate the topics, he presented three case studies—including one involving the MGM casino chain’s promotional practices. “I think of data as feeling big every time it makes you feel small,” said Misra. He discussed a four-step process to break down big data to produce high-complexity analysis.

“One thing that sets our conference apart from other practitioner-oriented conferences is this reliance on data rigor and analytics,” said Joseph L. Pagliari, clinical professor of real estate, whose arrival at Booth in 2007 helped the alumni group to gain momentum. “These panels aren’t full of talking heads.”

The Takeaways

Matt Mullarkey, ’01, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Projects, CenterPoint Properties, Oak Brook, Illinois

“The pace of innovation and disruption is accelerating, but the challenge moving forward will be keeping up with this question: How is technology being used by your customers, and how can you adapt to it?”

Kenneth P. Riggs Jr., ’94, President, Situs RERC (Real Estate Research Corporation), West Des Moines, Iowa

“I think there will be a market correction. As each year goes by, the more attractive commercial property becomes and the more capital comes in, there’s a higher probability for a black swan event. The better it gets, the worse it will be.”

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