With more than five decades of leadership in the Southern California real estate sector, Bob Osbrink, the incoming director of the CSUF Mihaylo Real Estate and Land Use Institute (RELUI), seeks to expand the university’s outreach to the industry and its academic and applied opportunities for students to prepare for careers in the field.
Whether Bob Osbrink is at the shopping mall, in a downtown office park or at a medical appointment, real estate is always on his mind. “I’m in my business all the time. If I’m shopping, I look at who the tenants are and what the traffic count is. If I see some vacant floors in an office building, I wonder why it’s empty. If I’m at a medical center, I look at who owns the building and who the renters are,” he says.
For Osbrink, traveling through Orange County will often bring back memories of his earlier career. The veteran executive was pivotal in the 1980s South County developments, including the Irvine Spectrum, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch and Rancho Santa Margarita.
Previous to his new role as CSUF Mihaylo College RELUI Director, Osbrink held leadership roles at Marcus & Millichap; Grubb & Ellis; The Irvine Company; and Cushman & Wakefield; as well as private consulting through his own company, the Osbrink Group, which he founded in 1985. Today, as he advises clients such as New York-based Newmark Knight Frank, Osbrink looks back at the “path of progress” in the Southern California economy and society, which he sees as largely based on real estate.
“All of the subsets of business, from insurance to economics to marketing, have a relationship back to real estate, especially in the period I see us moving into now, which is reuse and redevelopment of real estate, rather than the ground-up development of Orange County,” he says. “If you’re looking at raising your family and sinking your roots somewhere in a job or career, somehow or some way, it touches real estate.”
With a focus on preparing the next generation for careers in the real estate sector, the USC alumnus looks forward to expanding the Mihaylo RELUI program in his new role as director of the center, which is part of a broader network of real estate programs throughout the 23-campus Cal State system.
A Lifetime of Commitment to the Field
Osbrink, who studied marketing and played basketball at USC, entered the commercial real estate industry in the 1970s, managing operations in Orange County and the Inland Empire as executive vice president and regional director of Cushman & Wakefield.
In 1982, he joined The Irvine Company, where he served as vice president, overseeing the formation of the 2,200-acre, mixed-use Irvine Spectrum development.
From 1988 to 2008, he served Grubb & Ellis, initially as vice president and sales manager in Newport Beach before rising to co-CEO of the Santa Ana-based industry leader.
“A highlight was helping with the formation of Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita, seeing this land go from places where we would ride horses to vibrant communities, it was pretty spectacular,” he says, noting that these developments were rooted in land parceled out by 19th century Spanish land grants that equated to major late 20th century progress. “The successful master-planned communities, especially in Orange County, have involved control of the actual land. If you’re aren’t at the mercy of paying for the land, your timing can move along with societal trends.”
Osbrink has also supported real estate education at his alma mater, with early involvement in the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC and serving on its advisory board.
In more recent years, Osbrink has been vice president and regional manager of Marcus & Millichap, where he has managed the Orange County brokerage’s operations. Under his leadership, the company has experienced its highest revenue performance since its founding in 1981.
“Over the years, I have worked with many enthusiastic people who love the industry,” he says. “I helped them grow in their business and careers. I consider myself a coach and I like to lead people and give advice.”
In his free time, Osbrink, who has four children and six grandchildren, provides another type of coaching – in youth sports. He led Little League teams to championship victories in 1988 when his son was 10 years old and in 2016 when his grandson was 10. Among the highlights was coaching the then young son of CSUF Provost Emeritus Anil Puri at T-ball. Today, the young man is in his 30s and Osbrink has had a decades-long friendship with the elder Puri. He also sings and plays guitar in his favorite musical genre, folk-country.
Offering a Versatile Real Estate Education at the Industry’s Epicenter
With nearly a fifth of the Orange County labor force employed in real estate-related fields in 2017, Mihaylo College is ground zero for many of the trends and opportunities in American real estate, land use and property management, which Osbrink seeks to leverage as director.
While the college currently offers several undergraduate classes and one graduate-level course in real estate as part of the broader finance program, Osbrink hopes to expand course offerings so that the program can grow into a minor and potentially a major, while preparing students for the passage of professional exams to launch their careers in the field.
“We are seeking to grow the curriculum so it attracts more interest, both to students and in the community. We have a real estate principles class, and we are establishing coursework in real estate law. I can see coursework in project management in a few semesters,” he says. “Students will be able to use some of these classes to apply for a broker’s license or sales license, but because there is also testing from the state, we seek to combine coursework to provide an edge in moving toward the licenses in a fully-accredited program.”
In addition to requirements for industry certification, Osbrink also hopes the program will provide a holistic introduction to the real estate field, looking at the geographical, historical and social scientific implications of land use and how this has created the Southland megalopolis we know today.
“I want to put the history of Orange County and Southern California real estate growth into our curriculum. This is important for anyone seeking a career in this sector to understand,” he says. “If you look back to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and see how the East Coast grew, we are now doing the same thing here on the West Coast, but with a different set of circumstances and better weather. Everything is accelerated, which makes it even more important to recognize all of the elements of real estate.”
While sales and brokerages often come to mind, Osbrink emphasizes that there are many career paths in real estate, including property management, law, administration, appraisal and insurance.
Central to Osbrink’s outreach is the Real Estate Association, a club open to all Cal State Fullerton students regardless of major, which provides networking and career development opportunities for students interested in the field.
“Students who want to be in the association who aren’t in real estate classes yet will be drawn to our program,” he says. “We are working to integrate the association with our board of directors from the industry. We also want to use the student council to impact the curriculum offerings, ensuring it matches with industry and student needs.”
Osbrink is also adding CSUF alumni to the center’s board of directors, fostering a strong connection with the industry.
For More on the CSUF Real Estate Program
For more on the CSUF Mihaylo real estate program, please visit RELUI online or at SGMH 2306E. For more on the Real Estate Association, including an application to join, visit the club’s official website.