Let’s discuss commercial real estate market information; where it comes from, its reliability and impacts to decision making. To help you better understand this section, I will break-down market information into three components:
- Statistics/Facts – such as inventory of buildings and available space
- Forecasts – such as future demand and supply, industry trends
- Completed Transactions – such as the sale or lease of properties
So where does all this information come from? There are generally two sources: brokerage companies that have research departments (proprietary info available to clients), and, 3rd party data aggregators such as CoStar and Altus that provide a subscription-based service (commodity). So today we have close to a dozen organizations doing the same thing across the province (and nationally). Sounds overcrowded to me and ripe for consolidation, but that’s another conversation.
Statistics/facts are the easiest of the 3 components to keep track of: create a database of all properties, call landlords for updates, and create statistics. From my experience having worked at two international brokerage companies, there are no leaders in this data compilation component. CoStar and Altus have built a robust model business around this data component.
The Forecasting component is a little more tricky, an industry unto itself. There are some very good commercial real estate forecasters within the big brokerages. My recommendation is to listen to an individual that has done a good job over many years (no company gets it right every year). My favourite saying in the forecasting business is, “she anticipated every downturn in the market, she got it right 5 times out of the last 3”.
The final real estate data component I would like to write about is the source and reliability of Completed Transactions. We call this component “done deals” or market evidence. Generally speaking, there are two groupings of completed transactions: transactions reported to an official organization and available for public consumption, and secondly, transactions accumulated by real estate practitioners that have no official reporting platform and not readily available for public consumption. By way of example, the former can be a local multiple listing service (MLS) that obligates its members to report a transaction for a property that was listed on that service, or, a system like GeoWarehouse that posts sold properties as reported in the provincial land titles database. On the other hand, the latter comprises brokerages that were involved in a transaction (let’s stick to lease transactions) and have no obligation to report it to an official platform for public consumption. It becomes obvious that other than the direct parties involved in any one transaction with no reporting obligations, no one else has intimate details of that transaction.
Why is this important for you to know? Well, there are generally 4 parties to any lease transaction: landlord, tenant, lawyers and real estate brokers. Each one has an obligation to maintain confidentiality, and seemingly has different motivations “to make public” the real financial terms of any lease transaction. Having expanded on this point for a purpose:
NO SINGLE REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE HAS ACCURATE OR COMPLETE DETAILS OF ALL LEASE TRANSACTIONS.
Since there is no official register of commercial real estate lease transactions, information is “traded” between market participants. Remember a game called broken telephone? I hear that real estate brokers and landlords still play that game.
My view in support of public sector fairness and transparency in real estate negotiations, the landlord should be obligated to provide you with their knowledge of completed lease deals. Demand it, and write it into the lease.