It is broadly recognized that real estate has been subjected to a veritable tsunami of change forces dramatically impacting:

  • Property use: Air BnB
  • Retail shopping – Amazon
  • Workspaces – WeWork and other co-working models
  • Capital access – FinTech innovations and crowd funding
  • Urbanization – prospectively accelerated by autonomous vehicles and proliferating high-rise construction

These changes are not necessarily reflected in the focus of research topics investigated by the property research community. Mainstream real estate textbooks are even more innocent of these forces. Consequently, the academy is not well serving students studying property.

This paper explores implications of change influence the concerns of property scholars and the contents of property curriculums. The study emphasis is on textbooks for introductory real estate principles. This research updates and extends prior research published in Journal of Real Estate Literature two decades ago ("Foundation of the Knowledge Structure: Review of Real Estate Principles Texts,") and a decade ago ("Shifting Foundations of the Real Estate Knowledge Structure").

While the majority of real estate textbooks evaluated in the 1994 review were no longer in the market a decade later, significantly, the books that survived were more traditional. The survivors had become more non-traditional, placing greater emphasis on topics other than law and brokerage. Books not in the market in 1994, were even more traditional. Strikingly, economics was less emphasized in 2004 than a decade earlier. While the economy represented real-time empirical validation of Schumpeter’s classic principle of creative destruction, the same conclusion does not apply to the real estate principles textbooks.

This paper provides a contemporary 2017 perspective on what is covered in introductory real estate principles textbooks, compares and contrasts that coverage to contemporary discovery research, and considers how topic emphasis has changed.

At a time when the economy is more complex and factors that influence future performance of property goods and services are greater rather than fewer, many studying real estate principles are likely to find that their textbooks are less than adequate. Those pursuing real estate careers, whose initial knowledge foundation is built upon deficient, rather than superior professional services, shall be more likely to miscalculate in their decision-making and in making capital commitment.