Key Drivers Of Demand For Real Estate Properties


For the final project, you will choose an actual location in the United States, You will then determine its highest and best use and explain your choice.

You have several options for your analysis.

You may decide that the highest and best use is something totally different than exists currently.  For example, you might decide that the highest and best use of some farmland is actually a housing development.  Or the highest and best use of a vacant piece of land in the city is an office tower.

Alternatively,, you could argue that something is at close to its highest and best use already but could be improved.  For example, you could refurbish a mall to get higher rents, or update an office or apartment building to get higher rents or add a couple stories if allowed by zoning.  (Assume everyone in building is paying market rent for what they get and who they are—eg Walmart vs. Subway or Goldman Sachs vs. Acme Legal Reporting)

In theory, you choose a site and argue that the site is already at its highest and best use.  However, this would be a boring topic and therefore, is not recommended.  You will have more to say if you choose a site that is not currently at its highest and best and then explain what would be its highest and best use.

Possible locations you might choose include sites you are already familiar with, sites you learn about from real estate listings or a site that simply intrigues or interests you that you have become aware of.  You can choose any thing from a vacant piece of property to one that is fully occupied.

If you are planning to change a lot of things about your site as opposed to just refurbishing it, you must choose a use that is either as-of-right permissible under zoning—or else provide a credible plan for getting the zoning change.  You can be a bit creative here but the proposed zoning change must be plausible. You don’t need to worry about minor variances but you do need to explain a large zoning change such as sub-dividing a piece of vacant land into lots for houses or converting a former manufacturing building into residential lofts.  The point of this is to limit you to realistic scenarios.  In other words you shouldn’t propose a 15 story building where currently just 3 story buildings are allowed, or putting a multi-family building on a lot currently zoned for single family homes where it is unlikely you could ever do this.

You can ignore environmental issues unless something flies against common sense or environmental issues are critical to your project, for example, cleaning up a brownfield. In other words you can ignore some potential issues in converting a former gas station to retail but don’t propose a biotech facility or factory in a residential neighborhood.

Your project must include the following:

Address: Address of site

Before: Current use. Include zoning category, lot size, structure size, structure characteristics, site uses e.g. land, residential, office, industrial or mixed use.

At least one photo of the existing site and more if you desire.  You should be able to get at least one or two from Google Maps.

After: Zoning category, proposed structure including size in sf and other relevant descriptive information and proposed uses for structure. If you are proposing office, specify what types of tenants and their industry. If you are proposing housing, propose what type, how large and target demographic. If you are proposing mall, explain what type (eg regional vs. strip), square footage etc. and why this makes sense given the demographics of the area. If you are proposing industrial, propose what type, use etc. and square footage.

Rationale (bulk of paper): Why the proposed use is the highest and best use.

In your analysis of why your proposed use is the highest and best use for the site, please answer the following questions:

  1. What are the key drivers of demand for your real estate property type (include numbers)?
  2. What local, regional and national economic factors are impacting your real estate market (include numbers)?
  3. What trends are impacting your market?
  4. What factors were critical when conducting your market analysis?
  5. What is the highest and best use for your site?

Make sure to record credible sources in your analysis and include a few footnotes.

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