Originally published May 19, 2011 at noon, updated May 19, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.
/ University of San Diego
The University of San Diego winning real estate team included, from left, Justin Shifrin, Ashley Lencek, Joseph Engelken, Michael Argier and Joel Munoz
A University of San Diego graduate school real estate team placed first for the second time in a 22-school competition in the Argus Software University Challenge. The five-student team outscored counterparts in Ivy League schools as well as others from Canada to China.
The team — Michael Argier, Joseph Engelken, Ashley Lencek, Joel Munoz and Justin Shifrin — will share a $7,500 prize.
The students are enrolled in USD’s master of science in real estate program at the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate in the School of Business Administration.
The challenge was to complete a case study, “Investing in a Return to Normalcy: Back to the Future.” They had to analyze a fictitious commercial real estate project using Argus Valuation-DCF or Argus Developer software.
The USD team conducted market research by comparing the fictitious example with conditions in Temecula and incorporated sustainability aspects in their analysis.
Team leader Justin Shiftin, 27, said the Argus software helped analyze the internal rate of return on the proposed project, but he thinks the decision to seek a comparable real-world case study might have made the difference in the competition.
“We didn’t just take the data in the case study,” he said. “We went out and researched the U.S., census data, California employment data. We were looking on both the macro and micro level at where we thought this fictitious city was located. We were able to figure out that the city we thought was comparable to and were able to provide some data through third-party private and public reports.”
That research showed that while apartments are the current favorite among commercial developers, the overbuilding and high vacancy rates in the case study showed that multifamily housing would have been a failure.
So the team, recommended building an $11.6 million shopping center and leaving the $14.5 million apartment complex and $1.4 million fast-food restaurant phases till later.
Shifrin, who plans to next obtain an MBA on top of his undergraduate pscyhology degree and real estate degree, said the winnings only cover about 3.5 percent of the team’s annual tuition.
The real benefit, he said, was being able to elevate USD’s real estate program to the level of other, more famous business schools. This was the second Argus competition and USD won the first as well in 2009.
“It just helps legitimize the program and not just to the San Diego region but nationally as well,” he said. “We beat Wharton — that’s pretty neat!”
Their professor, Charles Tu, also expressed pride in the students’ work.
“We are so thrilled to see our students take first place in this competition once again,” Tu said in a statement. “Their performance against an even larger and stronger set of competitors demonstrates that the University of San Diego’s real estate program is truly one of the best in the nation.”
Competitors included teams from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Cornell, Dartmouth and Penn State.