A real estate of affairs
"(Real estate) is always changing, it's extremely dynamic, which presents a new set of challenges."
In more than two decades working with students, Black has no doubt impacted countless lives at Goizueta Business School. His unique perspective extends well into the real estate industry and Atlanta.
It’s rewarding for many reasons but, according to Black, most notably for its tangible nature.
“You actually get to see what you work on,” Black said. “Some things are so theoretical that they just don’t have any substance to them, and you never really see the end result of what you do. But there’s something very satisfying about seeing a property go from a piece of dirt to a finished building. Or for a finished building to get renovated and get a brand-new life.”
Black joined the Goizueta faculty as a part-time instructor in 1997. He joined the full-time faculty in 2007 and now, in the middle of his 20th year, continues his work as director of the Real Estate Program. This came, of course, after a career as a real estate attorney perched on the front lines of some of Atlanta’s biggest booms. He’s seen the industry become more attractive to institutional investors and eager developers.
His knowledge and experience make their way directly to the classroom. His network comes to the aid of countless students looking for jobs.
“If you want to go into real estate, it is fairly easy to find a good matchup to your skill set and personality and your tolerance to risk, because there’s just so much there.”
“It has been just extremely rewarding,” Black said of his career in real estate. “I cannot imagine anything I would rather do than have an influence over somebody’s life in a positive way and set them out on a career I hope they find as rewarding as I do.”
The accidental job discovery came in Black’s law school days. It was the early 1970s. The law firm needed someone to examine titles. It seems boring, but Black fell in love. He quickly learned, despite the permanence of buildings, real estate to be an ever-changing environment with ample room for problem solving.
“I may wake up tomorrow morning and see the market has shifted quite a bit,” he said. “You start to see the results of those shifts over time. It’s always changing, it’s extremely dynamic, which presents a new set of challenges.”
With 15 years’ experience as a real estate attorney, Black has plenty to offer his students.
“If you’re dealing with money, or you’re dealing with soap products or automobiles, you can move those around,” he said. “But you have all these inherent limitations of real estate and the fact that it doesn’t move, it’s a tremendous challenge.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see something new. You’re involved in a problem-solving discipline with a really unique set of problems. Being able to solve that and get paid for it, and help create the built environment, where the great bulk of human activity occurs, is just really appealing to me. I love problem solving and real estate is problem solving.”
"Between Professor Black’s leadership and experience, the analysis of student participation and the performance of the sector as a whole...I think that has been a recipe (for success)."
For his students, Black is eager to share the appeal that comes from real estate not being a monolithic job description. There are at least 20 different job descriptions with a range of risk levels, from development to property management, and apartments to industrial or office space.
“Real estate has so many niches,” Black said. “If you want to go into real estate, it is fairly easy to find a good matchup to your skill set and personality and your tolerance to risk, because there’s just so much there.”
To gain experience students at Goizueta run a real estate private equity fund, which Black formed and maintains after student interest.
The fund has two goals: provide students — about 25 each semester — an educational experience of managing real money, and ultimately act as an endowment fund for the real estate program. The students meet six times each semester, and after they’re divided into teams, they each present results of analysis before an investment decision is made. The fun began in 2012 with $25,000. After donations and returns from real estate deals, there’s now $230,000 under management.
Preston Stevens is an MBA involved in the program with a background in commercial real estate. It was naturally appealing for Stevens to help the fund invest in that space.
“Between Professor Black’s leadership and experience, the analysis of student participation and the performance of the sector as a whole,” Stevens said, “I think that has been a recipe for the fund’s success.”