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New Director of ODU Center for Real Estate Brings Diverse Experience

From a California real estate market that experienced booming prices as well as the very worst of the global economic slowdown, to a Hampton Roads real estate market with challenges from sequestration and sea level rise, Andy Hansz has seen the full range of issues affecting real estate.

The new Robert M. Stanton Chair of Real Estate in Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business, Hansz believes this market provides unique points of entry to study, and to form collaborations in the Hampton Roads real estate community.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to be here, to help grow the E.V. Williams Center for Real Estate (formerly CREED)," said Hansz, who started at Old Dominion University last month.

Hansz founded the Gazarian Real Estate Center at California State University-Fresno in 2009, before spending the past academic year as a visiting professor at Penn State.

The opportunity to assume the Robert M. Stanton Chair of Real Estate in Old Dominion University's Strome College of Business was appealing to him. But Hansz also was intrigued by the level of engagement shown by the local real estate market's entire range of stakeholders.

"I came to the E.V. Williams Real Estate Market Review in March, and was very impressed at the size of the event, and how participants from the entire industry were actively involved - from commercial real estate, to leasing, to investment," he said.

That was encouraging because there is a common misconception about the breadth of the real estate industry that Hansz constantly has to dispel. Whenever he meets someone and mentions what he does for a living, "they ask me how much their house is worth," he said. "People think immediately of residential sales. But the real estate industry, in all of its sectors, has more than 9 million jobs. It's a huge employment sector. Sixty to 75 percent of the nation's wealth is in property and real estate."

Hansz and Mark Lane, associate professor of finance, are the faculty members responsible for directing the real estate major in the Strome College. Lane, who studies behavior in real estate decision-making, said the Hampton Roads real estate market is unique.

"This is a second tier real estate market - it's not a New York or a California - but there are a lot of different aspects to this market. There are active real estate investment trusts, a large commercial leasing sector, the interplay between the real estate market and our military," Lane said.

Though he is only a month into the job, Hansz jumped right into research in this market, sending a questionnaire to the 1,200 mailing list members of the E.V. Williams Center, seeking guidance on how to focus the programming of the Center to better serve the local real estate community.

"We aspire to be a true community resource," Hansz said. That includes training professionals in all aspects of real estate and providing new research insight into this market. The encroaching waters from rising sea levels also represents, to Hansz, a unique opportunity to assess the interplay between coveted coastal property, and the threats to that property from more severe storms and rising water levels.

"We would like to know what it is that is driving the decision-making of property owners," Hansz said. "How much do factors like sea level rise affect their market behavior?"

Like any researcher passionate about his or her discipline, Hansz couldn't imagine studying a field other than real estate.

"The home is the biggest asset and liability on a typical household balance sheet," Hansz said. "If you're living on this planet, you're affected by decisions made in the real estate industry. It's a discipline that should interest everybody."

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