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Real Estate Development Certificate

Real Estate Development Certificate

Real estate developers apply the principles of planning and design to create new projects in a variety of market sectors. This challenging field requires the developer to identify opportunities, analyze project financial feasibility, and implement projects from design through occupancy. The Real Estate Development Certificate introduces students to the fundamental concepts and skills needed to participate in this field. Students may also select courses in historic preservation, sustainable design or community development to focus their studies and be more knowledgeable in specific real estate markets.


The Real Estate Development Certificate offers on campus courses and is open to anyone interested in real estate development. Students can choose from a mix of onsite and online classes to complete the certificate. An undergraduate degree is recommended, but not required for enrollment in this certificate program. Courses in this program are taught at the graduate-level.

With this certificate, you can learn to become a real estate developer who can apply the principles of planning and design to create new projects in a variety of market sectors.

Requirements and Courses

The Real Estate Development Certificate program requires the completion of 9 credits—4.5 credits of required courses and 4.5 credits of elective courses. It is highly recommended that you begin with one or both of the required courses before moving on to the elective courses. 

You’ll take the same courses as students in the Master of Design Studies in Real Estate Development.

Courses are offered in the fall and spring semesters. See what Continuing Education Courses are coming up soon.

    Required Course | 4.5 Credits:

    REA3012 Land Use Planning, Zoning, and Regulatory, 1.5 credits**

    Real estate development occurs within a complex framework of planning, legal and policy regulations. A development proposal must demonstrate compliance with a community’s comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance, subdivision regulations, and other policies. A local, state, or federal government may require compliance with real estate law environmental regulations on each level. Knowledge of the integration of development with public infrastructure, such as transportation or utilities, as well as a working understanding of community outreach and the public approvals process is necessary for the success of any development project. This course offers an overview, readings, discussions, and applied exercises that address the planning, policy, law and regulatory influences on real estate development.

    REA3013 Real Estate Finance, 3 credits**

    This course is designed to provide real estate professionals with the critical tools of real estate finance. Students learn and use pro forma analysis along with assessment of sources of debt, market revenue assumptions, cost of construction, operating costs and other critical financial components. Topics will also include leasing and property income streams, equity valuation, tax analysis, the financial structuring of real property ownership and discounted cash flow and internal rate of return analysis. There will also be a focuses on developing an understanding of the economic factors that shape and influence the markets for real property. This includes an analysis of housing as well as commercial real estate, and covers demographic analysis, regional growth, construction cycles, and urban land markets. This will be supported by exercises and modeling techniques for measuring and predicting property demand, supply, vacancy and prices.

    **Highly Recommended as first course(s).

    Elective Courses | 4.5 Credits:

    This course teaches the fundamentals of real estate property development. All major property types and land uses are covered as well as all stages of the development process, legal framework, including site selection, market analysis, financial feasibility, valuation methods, design and legal considerations, construction, lease-up, operations, and sale of the final product. The course includes lectures, case studies, student exercises, site visits, guest lectures, and student presentations. The cases are designed to put students in decision-making situations such as they may face in a professional career. There will also be a focus on best practices in real estate development across sectors.

    As the profession of real estate development becomes more interdisciplinary, understanding the technological applications to completing a successful project is a necessity for any developer. This course will cover techniques such as advanced Microsoft excel, construction scheduling software, energy modeling software and other web based applications that support community engagement.

    The practice of real estate development requires both the art and skills of leadership and persuasion. Ultimately, real estate development is a risk-taking proposition, and it requires an entrepreneurial approach. This course examines the dynamics and principles of leadership and entrepreneurism. It also addresses the emerging philosophy and approaches of “design thinking” and teamwork. As a result of this course, students will better understand their own personal leadership attributes and how to apply them throughout their professional career. The course will introduce students to the ‘Entrepreneurial Process’ to include an examination of the steps that business owners and business leaders engage in as they move a project from the opportunity recognition and idea generation stage all the way through to harvest. The process of developing and writing a business plan for a future business proposition that students are considering, a private business or innovative ideas at work, will be part of the process as well.

    This advanced interdisciplinary studio examines and synthesizes large scale site planning principles and frameworks and the direct relationship these may have to the natural and built infrastructural networks that surround them. Planning and spatial patterns will be developed through physical explorations that respond to complex and rich development programs, including housing (affordable and market rate) campus planning, corporate campuses and headquarters, or mixed used developments, as well as to ecological and sociological factors. Students will foster an understanding for the holistic nature of real estate development projects by investigating community networks, the regulatory process and design process.

    This course is based on the history and current practice of the community development process, the empowerment of communities through resident leadership and the active participation of people living in neighborhoods where years of neglect by real estate developers left a deteriorating housing stock, boarded-up storefronts and other signs of disinvestment. This is a place making course that takes into consideration the history of the struggle for land use in inner city communities that have encountered systematic neglect from developers. It also includes a summary of the development of affordable housing, main street district storefronts, youth centers and other community based real estate initiatives that have emerged over the past five decades since landmark federal legislation such as the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Community Reinvestment Act (1977). Introduction to Community Development details how past, active, and future real estate deals are connected to and arise from community leadership. Other topics include the expansion of a network of Community Development Corporations (CDCs), Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Main Streets, and other non-profits directly involved in place making and land use decisions. Positive outcomes that reflect the desire of residents will also treated in some detail. Attention will be given to the financing of community development projects through government grants, private foundations, tax credits, and other gap funding sources. A history and summary of key community leaders in Greater Boston and other cities nationally is included. Emerging trends such as New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Greening the City, Green Buildings, and Historic Preservation are also profiled as communities expand the range of projects they are demanding. At the end of the first week, students will be divided into two group: Group 1 – The Development Team; and Group 2: The Neighborhood to prepare a presentation and push-back for a major real estate development in Dudley Square. This will lead to a final class that models a Zoning Board of Appeal s (ZBA) hearing. Students should anticipate a series of guest lectures from community practitioners working on a wide range of real estate projects.

    Developers should think of themselves first and foremost as designers! They create environments that shape human interaction for decades. Sustainable real estate development is grounded in a set of design, planning, and economic principles that establishes the framework for project ideas, opportunities, and creativity. This course will explore fundamental design principles for strategic and economically viable real estate development.

    This required, all-online course teaches students skills of visual communication including techniques in the use of images, infographics, diagramming, maps, graphs, layout etc. The course utilizes both on-line software tutorials and instructor-led project-based digital workflow assignments. Learning Goals: 1. Create visually compelling presentation graphics which convey complex data and other non-visual information through the use of images, infographics, diagrams, maps, graphs and layout. 2. Use typography in meaningful ways to communicate written information - 3. Use color, scale, graphic arrangement, symbols, and other visual elements to communicate ideas 4. Create page layouts in both printed and digital platforms which effectively communicate research and arguments. 5. Effectively use concepts of visual hierarchy to organize and present work 6. Employ best practices in analog and digital workflows using Adobe Creative Suite 7. Effectively capture and reproduce high-quality images using scanning, photography, printing, and web space.

    This course will explore the history of the preservation movement worldwide, with a special focus on the philosophy and practice of historic preservation in the United States. We will explore and critique the social, historical and cultural roots and contemporary meanings of historic preservation and the future of the profession and examine case studies from around the country.

    This course introduces students to the regulatory landscape within which historic preservation practitioners of all types must operate. It examines the legislative hierarchy of federal, state, and local laws that provide the framework to implement historic preservation practices. This course also explores the social, economic, and policy issues that impact the practice of preservation. Such matters including housing justice, sustainability, gentrification, government transparency and the public process, community advocacy, zoning, building code, and local commission powers will be woven throughout the course. The role of the preservation planner and that of preservation planning in the larger context of strategic planning and community development will also be explored. Students will examine current preservation issues and gain a better understanding of how preservation policies impact the historic built environment and the lives of those who live in it.

    This course introduces the student to historic building adaptive reuse and the analytical techniques and decision-making processes that shape the certified rehabilitation project. By “certified”, the intent is to meet or exceed the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guideline for Rehabilitation in terms of creating a “synthesis of form” in which a historic property that is listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places is adapted to a new use.

    In this course we will examine the tourism industry and how it connects to historic preservation and sustainable development. Students will learn the history of tourism, the different facets of the tourism industry, economic development and the concepts/methodology of placemaking. Students will have weekly assignments where they have to explore the various themes of the class by visiting local tourist sites and museums and reporting back to the class. Most of the class will focus on heritage tourism and tourism in urban areas, but topics of sustainability and environmental impact will be integrated into each course topic.

    In recent years, numerous theories about sustainable development and urban living have emerged. New urbanism, landscape urbanism, ecological urbanism, sustainable urbanism, are just a few to mention. Each of these planning and design theories introduces new ideas and principles; some of them even issue manifestos. How different actually are these urbanisms? Does one preclude the other? How do these theories contribute to sustainable development? This course reviews the most current among these movements, their basic tenets and positions. Students will apply observations derived from the comparison of urbanist theories to sample urban and suburban sites, and draw conclusions about sustainable development. Course discussions and assignments are aimed at establishing sound and well-informed professional approaches.

    As the art and science of sensitively adapting historic buildings for continued and new uses, preservation is inherently a sustainable practice. Learn how old buildings were built with features that conserve energy and create a comfortable environment. Develop a framework for evaluating energy-saving options for historic buildings and the special considerations they require. Build your knowledge of current best practices in the field regarding windows, insulation, renewables and more. This course will help you design energy improvements that meet historic preservation guidelines whether you're trying to comply with regulatory requirements in a local design review process or federally funded project, or just want to promote the long term sustainability of historic buildings. Discussion topics will include environmental quality, materials selection, and energy rating systems like LEED.

    The existing building stock is here and much of it is responsible for consuming energy, water and other resources at an unsustainable rate from both the environmental and the economic standpoints. Focusing on non-residential buildings, this course will examine the issues, techniques and processes that are involved in turning these buildings into sustainable consumers, whether through relatively simple retrofits or major renovations. Among the topics to be reviewed will be assessing existing performance, instituting building commissioning, improving energy and water efficiency, limiting (re)construction waste, improving indoor environmental quality, supporting sustainable operations and considering renewable energy sources.

    That cities have the potential to be the most sustainable form of human development is coming to be widely recognized, as is the fact that most cities have a long way to go to realize that potential. Progress is being made, however, in terms of improvements to infrastructure and the building stock, innovative transportation and development policies and programs, revised codes, and other measures designed to encourage sustainability. This course will examine the most innovative approaches to greening cities around the US and other countries and consider both their successes -and failures- and their applicability to different regions and cultures. Among other things, the important role of conflict resolution as major changes are being made in a city will be considered.

    The concept of an environmentally conscious building should take into account energy consumption, the quality of indoor air, and most importantly human comfort. Indigenous strategies that adapt to the rigors of the local climate and contemporary bioclimatic architecture are part of this introductory course to sustainable design. Participants will be introduced to the human needs for comfort and shelter as well as psychrometrics and the physics of heat transfer and heat loss calculations. Building form, orientation, and indoor spaces will also be discussed as they relate to sun, wind, and site, as well as bioclimatic design, passive solar design, natural cooling, and daylighting.

    This course gives students the tools they need to evaluate a material based on how it impacts the built and natural environment. Since people in western cultures tend to spend most of their time indoors, specific attention will be paid to Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). Environmentally responsible materials selection will be discussed, including the importance of waste, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and all aspects of the manufacturing process. Interior design issues that are covered include the importance of natural daylighting, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and acoustics. Current materials rating systems and specification writing aids will be reviewed. Case studies representing best practices in sustainable design of interiors will be presented for discussion. This course is directly useful to anyone selecting materials for any kind of building project.

    This course will examine how communities across the nation are grappling with such smart growth issues as affordable housing, sprawl, urban revitalization, economic development, transportation investments, and open space protection. These issues are also collectively referred to as sustainable development, growth management or New Urbanism. The course will cover the history of sprawl and current policy debates about land use, urban design, regulation, and public and private investment. The course will feature critiques of specific development projects, tailored to the interests of students.

    How to Enroll in a Certificate Program

    To enroll in a BAC Certificate Program, submit the following application materials to the Registrar's office and then register for courses during an open registration period:

    *An undergraduate degree is recommended for the Sustainable Design Certificate, the Real Estate Development Certificate, and the Historic Preservation Certificate. Courses in these certificate programs are taught at the graduate level.

    Certificate students must begin academic coursework in the program within two academic semesters of submitting the application materials. 

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