Top Tech: CoStar

Top Tech: CoStar

In a recent series of blogs, we have been sharing some of our top technology tools for use in commercial real estate (CRE) – the kinds of tech we use to give us an edge. Please note, though, this is NOT a paid or sponsored blog. We are motivated only by sharing the tools of the trade with our wide network of partners and peers.

Here, in the third such post in the series, we are exploring CoStar – which bills itself as the largest commercial real estate information and analytics provider. Below we get into the specifics of just why we use them. You can find CoStar at www.costar.com.

What is CoStar?

CoStar is a supplier of information and information-powered tools, and they have the kind of data volume that can unlock nuanced analysis of trends and market movers – with 129 billion square feet of inventory tracked and data points on over six million commercial properties.

Their portfolio includes several products, offering a tool for just about any CRE stakeholder you can think of, including brokers, owners, lenders, appraisers, and more.

Established player

Currently being a “big data business” is very trendy, but CoStar are not a new operation. Rather, founded in 1987, they have been an information and research provider for over three decades.

The CoStar Group is listed on the NASDAQ and was recently included in Fortune Magazine’s top 100 Fastest-Growing Companies (in 29th position) – an annual list by the business-focused publication.

The information you need

The platform includes millions of CRE comparative statistics or “comparables”, such as transaction notes, rent, occupation, cap rates, and that ever-important pricing information. You can also use the tool to access data on the status of a property (for sale, under contract, or sold). They also offer the functionality of aerial and map overlays, so you can explore market activity data in direct relation to its location, so you have both content and context.

You can also customize reports, manage your own listings, and access their regular indices and research materials and forecasts.

The connections you want

Over and above crunching the numbers on all things CRE – like inventory, valuations, and more – CoStar maintains a professional directory on almost six million industry contacts in order to foster connections and enable collaborations. Through this, you can not only get the low down on a listing, but also link those deals with names, and those names with means to get in touch.

[Call for social] What are your go-to tools for commercial real estate? And what is the one set of property data you wish you could lay your eyeballs on? Share your ideas with us here.  

Thought leadership: How CRE fits into corporate strategy

The cliché of “Location, location, location” applies in commercial real estate (CRE) as much as residential, but what factors you bundle into that assessment are, naturally, vastly different and should be explicitly tied to corporate strategy. That’s the realm of corporate real estate management (CREM).

Corporate decisionmakers

A savvy corporate client on the hunt for premises will be asking whether a proposed site will support their corporate goals.

When considering a potential position for offices or logistics, for example, an assessor might ask about the transport links, the nearby shops and facilities. They may consider perception and whether the location is in keeping with brand identity.

They will need to understand the current and future demands the company will make of a location, and how the lease or sale terms will be perceived by a board or management team.

Access to (human) resources

There is another oft-overlooked location factor that NAI argues should form part of a CRE strategy: talent and access to the right people.

This is the nature of cities or areas that become hubs for specific industries and sectors: they have a rich pool of workers with the right mix of skills to draw from. If you’re looking for the top geologists in the world, you probably want to focus on an area associated with mining. Want people who are passionate and knowledgeable about the ocean? Try Hawaii. Silicon Valley, and increasingly Texas, are meccas for the technically minded.

There’s remote work and transferable skills to consider, of course, but generally speaking a talent pool linked to an area is self-sustaining, in the way that Silicon Valley and Stanford will always be linked in their mutual development paths.

What type of staff you envision filling your hallways and boardrooms will also inform other location considerations: like access to good schools, parks, or public transport.

Property as an asset

Last but definitely not least, the right property is an asset and an investment with future dividends. This is why a smart broker, or their corporate client isn’t just looking at what is now, but what could be, what’s on the horizon, and any prevailing trends that need to be considered.

A client with explicit return on investment (ROI) expectations or a particular appetite for risk – as just two examples – should place that information on the table from the get-go, as premises can be (and often are) serving the dual purposes of functional and financial.

Remember: business strategy should drive a real estate decision, not the other way round.

Prop trends: Sustainability is the new black

The Covid-19 pandemic might have been an unforeseen crisis that sent the world spinning but, general volatility and the incidence of global or major crises are expected to rise in the coming decades. This is the result of a complex matrix of overlapping issues, including climate change, globalization, population growth and urbanization, and migration.

Against this backdrop, analysts have been warning that companies need to relook at their plans and forecasts through an ESG criteria lens. ESG stands for environmental, social, and governance.

According to a McKinsey report on the topic (published in Nov 2019), “ESG-oriented investing has experienced a meteoric rise. Global sustainable investment now tops $30 trillion—up 68 percent since 2014…” They ascribe this sharp acceleration to “heightened social, governmental, and consumer attention on the broader impact of corporations, as well as by the investors and executives who realize that a strong ESG proposition can safeguard a company’s long-term success.”

ESG in CRE

ESG is a rising concern for all businesses, and commercial real estate (CRE) is not exempt. ESG within this context would include matters such as the energy footprint of a property or development, its carbon emissions, ethical and local supply chains, labor relations, diversity, and inclusivity, and then the governance procedures and controls in place to comply with the law and meet the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.

A solid ESG strategy creates opportunities for partnerships, strengthens ties with communities, and links back directly to things like corporate missions and visions, for the way you want to operate and the changes you want to make in the world. On the other hand, failing to account for ESG in your property or development plans can become a material risk for your business.

Competitive advantage

ESG platform Goby looks at these issues specifically within CRE, and they believe having an ESG strategy is a competitive advantage for CRE professionals and brokerages. There are, they say, many tangible benefits to this – such as lowering your energy costs – but moreover, emphasize the intangible benefits that flow from a solid ESG strategy.

Goby’s ESG in CRE report (hosted on HubSpot) argues: “Intangible benefits are harder to measure directly, and include metrics like tenant comfort, word-of-mouth advertising from tenants about building improvements, and a reduced environmental impact.

Attracting investment through ESG

Over and above “doing the right thing”, ESG advocates believe that these holistic sustainability matters can make a compelling investment case within CRE investing.

As the Goby report outlines, when asked what they considered essential and important elements of ESG investments some 79% of investors cited ethical parameters and values, 78% mentioned positive environmental and social impacts, and 77% reported that they believed ESG factors could play a critical role in broader financial performance.

This echoes the McKinsey investment growth story, and with those numbers, it’s not a leap to say that that’s the final word on the bottom line.

CRE Capital Markets: making money work for you

The capital markets function within commercial real estate (CRE) is such a huge part of the property industry these days but is still quite poorly understood by those on the outside. Yes, there is a certain magic to bringing all the right elements together to support a smart capital market deal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery or unknowable. Conquering capital markets is a matter of strategy and value. You just need the right partners to guide you.

Course 101

Let’s get back to basics: If you are talking about capital markets as a general term (not necessarily within real estate), then you are describing a place for buying and selling stock, bonds, and debt instruments. A stock exchange, like the NASDAQ, is a type of capital market.

Zoom back into CRE

Within CRE then, you can see how capital markets are places for brokering financial deals specifically in property. When a brokerage, like ourselves, offers capital markets as a service this means we are providers of capital solutions relating to property. This can mean solutions for investors and for occupiers and may include advising on investments, recapitalizing, or debt placement – what’s on offer really depends on the brokerage and its own expertise in-house.

NAI Global’s capital market services include:

  • Investment sales
  • Note sales
  • Live and sealed bid auctions
  • Debt placement
  • Acquisition advisory

The right capital market partners

A capital markets service provider needs two overarching things for success: A depth of knowledge (expertise in the financial specifics and deal types), and a breadth of network (access to the right people and right primary and secondary markets).

Emerging trends

From crowdfunding to app-based finance, capital market professionals are also facing a wave of innovation and change, largely driven by factors like digitization and the fourth industrial revolution.

“Evolving technology means the barriers to entry are coming down, but expertise and experience continue to be what sets capital market service providers and consultants apart,” explains Jay Olshonsky, President & CEO of NAI Global. “That’s what you want on your side when you’re looking for the capital solution you need.”

Making Your Real Estate Portfolio Green

Commercial real estate has long been striving to become a more environmentally-friendly industry. Sustainability concerns and CRE go hand in hand, and green-minded strategies continue to play a noteworthy role in this business.

Even in the face of the coronavirus crisis, commercial real estate did not lose its long-standing focus on creating greener portfolios. With environmental concerns on the rise, the trend of sustainability is gaining momentum. As a result, commercial real estate has slowly been shedding its wasteful habits and adopting new green models.

Moving forward, all signs point to a green commercial real estate industry. Is your portfolio prepared?

If you haven’t already been thinking sustainable, it’s time to start. Now is a good time to begin investing in green properties. Make “green investing” a part of your commercial real estate portfolio – here’s why:

Attract More Tenants

As global sentiments become more focused on sustainable development, going green can help your portfolio attract more tenants. Today’s companies are passionate about maintaining their commitment to going green – even when it comes to the place that they reside. A green asset can out beat comparable listings simply because it is eco-friendly.

Attracting environmentally-minded tenants to your commercial space is one tangible motivator to prompt investing in green spaces.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Commercial real estate is set to become a green industry eventually. While the transition may seem slow, it’s steadily moving forward. There’s little to no chance for green efforts to revert on themselves and become obsolete. Instead, green investments in CRE will become a ubiquitous element of this business.

Getting involved with green investments early will put your portfolio ahead of the curve, helping you prepare for the future of CRE.

Gain Access to Financial Benefits

Sustainable investing can open the door to substantial savings. CRE investors with green portfolios gain access to grant programs, development support, and joint investment interests specializing in environmental efforts. Making green choices can improve your investment returns with key financial benefits.

Compete with Industry Leaders

When CRE giants make a move, the rest of the business takes notes.

Nearly all of the big names in commercial real estate are publicly dedicated to sustainability. Follow in their footsteps to keep pace with the best in this business. Going green will set your portfolio on the same foundations as industry leaders.

Modernize Your CRE Culture

Going green is the way of the future. The industry is slowly transforming – but once the change happens, sustainability will be the baseline of business. CRE investors don’t want to wait until it’s too late, when the competition for green assets is through the roof and prices are higher than ever.

Stay prepared by developing a green portfolio in advance. Right now, sustainability is a best practice for modernizing your commercial real estate culture. Your portfolio will be primed and ready for the increasingly eco-minded market of the future.

Creating a green portfolio will set up your investments for success and prepare you for the market’s next movements.