What’s New with Robert Simons & Associates, Inc.

The year 2010/11 included a lot of moving and traveling.  We lived in Israel for a year and traveled to Africa, Europe and throughout the middle east.  Roby taught Real Estate part-time at the Technion University in Haifa, Israel.  He is now the President of the American Real Estate Society (ARES).   As the president, Roby represents ARES at the sister organizations and attended academic conferences in Holland, Dubai, and Kenya.  We finished a manuscript on the rehabilitation of religious buildings, primarily churches.  We are still working with the publisher (KSU Press) on the release of this book.  Now Roby is back teaching at Cleveland State University (CSU).  In addition to his real estate classes he added Mega Cities of Asia to his teaching repertoire.  All our traveling has paid off in terms of real life experiences for CSU students. 


Living in Israel was a great opportunity to travel a large portion of the world in one time zone.  In addition to attending conferences, we traveled to research how land rights and land claim issues are handled throughout the world. 

The first academic conference was in Dubai.  The conference was hosted by the Middle East and Northern African Real Estate Society (MENARES).  This is a new organization and this was their first meeting.  Roby presented a paper on emerging trends in real estate finance.

Kenya was the location of the 10th African Real Estate Society (AfRES) meeting.  There we had the opportunity to meet with scholars from all over Africa.  This is a unique time in African history.  There are some very bright dedicated scholars dealing with many difficult economic, cultural and political problems in their respective countries.  Tribal land claim issues were the subject of many talks and lectures.  Roby also guest lectured students at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.  We were impressed with the students’ respect for learning.

We went to Yerevan, Armenia for a discussion with local NGOs on land rights and claims concerning the Ngorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia is a country with border disputes with Turkey and Azerbaijan.  While we did not go to Armenia with any preconceived notions, we found the country to be full of beautiful people with a fascinating history.  Yerevan has very nice USSR-era public spaces.  The architecture and culture in Armenia are with worth a visit to this interesting place.

While living in the middle east, who could miss the opportunity to visit friends in Cairo and Alexandria, and the pyramids in Egypt (just before the emergence of the ‘Arab Spring’).  We also saw the wonderful caves of Petra, Jordan. 

We also traveled throughout Israel.  Israel has a culturally diverse population speaking numerous languages.  Almost all religions have a historical connection to Israel.  We visited ancient and current religious sites for Jews, Muslims, Christians, Baha’i, Druze, and the Ahmadiyya sect.  There are Buddhists and Hindus living in Israel as well.  Israel is much like early America with a large immigrant population.  As a result the economy is booming with new ideas and hard workers.  Despite its difficulties, this is an amazing country.

Roby took a quick two-week trip back to the United States to attend to court commitments and also attend the ARES meeting in Seattle.  Aside from administrative duties from being President-Elect at the time (now President), Roby co-presented a paper on valuing the lost option to control property, as a result of long term groundwater contamination.

Finally, we traveled to Holland for the European Real Estate Society (ERES) Conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands.  Side trips to visit family in Amsterdam and Zurich were a nice benefit of being close by.  Roby presented a paper on global residential cap rates at the meeting.

Latest Book and Publication Projects

The book “Turning Prophets into Profit – and other institutional conversions” about the redevelopment of surplus churches is finished and awaiting printing.  This book is written with two other authors, Larry Ledebur, Ph.D. and retired urban planner Gary DeWine, as well as some Ph.D. students at Cleveland State University.  It will be published by Kent State University Press. 

Roby had five peer reviewed publications accepted. In addition to the topics discussed in this update, we explored the effects of Green policy on various cities in the United States and well as the impact of school quality and the location of religious institutions on residential property values.  These papers can be found in the “other downloads” section of the website www.rasimons.com.

Consulting and Expert Witness Assignments

We worked hard to finalize all pending work before we left for Israel.  So, with e-mail and Skype, consulting continued with little impact from where we were sleeping at that point in time.  With the company’s two employees in Cleveland, site visits were conducted and data transmitted digitally across the world.  Business is picking up with us back in the United States.  The economy has hit our clients hard with their credit lines being limited. 

Most of the RS&A, Inc.’s consulting is involved with the calculation of property value loss related to environmental contamination.  Over the past dozen years we have had more than 60 cases, 30 depositions and 8 trials and/or in-court sessions. We also recently were involved in a commercial property land loss case where we used options modeling to model the loss of control of property development rights. We had a peer-reviewed article accepted for publication on this topic (forthcoming 2012). We also had the ”Big Matrix” (from the 2006 book) admitted for testimony at trial.

We have also been involved with property value loss related to mining operations, landfills and explosions.  We have also been involved in mold and flooding litigation cases.  We have a published paper on the effect of mold on property value loss. 

In addition to our property loss work, we worked on a mortgage lending dispute involving a NFA, and also opined on the outlook for the concrete industry in Ohio. We performed fiscal impact studies for a shopping mall and industrial complex.  It is great when we can use CSU students to help with these projects.  The students (always at a master’s degree level or higher) get some real work experience and keep us forward thinking.  This is especially true with the use of technology as much of our work incorporates GIS. 

Teaching and Research

Roby taught part-time at the Technion’s Tel Aviv campus.  He taught real estate and a special research class about Bedouin land rights.  Like his Cleveland students, most of the Israeli students worked full while going to school.  Since Israelis spend at least two years in the military, most students are older, married and with children.  Their English was better than Roby’s Hebrew.

Part of Roby’s research in Israel was the study of Bedouin land rights.  He worked with three Israeli masters’ degree students and an Indian scholar on this topic.  He also co-sponsored a seminar on this issue in Haifa with Dr. Ruth Kark from Hebrew University.  This work was presented at ASCP in Salt Lake City in October 2011.

While we were away Roby’s classes were taught by David O’Neil and Peter Rubin.  They continued in Roby’s style of having guest lecturers who talk about their successful and sometimes unsuccessful projects.   The students enjoy hearing about the real world, especially Cleveland projects.  These same successful real estate practitioners in Cleveland, Ohio, donate their time to help mentor students in real estate paper competitions (where students compete for cash prizes).  As always the greatest gift you can give someone is the ability to make a living

Latest News

Dr. Simons Presents 2010 Economic Forecast

On January 12, 2010, Dr. Simons presented his 2010 Economic Forecast to the Greater Cleveland Mortgage Brokers Association. See what he sees in store for the Cleveland region and Ohio this year by downloading his presentation here.

Dr. Simons hosts Real Estate Market Analysis Competition

Please join Dr. Simons and Mr. David O'Neill to evaluate and recognize the top five market analysis case studies selected from 25 graduate students in the PDD 610/710 Real Estate Development Process/Market Analysis class.

The panel of judges for this year's competition includes David O’Neill, Colliers OM; Arne Goldman, Marous Brothers Construction; Ken Lurie, Rysar Properties; Gary Gross, Gross Builders, Inc.; and, Jamie Blackson Baker, St. Clair Superior DC. As in past years, the winners are announced immediately following the presentations, with cash prizes awarded.

This event will take place Monday, December 17, 2007 at 3:30pm at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, 1717 Euclid Avenue.  Registration will begin at 3pm, and the program will be held from 3:30 to 5:30pm.  A networking reception will follow program.  The program is free and open to the public, however, attendees are requested to register by December 9th.  Parking is available in the CSU parking structure on East 17th, between Chester and Euclid Avenues if you mention you are attending this event.

Dr. Simons presents the Halachic Origins of Real Estate

On October 23, 2007, Dr. Robert Simons hosted his latest event in his Halachic Origins of Real Estate series. With some of Cleveland's leading real estate professionals providing insights from scripture and comments on its current applicability, the event examined the roots of real estate acquisition, possession, transactions, and disclosure.

Panelists included Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum, Jewish Learning Connection; Mr. Mitchell Schneider, Esq., First Interstate Properties; Mr. David O'Neill, Colliers OM; Mr. Bruce Cweiber, Esq., Precision Title, Cleveland Bet Din; and, Mr. Morton Levin, Esq., The Levin Group. Dr. Simons served as the moderator of the event.

Please check back for information about future events in the Halachic Origins of Real Estate series.


Dr. Simons Ranked 30th Amongst All Real Estate Academics

The Journal of Real Estate Research, one of the top three academic real estate journals, has ranked Dr. Robert Simons 30th amongst all professors in the United States that publish academic articles in the real estate area.  In a study entitled, “Contributions to the Journal of Real Estate Research:  The First Twenty Years,” the journal tallied the academic contributions of professors over a twenty-year period to commemorate its 20th anniversary.

Dr. Simons' work has also aided Cleveland State University in securing a first-place ranking amongst all US colleges and universities as the most frequent institutional contributor over the last two decades.

Update from Spring 2007

2006 and the first part of 2007 have treated us well. We are involved in a number of new projects and new directions.  Some of these new directions will be transformed into books, others scholarly papers and conference presentations.  Consulting has included expert witness work in environmental damages, as well as several housing policy cases and an eminent domain case.  Teaching is always an opportunity to learn new things, and interact with students and esteemed local practitioners.  New Ph.D. graduate students come up with new ideas and questions.

Latest Book and Publication Projects

Our latest book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Property (published by the Environmental Law Institute), was released in summer, 2006.  The most interesting feature is The Big Matrix as a fold out poster in the back.  The Big Matrix allows the reader to roughly estimate property loss by type and extent of contamination and property type.  The book has chapters written by both defense and plaintiff attorneys.  I have been able to recommend the book instead of expert witness services for smaller claims. Several hundred copies have been sold so far.

The exposure to some of the real estate issues in South Africa on my Fulbright Scholarship at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa last year has inspired us to research indigenous land claims and property rights.  Simons has assumed the lead editorship of a peer-reviewed American Real Estate Society (ARES) research monograph on Indigenous Property and Valuation Practices covering tribal and indigenous land activity in Africa, Australia and North America. This edited volume should go to press in late 2007.  We are also working on some joint papers with our South African colleges on the re-development of former gold mining lands.  A long-term project on international and tribal land claims is also on the horizon, and this will be fleshed out at the next meeting of the European Real Estate Society in London this summer, where Simons is chairing a panel discussion on indigenous land claims.

Another book in progress is “Turning Prophets into Profit – and other institutional conversions” about the redevelopment of surplus church and school buildings.  This book is being written with two other authors, Larry Ledebur, Ph.D. and retired urban planner Gary DeWine, as well as some PhD students at Cleveland State University.  It will be published by Urban Land Institute.  

Consulting and Expert Witness Assignments

Consulting this past year has been expanding, and we have hired a new associate, James Amendola, to complement Senior Associate Pitt Curtiss.  Both Pitt and James have Masters in Urban Planning from CSU.  Donna Simons continues to run the office and manage cash flow.  

The bulk of our consulting business is expert witness testimony regarding the loss of property value that results from environmental contamination.  We are involved in mediation, class action, class certification and mass action cases related to groundwater contamination from petroleum and chemical spills, MTBE, PCE,TCE, (including PFCs) and releases all over the country. We also had one case in South Africa last year.  The causes of the contamination range from leaking landfills, LUSTs, railroad car accidents, pipeline leaks, industrial vapors, and refinery emissions.

In addition to our environmental work, we have worked on Housing Policy issues, fiscal impact analysis, GIS evaluations, and expert witness work.  Specific projects (several through Cleveland State University) are:

Housing market and fiscal impacts to central cities resulting from removal of municipal employee residency requirements in Ohio, a challenging assignment involving surveys, regression analysis and economic modeling;

Cleveland, Ohio area apartment/condo investment opportunity study that utilized GIS;

A suburban county office and service relocation study that helps balance both client and employee needs. The county commissioners are the clients;

Expert witness testimony supportive of using eminent domain in a riverfront area of Cleveland;

Fiscal impact of the redevelopment of an 11,000 acre brownfield site in Northeast Ohio.

University Activities

Roby has two additional Ph.D. candidates working with him right now – Youngme Seo and Eugene Choi. Youngme’s dissertation topic is likely to be the impact of school quality on economic development.  This has led to some fascinating reading on school quality the impact on a community’s property values.   Eugene’s topic is related to housing supply.  

Roby continues to team teach with some of the most successful real estate practitioners in Cleveland, Ohio.  The twice yearly graduate student Real Estate paper competitions (where students compete for cash prizes) have added local mentors to improve the quality of the presentations and the breadth of knowledge of the students.  Some of the past  presented projects have made it into the Cleveland marketplace.

A final innovation was the organization of an academic panel on the Halachic origins of real estate last fall.  150 people attended (maybe it was the free kosher lunch). A second panel on financing is scheduled for March 2007.   

We have also updated and improved our website.  Our web designer Jeff Sugalski has done a great job.  Please check us out at www.rasimons.com.

Best wishes,

Roby Simons



Robert Simons & Associates, Inc.
23101 Wendover Road - Beachwood, Ohio 44122
Phone: (216) 401-1700 - Email RS&A
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