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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Longtime USM real estate prof eyes retirement

Hattiesburg — Around the Pine Belt, he’s known as “the real estate guru.” But because of his humor and laid-back attitude, many people never know he’s a college professor.

“I have no ego and nothing to prove,” said Charles Cartee, a finance and real estate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). “My theory is that people will come to know you for what you do anyway, not because of anything that you say or an image you try to project.”

After teaching at the College of Business for nearly three decades, he’s retiring this month. The Mississippi Business Journal asked him to share with our readers his views on changes in the real estate marketplace, his somewhat circuitous route to professorship, and plans for retirement.

Mississippi Business Journal: What sparked your interest in real estate?

Charles Cartee: My interest in real estate was first sparked while working on my master’s degree at Memphis University, which I entered into directly after graduating from Mississippi College with a B.S. in economics in 1966. While working with the Bureau of Business and Economics Research as a graduate student at Memphis University, we published a local area economic report and also performed research for articles to be published by the Institute of Real Estate Management of the National Association of Realtors. These real estate-related activities led to occasionally substituting for a professor teaching a principles of real estate class. The more I learned about the real estate area, the more intrigued I became.

MBJ: How did your career path lead you to your current position?

CC: After graduating from Memphis University with an M.A. in economics and working with their bureau for a while doing contract research, I entered full-time teaching and taught two years at Christian Brothers College in Memphis. Those were two very enjoyable years, which I spent teaching economics and finance. Having played four years of varsity tennis at Mississippi College, it was great fun to play with the guys on their tennis team. Of course, I was only 23 years old then!

Wanting to get closer to my roots, as I am a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I accepted a position with the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Southern Mississippi as a senior research associate in combination with a teaching position in economics. During the 10 years in this position, we performed numerous research projects for various state agencies in Mississippi involving travel and tourism, water resources management, economic impact studies and researched and published several periodic economic reports on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Hattiesburg areas.

During those years, I finished my Ph.D., and began to teach a real estate course as part of my teaching load. I also attended all types of real estate seminars all over the country, including Harvard University, published many articles on various areas of real estate research, and obtained several professional real estate designations with an emphasis in appraisal. During that time, I also obtained a Mississippi broker’s license, opened my firm, Cartee Properties Inc., and was one of the first appraisers in Mississippi to take and pass the required test to receive a Certified General Appraisal License from the Mississippi Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board.

After being away from USM for a couple of years in private practice, the late Dr. Joseph Greene invited me to return to take the Parham Bridges Chair of Real Estate position, which I accepted about 1982. I stayed in that position for many years and later relinquished it, but continued to teach the majority of the courses in our real estate program as a full tenured professor of finance and real estate. The rest is history!

MBJ: What has been the greatest professional challenge for you and how did you overcome it?

CC: Perhaps the greatest professional challenge for me as a real estate professor was to integrate the academic world — the world of textbooks, academic articles, etc. — with the real world of real estate. Although a challenge, it was easy for me to do as I was also a practitioner. In fact, without fail, in every class that I taught, I emphasized to my students that this is not just a textbook experience for me, as everything I teach I also do, including brokerage, appraisal, real estate development, feasibility studies. The ability to cite and integrate real world examples that I had personally been involved with over many years to illustrate academic concepts seems to have meant a lot to the students based on the feedback that I got in student evaluations and talking with many students years later.

MBJ: During your career, what are the most significant changes in the real estate arena that have shaped Mississippi?

CC: In my opinion, there have been three major events that have greatly impacted and shaped the real estate arena in Mississippi over the past few years: (1) the introduction of gaming in late 1992; (2) Internet applications to real estate; (3) and the devastation and destruction stemming from Hurricane Katrina August 29, 2005.

With the introduction of casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the real estate market, both residential and commercial, changed dramatically. The employment of many thousands of people by the casino industry, notwithstanding indirect employment, put marked pressures on the Gulf Coast housing markets, which prompted the construction of three-story walk up apartment complexes, something very foreign to our area until that time. Properties suitable for gaming locations were rapidly being competed for along with support properties, which made some fortunate people very wealthy, very quickly. The tax base of cities like Biloxi changed quickly, and today are very revenue dependent on the gaming industry. The same occurred at the state level with a reorganization of the relative importance of the revenue sources making up the general fund. Of course, what happened in Harrison County was basically duplicated in Tunica.

The information highway, of course, has changed just about everything about real estate, particularly the way it is marketed and sold. A potential buyer or seller now has access to almost anything they want to know about a property, including virtual tours, without leaving the comfort of their home or office. Broker sites, for sale by owner sites, public information sites, professional organization sites for real estate services, municipal sites, etc., have changed the whole character of the way people research and list or buy real estate. Who knows what the future holds. Along with these changes, I see many changes in the commission structures regarding the sale of real estate.

Hurricane Katrina changed the whole complexion of the real estate market along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. From East Biloxi to the west portion of Waveland, if you were south of the railroad tracks, most properties were either destroyed or severely damaged with minor exceptions. Housing prices, both single family and multifamily, rose markedly and are still very high. Building material prices almost doubled in some cases. The casino industry in Harrison County was practically destroyed with only three back in operation as of this date.

Over the past few months, I appraised five apartment complexes, all of which had about eight feet of water in the two-story unit buildings! My wife, Beth, and I lived in my office for five weeks at our office park before finding a condominium to rent. We were very fortunate. Two weeks ago, we moved back in our home, which took almost seven months to restore. Many issues confront the Mississippi Gulf Coast stemming from the hurricane; however, the market will no doubt exhibit marked pent-up demand for many months with prices continuing to be exceptionally high in comparison to pre-Katrina standards.

MBJ: What do you plan to do in retirement?

CC: After retiring from USM, I plan to continue my consulting and commercial appraisal activities in my firm, Cartee Properties. We will also continue to manage and operate our office park, Vision Oaks in Gulfport. Beth and I also plan to continue our traveling. We started cruising several years ago and have now done about 10 cruises, in addition to several trips to Europe. We started this about 15 years ago when Beth was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a real wake-up call for us and made us realize the importance of each day we are given. One trip included Wimbledon. Being an ex-collegiate tennis player, that was a real thrill.

MBJ: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

CC: I think what most people are surprised to learn about me is my sense of humor, a very laid back attitude and the fact that I am somewhat shy in a group.

I talk all week in front of many students. Thus, when given the chance not to be front and center, I usually will accept.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.


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