REFM Review - Real Estate Financial Modeling Courses 1-3

I just went through levels 1-3 of Bruce Kirsch's Real Estate Financial Modeling (REFM) and another monkey recommended I give a review... So here is a summary and what I though about the courses:

Level 1 - starts off as simple formatting and statistics formulas (max, min, avg). Then moves into dealing with dates and time (comes into play with IRR vs XIRR). Then it moves into conditional formulas (=IF ; =OR) which is used a lot throughout the modeling class. This was something I wasn't good at until I actually watched someone do it. Level one also goes through some different formatting options that are cool and useful. Other functions are VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, NPV, IRR, XIRR, PV, FV, etc. Next there is an amortization table. This was something I thought I had down from my coursework in school, but Bruce walks you through his model that works no matter what numbers you put in. This is especially helpful for interest only periods... no reformatting once you set the model up once. Lastly, data tables are covered and he shows how to run a sensitivity analysis.

Level 2 - Repeats a bit of level one as far as the time value of money calculations. Bruce walks you through a simple DCF and then walks through a similar loan amortization as level one with a case study-type problem that involves refinancing. Maximum loan amount calculations are included and a walk through of net operating income (this part goes into a bit of a development-type project). Capital structure is covered (types of financing and different loans). There is a sources of funds tab that shows the use and source of funds used in an example. Funds came from sponsor, partner, senior loan, mezzanine, and third party investor and Bruce goes over and example of when these funds come into play and how to model them. Then there is an intro into JV and waterfalls.

Level 3 - Includes preferred return (compounded and non-compounded), a walk through of a 3-tier waterfall, walk through of double promote profit sharing, and partnership structure. The site mentions claw back.. but that is hardly covered. This level had the most useful information but the least amount of explanation in comparison to levels 1&2...

This is what I did not like about the courses. Bruce knows everything like the back of his hand and really flies through some of the stuff and doesn't explain it thoroughly for beginners. It took me some time to figure out everything within the models and why different things were the way they were... and I did a lot of this on my own. The information within the excel models sometimes has to be self-taught. I also wasn't a fan of the fact that there wasn't a complete walkthrough of building an entire model.. Just bits and pieces.

The course is on the cheaper end of the spectrum and if you have a student ID you can get a discount which helps. I have not worked through any other courses (BIWS, WSP, ULI, etc.), so I can not compare REFM to any of those.

Comments (24)

Aug 5, 2016

Do any of these online classes run through a case study and walk you through building a complete model from scratch?

Aug 5, 2016

These 3 courses did not. I am not sure if REFMs other courses do or are similar to these where there are bits and pieces of case studies and you build part of a model. I was looking for a full walk-through of a case-study and model so I was disappointed in that aspect.

Best Response
Aug 6, 2016

I've done the BIWS Real Estate courses and they walk you through complete case studies (DD, comparable property analysis, actually creating the model).

Would highly recommend if you're looking at acquisitions roles in REPE, as the BIWS courses cover almost everything I do on a day-to-day basis as a REPE Acquisitions Analyst.

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Mar 20, 2019

would you be interested in a trade?

Aug 5, 2016

Great post. SB

Aug 5, 2016

I wonder if the REFM acquisition self study would be more beneficial in terms of building a model from scratch

Aug 5, 2016

I would think so... I feel like it should because it is a Real Estate Financial MODELING self study, but it might end up being very basic. There are some REFM models you can buy that are upwards of $1,000, so if REFM is charging that just for a pre-made model then I am not sure how detailed a $179 course would be.

If you do go through it, please post a brief review. Have you taken any other modeling courses?

Aug 5, 2016

no I haven't taken any other yet. I was going to see how I liked the acquisitions course first then see if level 2 and 3 are worth it. I want to make a transition in acquisitions so I figured that would be a better place to start.

Aug 22, 2016

I'd go with BIWS RE course. I purchased REFM because there was a 40% off on the "Level 1-3 Course." They are both great courses, I personally like Brian's communication style over Bruce's.

Text Books: DIY - Foundations-Real-Estate-Financial-Modelling by Roger Staiger. Amazon for $50~.

This is a great book if you want to learn how to structure your models from A to Z. There are several models, ie: Single family, multifamily, waterfall, development, and office etc. I personally enjoy this book because it shows you how to structure your models and assumptions, and a step by step guide to the entire model from what formula to use and which cells to input it in.

A simple formula I'd recommend would be BIWS Excel + BIWS RE Course + Staiger's textbook should get you up to speed. For other relevant readings, "RE Finance and Investment" by Linneman and "CRE Analysis and Investments" by Geltner & Miller. *One can find a .pdf version of Geltner & Miller book - Torrent

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Aug 22, 2016

OT, but has anyone here taken the 3 course series by ULI? Looks interesting and it goes over waterfalls, but I'm not sure if my money would be better spent going towards an Argus Cert.

Aug 22, 2016

The ULI program focuses on building out an Excel model from scratch. The instructor goes into detail on debt, cost curves, monte carlo (never use it), so there are extra benefits to the course. But the property level NOI and waterfall is high level (BIWS goes into more detail).

End of the day, it is not the cheapest course out there but I did pick up some great modeling skills and learned how to build shit from scratch which is my job at the moment. I think it's a course you do if you can afford it and have already done BIWS/REFM/Kahr. Would focus on ARGUS and the free BIWS stuff if I were you. PM if you want more info.

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Oct 17, 2018

Hi I have wall street preps premium package ? Interested to swap it with a real estate package. it includes financial modeling , m&a modeling, LBO modeling etc

Jan 16, 2019

Anyone interested in selling REFM 1 and 2. can venmo

Jan 16, 2019

I recently took the REFM 1 and 2 bootcamp with no prior modeling skills and found the course to be much more of an excel tutorial than a real estate modeling course. I personally wish I had spent the extra money to get the BIWS course. I would also look into the adventures in CRE accelerator course as I have found there free online models to be very useful.

Feb 18, 2019

which ones on CRE would you recommend

Feb 22, 2019

Currently taking Adcentures in CRE accelerator and it is great

Mar 20, 2019

Anyone interested in a trade? I have REFM 1-3.

Jul 2, 2019

I have BIWS Course for Real Estate

Jul 2, 2019

Is anyone still willing to trade the REFM Course for BIWS RE Course?

Jul 3, 2019

i'll trade you. PM me

Jul 5, 2019