The one-year, three-term Master in Real Estate (MRE) degree program teaches students the foundational knowledge, technical skills, and methods of thinking required for investing in, developing, owning, and managing real estate and for carrying out real estate that advances beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes.
For nine on-campus months from late August to the end of May, students take a mixture of required and elective courses, including a development project course that simulates the multidisciplinary, holistic, collaborative, and transactional environment in which real estate projects are successfully created. The two-month off-campus summer term Practicum places students in a cooperating private for-profit, private not-for-profit, or public real estate organization to participate in the realization of socially and environmentally beneficial projects. Students subsequently return to the GSD for several days to complete a paper and reflect on their Practicum experience through presentations and discussions. All MRE students have a faculty advisor to guide them on curricular and extracurricular matters throughout their time at Harvard.
The following plan describes the curricular requirements for the MRE degree. Students are required to take 60 units of courses to graduate. Fall term is 20 units, spring term is 24 units, and summer term is 16 units. A typical course in the MRE program counts as four units.
The fall term is four required courses and one elective course. There is a required January course that for purposes of counting units is included as part of the spring term. The spring term is four required courses and one elective course. There are two required modules in May that add up to one course that for purposes of counting units is included in the summer term. The required two-month summer Practicum occurs off-campus during the months of June, July, and August, after which students return to the GSD for several days of discussions, presentations, and completion of a Practicum paper. To prepare for the Practicum, students are required to take a special Practicum Prep seminar during the fall and spring terms. Students possessing superior knowledge of material covered in designated required courses may take an exemption examination and, if successful, substitute a specially created MRE elective course in fall or spring terms.
MRE students take one elective course in the fall term and one in the spring term by enrolling in a GSD course or cross-registering in any course offered by other Harvard schools, including the Business School, the Law School, the Kennedy School, and the College, as well as at MIT, as long as such non-GSD courses permit cross-registration. Students must follow the rules for cross-registration at the various schools. With program director permission, MRE students may take a second elective course in the fall and a second in the spring. Note that there are a number of specially created MRE courses that students may take although there is no requirement that they take such courses.
Curriculum requirements are subject to change based on ongoing assessments by the faculty.
FALL TERM (20 units)
The following courses are required:
SES 5204 Real Estate Finance, Development, and Management (4 units) (Hamilton, Peiser, Wu)
This course teaches the fundamentals of real estate for all major property types and land uses. The various stages of the development process, including site selection, market analysis, financial feasibility, design considerations, legal requirements, construction oversight, lease-up, operations, and ultimate property disposition, are examined. Acquisition, management, and disposition of existing real estate assets are similarly explored. Teaching cases are designed to place students in decision-making situations commonly faced by real estate professionals. Methods of using discounted cash flow analysis for income property, for-sale property, construction and permanent mortgage loans, joint venture structures, real estate investment trusts, and secondary markets are explored. Optional review sessions focusing on real estate financial analysis will support the course. MRE students are required to take this course but may seek an exemption from this requirement by successfully passing a exemption examination administered during Orientation Week in late August. Other students will need to demonstrate a basic literacy in real estate through prior coursework or experience in order to take the class.
SES 5495 Urban Economics and Market Analysis (4 units) (Meltzer, Barkham)
This course introduces economic frameworks for understanding both the benefits and challenges of living in, working in, and managing cities and their built environments. Urban economics incorporates the concept of space into canonical economic models and provides a lens for analyzing and describing the nature and organization of economic activity in urban settings. We will explore questions around why cities exist in the first place, what determines their growth, and what features contribute to their economic advantages as well as their unique problems. Why do some cities grow faster than others? Can cities ever get too dense or large? We will draw from typical urban economic models and frameworks but will also discuss and test their limits when applying them to complex urban systems. For example, how well do these models address issues of segregation and informality in cities? The course will draw from research and scholarship in the field of urban economics, as well as actual cases, policy applications, and guest lecturers employing these concepts in the field.
The course also explores urban economics and market analysis as they intersect with real estate practice. Students learn, in a hands-on way, how to employ urban economics concepts and frameworks, including location theory, the interaction between local and global spatial dynamics, demographic trends, and regional economic forecasting to generate data- driven market analyses useful for real estate and urban development practice more broadly. Students who take this class will be able to use economic frameworks and methods to design, evaluate, and implement planning and policy interventions as well as understand the role of real estate markets in a range of urban settings. This course assumes no previous coursework in economics and will require some, but not extensive, math and graphing. This course satisfies the Economic Methods requirement for urban planning students, is required for MRE students, and is open to cross-registration students from other schools (including MIT). MRE students may pursue an exemption from this requirement by successfully passing an exemption examination administered during Orientation Week.
SES 5249 Design for Real Estate (4 units) (Love)
This course provides a comprehensive understanding of the role of design and design professionals in real estate, from project conception to project delivery to post-occupancy evaluation. The goal is to provide developers and owners with the knowledge and methodological tools arising from design to conceive and execute distinctive, financially successful, socially responsible, and environmentally sustainable projects. The course will include lectures with class discussion, short exercises, field trips to recently completed and in-the-works projects, and several guest speakers.
The course will begin with an overview of the design standards that shape contemporary building types within asset classes, as imposed by building codes, development regulations, underwriting benchmarks, market preferences, and the global standardization of building components and furniture systems. Understanding the rationale for the plan configurations and circulation armatures of specific types will help clarify the role of efficiency metrics as key determinants of building design and the way that space is best configured in order to create future financial, social, and environmental value. The course will also cover the market and regulatory-driven logic of site planning, including the relationship between streets, blocks, and development parcels in urban and suburban contexts. The interplay between developer as client and designer as professional will be explored, with special consideration to how the knowledge and skills of designers can be utilized more effectively by real estate practitioners.
Beyond exploring the programmatic and spatial interdependency of the components that underlie real estate, the course will explore alternative methods for integrating financial analysis and design considerations in the development process, especially when projects are being conceptualized. Students will be asked to explore approaches that balance risk mitigation, typically accomplished by relying on pre-existing models (“comps”), with more innovative approaches that aim to capture market share by defining new needs and audiences and proposing unprecedented but financially viable spatial and aesthetic configurations.
This is a required course for MRE students and is open as well to urban design, planning, architecture, and landscape students who are interested in learning about the many ways that financial considerations, efficiency metrics, risk mitigation, and land values shape contemporary buildings and new urban districts.
SES 5250 Real Estate, Society, Environment (4 units) (Germán, Hernandez, Martín)
This course examines the emerging context for real estate practice worldwide that measures success not solely by the financial bottom line but also by achievement of beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes. Real estate owners, developers, lenders, investors, and public agencies globally are applying so-called environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics to their real estate decisions, even as some observers are skeptical about how effective or genuine this concern is. Students will learn how new transnational, national, and local political and legal mandates for sustainable, inclusive development, along with market preferences, can be viewed as positive, generative opportunities rather than problematic constraints. Understanding and operationalizing social and environmental principles applied to real estate activities can lead to a more meaningful and successful practice for real estate actors from private for-profit, private not-for-profit, or public sectors.
ADV 9850 Master in Real Estate Practicum Prep (0 units) (Apeseche, Kiefer, Song)
Structured to introduce MRE students to the Practicum Partners as well as prepare students to take full educational advantage of the Practicum experience, this weekly seminar counts as part of the 12 units allocated to the Practicum. It is limited to and required for MRE students.
The following course and two modules are specially created MRE electives:
SES 5490 Affordable Housing and Community Development (4 units) (Curtis)
This course is intended for students interested in the affordable housing crisis. Can governments alone solve this problem or are public-private approaches an answer? The course explores how affordable housing is created, preserved, and managed, as well as how community development strategies incorporate and extend beyond the provision of affordable housing. Specific methods to sponsor, permit, finance, design, construct, manage, and preserve affordable housing are presented, including use of public subsidies and regulatory mandates.
SES 5452 It Takes A Village (Module 1, 2 units) (Rodrigues)
“It takes a village” to develop a real estate project is more than just a clever catchphrase. In any city around the world, assembling and working with the people who can make or break a real estate project, especially the ones that look perfect on paper, is a crucial tactical and strategic skill. From advocacy groups, to the public at large, to community groups, to electeds, fostering thoughtful relationships with these individuals and groups is critical to the success of any real estate project. Using real world examples that highlight the importance of stakeholder engagement, this course focuses on teaching students how bringing people along can be the key to getting hard projects done.
SES 5451 Race and Real Estate (Module 2, 2 units) (McKinney White)
This course examines historical and contemporary real estate practices that have negatively affected racial minorities in the United States and internationally. The course reviews the history of land ownership and housing in the United States as shaped by the legacy of slavery and subsequent discriminatory practices such as deed restrictions, redlining, predatory lending, and steering. These practices have negatively affected trajectories of intergenerational wealth as well as social outcomes in public health, education, and political power. The course also looks at the participation of underrepresented minorities in today’s real estate profession and efforts to create greater inclusion. While the course principally focuses on race and real estate in the United States, it also looks at race and real estate in the international context as well as gender, class, ethnicity, and religion in the United States and internationally. Classes include lectures, discussions of readings, presentations by guests, and student presentations. Students will be evaluated on their participation in class, group presentation, and a final paper.
JANUARY COURSE (4 units, counted as part of Spring Term)
The following course is required:
SES 5253 Construction Management, Project Management, New Technologies (4 units) (MacNeil)
This course focuses on three crucial aspects of real estate practice: project management, construction management, and use of new technologies. The project management portion will cover the skills needed to manage the many disciplines and concurrent tasks that take place from start of a development project to finish. The class will explore multiple project management styles that can each produce successful or less successful outcomes. Examples will be drawn from industry.
The construction management portion will address how owners, developers, owner’s representatives, and/or property managers can best manage the construction process. A visit to a major development project will serve as a live case study.
The use of new technologies for real estate practice, including prop tech, smart buildings, artificial intelligence (AI), construction management software, and robotics, will be examined. The course will ask the fundamental question: when and how is it better to use new technologies and what are the risks associated with such use. How can real estate catch-up to other industries that use AI and other software to support better outcomes?
This course is limited to MRE students.
SPRING TERM (24 units including January Course)
The following courses are required:
SES 5205 Advanced Real Estate Finance, Development, and Management (4 units) (Apeseche)
This course takes up where SES 5204: Real Estate Finance, Development, and Management left off, examining advanced methods for thinking about real estate finance, development, and management, including deal structures, portfolio structuring, asset management, capital markets, and market cycle timing for all major product types including residential, office, retail, and industrial properties. The use of sophisticated financial models for real estate decision-making is an important part of the course. SES 5204: Real Estate Finance, Development, and Management is a prerequisite for this course.
SES 5103 Public and Private Development (4 units) (Kayden)
This course explores the analytic methods, contextual frameworks, and bodies of knowledge required to understand, evaluate, and implement public and private development in cities. Public and private development includes development originated by private for-profit actors, private not-for-profit actors, and public sector actors. Using lectures, discussions, case studies, and individual and team exercises, the course teaches students how to navigate the complex blend of public and private development actions through use of financial, economic, legal, institutional, and political approaches. The course explores key implementation techniques including public subsidies, public land acquisition through eminent domain, public land disposition through requests for proposal methods, provision of physical infrastructure, inclusionary zoning, linkage, exactions, incentive zoning, community benefits agreements, and business improvement districts. Several early classes will be split into two sections, one for students with no background in real estate financial analysis and the other for MRE students and others who already possess such a background.
SES 5251 The Development Project (4 units) (Peiser, Chapman, Kiefer, Wang)
The course places students in the role of a real estate developer who proposes to develop a project on an international or domestic site f that meets financial, market, regulatory, design, environmental, and social criteria for successful development. The interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of real estate practice will be experienced by MRE students working in teams alongside urban design, architecture, planning, and landscape architecture students enrolled in two option studios that have been expressly paired with The Development Project course. Real estate and option studio students will visit their international or domestic site early in the term to examine the site and surrounding context as well as meet with stakeholders. The work product will be a fully realized development proposal appropriate for investor and other relevant audiences. This course is limited to MRE students.
SES 5252 Real Estate Law (4 units) (Sticklor)
This course examines, through the lens of legal documents, real estate law concepts relevant to the development, acquisition, and operations of real estate ventures. We will review the major stages of commercial real estate projects including securing control of land, sourcing and raising equity, completing predevelopment steps such as agreements for design and construction and obtaining government permits for both initial construction and adaptive reuse, securing construction financing, leasing and other aspects of operating the project, and realizing capital returns from refinance and/or sale. A particular focus of the course will be an examination of public laws regulating real estate development. We also will consider steps which may be taken in the legal arena when the unexpected happens and a deal goes sideways, such as bankruptcy or litigation.
For each stage, we will analyze core real estate law concepts through actual negotiated agreements, including purchase and sale contracts, joint venture agreements, construction and design contracts, construction loan agreements, tenant leases, and permanent loan documentation. The course will include a mix of lectures, discussion of transaction documents and other course readings, individual exercises, and guest appearances by experienced real estate attorneys involved in major projects in the greater Boston area. A highlight of the course will be team mock negotiations and role-playing exercises relating to securing control of the land, formation of a joint venture, construction loans, and leasing.
The course goal is to enable students to get deep inside the series of transactions–and their legal documentation—involved in real estate projects, to understand key business and real estate law issues embedded in the legal documents, to gain familiarity with how these issues are commonly resolved, and to recognize how to manage legal risk and the risk/reward calculation.
ADV 9850 Master in Real Estate Practicum Prep (0 units) (Apeseche, Kiefer, Song)
Structured to introduce MRE students to the Practicum Partners as well as prepare students to take full educational advantage of the Practicum experience, this weekly seminar counts as part of the 12 units allocated to the Practicum. It is limited to and required for all MRE students.
The following course and two modules are specially created MRE electives:
SES 5453 and SES 5454 Learning From Failure 1 and 2 (two modules, 2 units each) (Sheets)
It’s all too easy to learn from success. These two modules explore how real estate practitioners can learn from concepts and examples of failure. The two modules can be taken together or individually. The first module examines common denominators of failures in commercial real estate activities involving investment, capital formation, development, acquisition, management, and governance. The second module presents cases of real estate restructurings and distressed debt that involve risk analysis, legal considerations, and negotiation from the considered perspectives of owners, investors, lenders, tenants, employees, employees, policymakers, and society.
SES 5455 International Real Estate and Urban Development (4 units) (Wang)
Situated at the intersection of economic activities, capital flows, and spatial transformation of the built environment, real estate is impacted by local and global forces. While different locales around the world present distinct contextual elements, fluid cross-border capital operations and increasingly connected institutional actors at the global scale constitute an equally formidable force in shaping real estate within urban settings.
Through lectures, case studies, and class discussions, this course provides students with comparative knowledge and insights about the process and analytical frameworks of real estate development and investment arising in various parts of the world. The course begins by introducing multiple parameters that govern the realization of real estate globally. It next unpacks the analytical frameworks used to assess the risks, opportunities, and performance of international real estate. The course concentrates on real estate practice models and emerging asset types that are deployed in selected locations of the world. Real estate financing strategies, institutional features, operational tactics, and physical design maneuvers for real estate projects located in countries and regions of Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas are analyzed and interpreted through a lens of the decision-making processes at the project and urban scales.
SES 5456 Climate Change, Real Estate, and Public Policy (Module 1, 2 units) (Seth)
Climate change impacts such as sea level rise, storm surges and more intense storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires are increasingly impacting cities worldwide. This course explores how public and private real estate actors are addressing this challenge. Adaptation approaches such as building retrofits, managed retreat, revised land use regulations and building codes, green and grey infrastructure, and regional climate governance are explored, along with changes in real estate finance and insurance, market preferences, and national and transnational regulatory frameworks. The global mission to achieve carbon neutrality has led to building-scale emissions limits and building energy retrofits, which will also be examined. The course will equip students with the analytical frameworks and practical tools to approach the intersection of real estate, government regulation, and community needs shaped by climate change.
SES 5457 Real Estate Private Equity and Capital Markets (Module 2, 2 units) (Cummings, Dubrowski)
MAY MODULES (4 units, counted as part of Summer Term)
The following modules are required:
SES 5254 Negotiation (Module, 2 units) (Karlan)
This course combines evolving academic theory with simulations to teach the concepts and practice of effective multi-party negotiation among developers, owners, governments, community groups, tenants, lenders, and investors.
SES 5255 Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Ethics (2 units) (Karlan, Smalley)
This course explores how to conceive, build, and lead successful real estate organizations. Students learn how to create an initial strategy, craft and implement a business plan, manage an organizational culture, and compete in a world in which the only constant is change. The mediating role of ethical standards is emphasized throughout the course, helping students identify specific challenges in real estate settings and strategies to guard against ethical failures.
SUMMER TERM (16 units, including May modules)
The Practicum is required:
ADV 9851 Practicum (12 units) (Apeseche, Kiefer, Song)
The Practicum involves a two-month supervised placement of an MRE student in a United States or international private for-profit, private not-for-profit, or public real estate organization to participate in ongoing real estate projects that advance beneficial spatial, social, and environmental outcomes. Practicum placements are arranged by the MRE program and matched to the interests of each student and each Practicum partner. Students attend a Practicum Prep seminar during fall and spring terms, meet remotely from time to time during the summer with fellow students and faculty, and return to the GSD for a several-day concluding session during which they will engage in discussions and presentations and submit a final paper.
Other GSD elective courses of particular interest to MRE students that are currently or recently offered include the following:
For a detailed description of each elective, please view the Course Catalog
SES-5367 U.S. Housing Markets, Problems, and Policies ADV-9127 Real Estate and City Making in China
SES-5438 Designer Developer
SES-5375 Contemporary Developing Countries: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Problems
SES-5213 Equitable Development and Housing Policy in Urban Settings
SES-5397 Cities and the Urban Informal Economy: Rethinking Development, Urban Design and Planning
SES-5206 Land Use and Environmental Law
SES-5201 Urban Politics, Planning, and Development
HIS-4384 Building and Urban Conservation and Renewal – Assessment, Analysis, Design HIS-4374 Cities, Infrastructures, and Politics: From Renaissance to Smart Technologies SES-5440 Public Finance for Planners: Creating Equitable and Sustainable Communities SES-5437 Transportation Economics and Finance
SES-5347 Urbanization and Development SCI-6125 Building Simulation
SCI-6361 Health and Buildings
SES-5326 Housing and Urbanization in the United States SES-5337 Housing and Urbanization in Global Cities
SES-5393 Local Government Solutions to America’s Affordable Rental Housing Challenge SES-5442 New Towns and Affordable Housing Development in Africa
SES-5433 Modern Housing and Urban Districts: Concepts, Cases and Comparisons
SES-5486 The Gentrification Debates: Perceptions and Realities of Neighborhood Change SES-5435 Land Policy and Planning for Equitable and Fiscally Healthy Communities
HIS-4468 On Architecture and Property
HIS-4479 Power & Place: Culture and Conflict in the Built Environment SES-5210 Cities by Design
SES-5215 Analytic Methods of Urban Planning: Quantitative SES-5216 Analytic Methods of Urban Planning: Qualitative HIS-4115 Histories and Theories of Urban Interventions
SES-5380 Experimental Infrastructures SES-5381 Urban Design and the Color-Line
SES-5382 Making Participation Relevant to Design SES-5409 Climate Justice
SES-5420 Urban Design for Planners
SES-5446 Inclusive Cities in the Global South: From Development Narratives to Urban Forms
SES-5447 Climate by Design SES-5497 Public Space
SES-5502 Urban Governance and the Politics of Planning in the Global South SCI-6121 Environmental Systems 1
SCI-6122 Environmental Systems 2 VIS-2128 Spatial Analysis
DES-3336 Landscape Fieldwork: People, Politics, Practices
Interested in the MRE program?
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