Alumnus wins $1M in commercial real estate contest

Kevin Buxton, a 2020 graduate of Miami Herbert, is the talk of the commercial real estate (CRE) world after winning $1 million in a competition where contestants had to make ultra-precise CRE evaluations to prevail.
Alumnus wins $1M in commercial real estate contest

Buxton, 33, was notified last month that he’d bested thousands of participants in the Battle of the Bids, an event staged by Ten-X, a technology platform for conducting CRE online auctions and negotiated bids.

Buxton triumphed by correctly predicting which of 60 CRE properties listed for auction on Ten-X would attract bids, and by accurately calculating the price tag of each property sold. Making Buxton’s $1-million win even sweeter, Ten-X paid an additional $100,000 to a charity of Buxton’s choice.

His windfall couldn’t have come at a better time, because roughly a year ago Buxton founded Buxton Capital Group, a Delray commercial real estate firm. His after-tax winnings were rolled “completely into my business,” said Buxton, who has an Accelerated MBA in Real Estate from the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School. “I’m already under contract on an industrial building in Orlando that’s closing in February, so I’ll be able to put a decent portion into the equity of that building.”

Low-key and even-keeled regarding his epic win, Buxton is terrifically fond of the CRE industry, as well as Miami Herbert, the only graduate school Buxton applied to after receiving an undergraduate business degree from Miami University, in Ohio, in 2013.   

Originally from Michigan, Buxton moved to Cleveland to take a job with Quicken Loans after graduating from Miami University. “I worked as a mortgage banker for about six years and really wanted to get into commercial real estate,” Buxton recalled. “And I wanted to be someplace warm and I was looking into Miami Herbert. It was the only grad school I applied to because my whole thought process was that UM has a unique Accelerated MBA in Commercial Real Estate program that sets you up with two paid internships.”

Buxton was “really good” at mortgage banking and found the business gratifying. However, after several years with Quicken Loans, he began to appreciate that CRE work might be a better fit.

“I wanted the people that I work with on a day-to-day basis to have, for the most part, a fundamental knowledge of what I was talking about,” Buxton said. “With residential mortgages, the people that you’re talking to don’t do real estate for a living. You have to basically teach them how mortgages work.

“But in commercial real estate, the people I would be talking to–brokers and sellers–would all have a fundamental knowledge. So, I wouldn’t have to start at square one with every single call that I made, to help them understand what’s going on.”

Along with segueing into CRE, Buxton also harbored a yen to eventually run his own business.  “I like to take full accountability for the things that I’m doing,” he said. “I like the idea of not having a ceiling!”

After submitting an application to Miami Herbert in 2018, Buxton was accepted and began his coursework in 2019. What he experienced at the University of Miami quickly reaffirmed his decision to apply only to Miami Herbert.

“The majority of the professors were from real-world institutions,” Buxton remembered. “A lot of them weren’t career educators, they were successful in their own right in business, and a lot of them still are. It’s a lot easier to learn when you know you are applying yourself toward things that exist, versus hypotheticals.”

At Miami Herbert, Buxton was thrilled to be taught the holy grail of commercial real estate.

“Learning how to underwrite deals, understanding how proformas work, those are all things you need to know very, very well to be successful,” said Buxton, who was particularly impressed with Professor of Finance and Academic Director of the Accelerated Real Estate MBA Program Andrea Heuson. “They (Miami Herbert) give you the benefit of having a well-rounded knowledge of the entire industry. Once you have the fundamentals down, it allows you to get homed in on whatever niche you decide to go into.”

After getting his Accelerated Real Estate MBA, Buxton spent about a year working as a tax credit development associate with Atlantic | Pacific Companies, a real estate firm with offices in Miami that does acquisitions, development, property management, and investments. Looking to broaden his knowledge base, Buxton then moved to a South Florida company focused on industrial acquisitions.

While holding down that second job, in 2022 Buxton got a Ten-X email about a new event known as the Battle of the Bids, a CRE competition for real estate professionals.  Intrigued, Buxton entered the multiweek contest on a lark.

“Every two weeks, Ten-X has online auctions throughout the entire year,” Buxton said. “And they just decided to do this competition based on six of those weeks. There were between fifty and sixty properties that were being auctioned off.”

Buxton performed exceptionally well during the inaugural Battle of the Bids, but at times found his work schedule an impediment. After forming Buxton Capital Group in late 2022, making him the master of his own schedule, Buxton couldn’t wait to attack the Battle of the Bids a second time. An opportunity materialized toward the tail end of last year.

“Out of sixty properties, you had to pick ten that, number one, you thought would sell at auction, and number two, what you thought they would sell for,” Buxton recalled. “If you used any of your ten picks on properties that didn’t end up meeting their minimum reserve and they didn’t end up selling, then it didn’t matter what price you chose, because you wouldn’t get any points for that selection.

“The thing I was best at was picking properties that I thought had a very, very high chance of selling at auction.”

Throughout six rounds of the Battle of the Bids, Buxton’s name remained at, or near, the top of a leaderboard monitoring the progress of 5,000 CRE professionals intent on winning $1 million. When the competition ended, Buxton endured several agonizing days of keeping his emotions from soaring too high, or dipping too low, as he waited for the ultimate test result.

In early December, Buxton answered his cell phone and noticed Ten-X CEO and Director Tim Morse were on the line–Buxton was the overall winner of the Battle of the Bids!

“I was kind of shocked,” Buxton allowed. “I would have been a lot more ecstatic had I not been leading the competition in the final round. I was kind of focused on not getting my hopes up, because being that close to a million dollars . . . it was not something I was looking forward to losing.

“It took a few weeks, really for me to take a breather.”

No longer waiting to exhale, Buxton directed Ten-X to wire $100,000 to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County, an organization that lets youths with special needs play baseball.

“I love what I do,” said Buxton, whose company buys industrial buildings, refurbishes them, and takes them to market at current rent levels. “It’s nice to know that financially, I have the ability to hold tight during the cycles where buying things might not be the most advantageous thing to do.

“I always knew I was going to be successful,” added Buxton, who plans to donate time to the Miracle League of Palm Beach County. “At the end of the day, I think that if you work really hard, and you love what you do, it’s going to happen.”