Graduate Real Estate Program, GREP, at University of Houston

Graduate Real Estate Program Adds New Level of Knowledge Within the Industry

Terry Swenson Education, Member News

The question kept popping up, “Why is there no certified program in Real Estate that would help groom me for a job in the building industry?” Bright, young students, and seasoned employees in various industries were asking this question.

One of Houston’s most respected homebuilding industry professionals and a long time active member of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA), heard it loud and clear, and wondered the same thing. Not one to sit around and wait for others to move on a relevant idea, Will Holder, president of Trendmaker Homes and past president of the GHBA and a board member, moved quickly to do something about it.

Graduate Real Estate Program, GREP, at University of HoustonThe University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, Graduate Real Estate Program was already established, but a Residential course did not yet exist. Will contacted the school and offered to teach the Residential Community Development and Homebuilding course where he designed the class and co-wrote the syllabus. He taught the course alone in the spring of 2014 and in the spring of 2015, Will and John Hammond, the president of Friendswood Development Co. co-taught the class. Classes are three hours, one night a week for 15 weeks.


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The GREP represents a specialty within the UH Bauer MBA, MBA/JD and MS Finance graduate degree programs. The MBA is a 48-credit hour degree composed of 21 credits of core courses in business administration and 27 credits of electives, of which 18 credits are real estate courses. Students take half of their courses in normal business subjects such as finance and accounting, and then take the second year of courses in their specialty.

“The Graduate Real Estate Program was built by Houston’s real estate professionals to prepare students to become leaders in that industry. Practicing real estate professionals serve as faculty bringing their expertise to the classroom. Students become members of the real estate community through professional development—internships, mentorships, scholarships, professional organization membership and through a career placement service.”Ronda Dade, MBA, Program Director, Graduate Real Estate Program

Students in the GREP benefit from a practiced-based education that provides a comprehensive real estate education. They will be “job ready” when entering their real estate career. Jobs can include commercial real estate development and finance, commercial and residential construction management and market analysis, to name a few.

Eric Himarios is a student in the GREP. He is currently employed as a Purchasing Agent III at Meritage Homes. His responsibilities include estimating and managing materials takeoffs, bidding out and negotiating material and labor pricing, and making weekly field visits to address purchasing related issues. Eric will be graduating with his MBA in December 2015 and looks forward to continuing his career in the homebuilding or real estate industry.

“The courses I took in the real estate program gave me a good overview of many important aspects of the industry.”Eric Himaros

Cristian Popa Dumitru was 40 when he took the GREP. His professional experience is built on 15 years of financial analysis and project management. Cristian had the chance to be involved as a project manager, key financial analyst or team leader in the implementation of several large-scale infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank and European Bank for Development all over Europe. He also had experience in homebuilding in the local Houston market.

“That is when I discovered that I really enjoy building homes rather than wastewater treatment plants or highways. It is all about having more satisfaction at the end of the project when you can meet the beneficiary in person and feel his happiness. I believe that you must put more love in building a house rather than in a water treatment plant. So as an experienced professional I was looking for an MBA program that could offer me the best balance between the two worlds, finance and infrastructure development, especially homebuilding.

“The Graduate Real Estate Program offers a variety of courses with a solid and advanced finance and law content,” continued Cristian. “It’s not only that, it also offers other non-keystone classes that are extremely useful for anybody wishing to build a career in real estate development, and as in my case, in homebuilding.” Cristian Pope Dumitru

Cristian is now a Construction Manager for Pulte. “Pulte is a company with a strong organizational culture and a place where I believe I can use all my knowledge,” Cristian continued. “I am now in the process of understanding their multitude of products. I also have experience in dealing with the City of Houston and the City’s codes and this is why I have the opportunity to help develop projects inside the City of Houston.”

Grant Johnson graduated from U of H in May of this year with his Juris Doctor and MBA with the GREP certificate. Grant Johnson graduated from Texas A&M in May of 2011 and moved back to Houston to attend law school at U of H. He discovered that U of H offers a dual degree program where he could get both his Juris Doctor and MBA in four years (rather than the five years it would take to do them separately). He had always planned to get his MBA before law school so he jumped at an opportunity to get both degrees in four years.

“I have always had an interest in real estate, dating back to as far as I can remember,” said Grant. “My law school courses of property and real estate transactions only served to reinforce the fact that I wanted to do something related to real estate when I finished school, whether it was on the law or business side.”

Soon after he began taking MBA courses, Grant discovered the GREP. “It didn’t take much convincing that it was a program I wanted to participate in,” he said.

Before the Residential Land Development and Homebuilding Course that Will Holder taught, Grant had no experience, educational or otherwise, in the residential real estate industry. “What made Mr. Holder’s course so appealing,” Grant explained, “was that it was the only one at the time that focused solely on residential real estate. Not only that, but it was being taught by a highly respected and important individual within Houston’s residential real estate community.

“That course was hands down the best course I took in my eight years of postsecondary education. The course was very different from any other course I took during my collegiate career. In addition to Mr. Holder’s practical and informative lectures, he also brought in several influential and insightful guest speakers throughout the semester, including Karl Mistry with Toll Brothers, David Weekley with Weekley Homes, Jim Lemming with Partners in Building, and Amy Rino with Darling Homes.Grant Johnson

“It was through Will’s class that I met Karl Mistry and eventually ended up with a 2014 summer internship with Toll Brothers. I had a fantastic experience, and long story short, after graduation in May 2015 I was hired on to Toll Brothers full time as an Assistant Project Manager.

“I also count learning about development taught by Brandon Houston (Houston Principal of Trammell Crow), real estate finance taught by Jamie Bryant (Executive Vice President of Midway), and real estate valuation taught by Scott Rando (Senior Managing Director of Cushman & Wakefield) among my favorite courses as well. There’s no other place besides the GREP at U of H where I could have learned from some of the best in the business in a small classroom environment week in and week out for a full semester. Once I finish my training with Toll Brothers, I will be placed into a community as a Project Manager. This process has been a fantastic learning experience, and just one of the reasons Toll Brothers is a great company to work for.”

Will Holder was instrumental in designing, implementing the foundation for the GREP. His Residential Land Development and Homebuilding Course and the other courses within the program, have created a whole new level of opportunity and knowledge within the residential building industry in Houston.

“I love working directly with students who are actively setting the stage for the rest of their professional life. I am really proud to be associated with University of Houston where they designed a practical program that’s actually getting graduates career quality jobs. It’s exactly what you want to see happen!”Will Holder, Trendmaker Homes

Interested students can learn more about the program at bauer.uh.edu/real-estate/.

About the Author
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Terry Swenson

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A writer and a photographer, Terry Swenson is GHBA's Director of Public Relations. She is also the founder of the PictureThis Project, which puts cameras in the hands of Houston's homeless and allows them to share their story, through their lens.

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