Faculty Feature: Meet Julia Freybote, real estate enthusiast and our 2022 Researcher of the Year

Headshot of Julia Freybote

Julia Freybote is passionate about real estate, which comes through in her classes and research. A core faculty member for the Master of Real Estate Development and Graduate Certificate in Real Estate Investment and Finance programs, her research focuses on investor behavior, information environment and asset pricing in the REIT and commercial real estate market. She was named The School of Business’ 2022 Researcher of the Year and will be celebrated alongside her fellow honorees at PSU’s annual Research Awards event this week.

Please give us a brief overview of your academic and professional backgrounds. 

I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany and came to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student. I did the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program at Georgia State University (GSU) in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was a transformative experience that really ignited my passion for commercial real estate. Real estate as an industry and academic discipline was so much more advanced in the U.S. than in Europe, and I was fascinated by all the different opportunities and fields. During my studies, I gained professional experience in institutional real estate investment and real estate investment advisory. After graduating, I worked in corporate real estate consulting in Germany. However, I missed the academic environment and decided to move to South Africa to teach real estate at the University of South Africa. After a few years, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue an academic career, and so I returned to GSU to pursue my Ph.D. with a focus on real estate (all my degrees are in real estate btw – I just really love this field!). After graduating from the doctoral program, I came to PSU, left for Florida International University in Miami, Florida, for a few years and then returned to PSU in 2019.

What drew me to PSU (twice) is a number of things. First, as someone that researches and teaches commercial real estate, I want to be at an urban university. This allows me to connect with the local industry for research and teaching purposes, help students get jobs, stay up to date on the latest industry trends, and use the city outside the classroom as a laboratory. What also drew me to PSU is that it has such a strong focus on sustainability and DEI (which appeals to me as a European). I also want to be at a place where I can have an impact – with my teaching and research, and PSU with its mission to serve the city and have an impact in this place. Finally, to me as a German, Portland has the life quality I want – starting with walkability, public transportation, lots of green spaces, a great climate, and lots of outdoor opportunities close by. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching in The School of Business?

First and foremost, I really enjoy working with the students – graduate and undergraduate. We have amazing students in The School of Business that pursue education to better their lives and the ones of their families, learn, and have an impact. With the Center for Real Estate, we also have an amazing opportunity to connect students with the industry – through guest speakers, mentors, internships, scholarship, the Real Estate Emerging Leaders (REEL) student group, and events. I also like how innovative the real estate group in The School of Business is with regards to new programs, which allows us to keep up to date with trends in the industry and what employers want. We recently launched an undergraduate program in property management and a graduate certificate in real estate investment and finance. I also appreciate the support of the local real estate industry for my teaching. Coming back to Portland as an urban laboratory – whenever I approach an industry expert about being a guest speaker, they agree to take time out of their busy schedules to talk to my students. 

I also enjoy working with the faculty and staff in The School of Business, who are very supportive and collegial. 

What classes do you teach in our graduate programs?

I teach Real Estate Finance I and II in the Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) and Graduate Certificate in Real Estate Investment and Finance (GCREIF) programs. I hope my students will take away strong analytical and critical thinking skills with regard to real estate investment & finance. I also want them to understand the changes that are currently going on in the commercial real estate industry, for example, regarding PropTech, FinTech, CSR, climate risk, or data analytics. Lastly, we have a number of graduate students that are not sure yet where they want to take their career, so I always try to show them a number of different commercial real estate careers to give them an idea of what opportunities are out there. There are some careers they didn’t know about or hadn’t considered. When I was a student at GSU, this was one of the most impactful aspects of my graduate degree, so I want to do the same for my students.

What are you passionate about in your work? 

I just love real estate! It’s such a fascinating industry that involves so much more than just business and has such an impact on communities. I love teaching it, researching it, and following industry trends!

Congrats on being named The School of Business’ 2022 Researcher of the Year. How have your research interests evolved?

Thank you very much! I’m honored to have received this award. The school where I did my Ph.D. (GSU) has had a strong focus on behavioral real estate, i.e., the question of how psychology impacts investor behavior and real estate markets. As I have a strong interest in psychology (human resource management/organizational behavior was my second major for my undergrad studies besides real estate), my primary research interest has always been on investor sentiment, consensus, and herding in commercial real estate and the real estate investment trust (REIT) market. Lately, my research uses textual analysis to extract, for example, the sentiment of commercial real estate investors. Over time, my research focus has evolved from merely investigating investor behavior and its impact on asset pricing to looking at it as a source of information for commercial real estate investors. This, in turn, has broadened my research interest to also identify other non-traditional sources of information that can help investors in their investment decision-making by improving the information environment in commercial real estate markets. Other interests of mine include CSR in the context of real estate as well as innovative technologies (e.g., AI, Fintech, Proptech) in the context of RE investment, with the latter being somewhat newer. 

When you are not teaching, what do you do in your free time?

I really enjoy being outside and walking around town exploring neighborhoods (can’t help being a real estate person! 😉 and meeting people and dogs (did I mention that I love that Portland is such a dog city?!). My partner and I also enjoy exploring Oregon with our vintage car and going on hikes. I also volunteer for the Rose City Rollers and enjoy attending roller derby bouts and Timbers & Thorns soccer games.

What does “redefining business” mean to you?

Redefining business to me means a number of things. It means to think beyond the financial bottom line and short-term view to include environmental and social considerations, particularly with regard to such a long lived and impactful asset as commercial real estate. It means to inspire our diverse students to pursue a career in real estate because they are passionate about the industry and thereby making it more diverse (traditionally the RE industry is not very diverse). It also means to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in students to constantly ask “how can we improve/change how things have been traditionally done?”, for example, regarding new data sources and new technologies.

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