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.  

What’s happening in… Seoul, Korea?

A quick reminder to NAI Professionals and clients: NAI Global’s reach is, well, global. We are proud of all NAI Offices around the world as well as their regional and local insight. For today’s edition of the ‘What’s happening in…’ blogs, we turn our attention to Seoul, the capital of South Korea – and specifically its office real estate vertical.

Located in the north-west of the country, Seoul is home to some nine million people (including over 400,000 non-nationals), and is the largest city in Korea. It is strongly associated with technology, finance, and business, and some 14 companies from the Fortune Global 500 are headquartered here, including Samsung, Hyundai, and LG.

Changing lives

In Seoul, our local experts and partners describe a commercial real estate (CRE) and office space environment that is relatively stable despite the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a limited amount of new supply expected to come on to the market in 2021. In early Feb 2021, Korea, as a country, had some 80,000 infections and a death toll of 1464, and Seoul was a key concern for pandemic management because it is such a densely populated city.

Still, there have been considerable social and work-life changes in Seoul as a result of the pandemic. The Korean Herald reports that residents of Seoul worked less and relaxed more during 2020. This comes from the findings of a city government survey that shows a 12-minute decline in daily working time compared to 2019.

Seoul itself offers a vibrant and diverse community, and it is a regional center of economic activity, in easy travel distance of many of Asia’s highlights. Industrial action has however led to a decline in working days, and tourism has been greatly slowed by Covid-19 fears. As the vaccination efforts roll out, these are some of the economic areas where analysts are hoping for a recovery in 2021..

Latest data

Despite the pressures of lockdowns and distancing, 2020 was reportedly a record-breaker year for office investment volume. Analysts suggest that this is underpinned by a healthy investor appetite for stable real estate assets and see Seoul as offering this.

According to the NAI Korea [HM1] monthly data analysis focusing on its market, published in January 2021, the average vacancy rate of office buildings in Seoul’s central business district (CBD) is 7.62%, with the average net occupancy cost (NOC) at $52.39 as of December 2020. NOC is the cost that 1㎡ of gross floor area incurs to a tenant who rents the property. NOC can be useful to compare different types of office buildings.

On the residential side, driven by low supply, there has been strong growth in prices, and this is likely to see policymakers relaxing some restrictions.

For a detailed breakdown of NAI Korea’s Seoul data, click 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.

Eye of the beholder: Tapping into the art of CRE photography

Commercial real estate (CRE) comes alive with compelling photography, and this has never been truer than in this age where most prospective tenants and clients begin and end their search for property online.

Of course, there are some things a great photo can’t do: it can’t negotiate rates, or check leases, and it certainly doesn’t have the connections that a broker has. Thankfully, they are not competing. In CRE, a great photograph (several actually) and a great broker are a killer combo.

Here’s how to get the best visuals of your listings:

  1. Work with the professionals: If you are selling your own home, you might – we repeat, MIGHT – just get away with taking your own pictures. For a serious CRE listing, however, you need seriously great photographs that can capture a sense of place and project the potential of a site.
  • Collaborate with creative: A CRE broker may want to identify a small pool of tried-and-trusted photographers and freelancers who they can turn to as listings come up. Then they know the quality they can expect, and the photographers know the kind of photos a broker is after. Look for photographers specializing in real estate and architectural photography specifically; they come with a wealth of insight and tricks up their sleeves.

Also on this point, one must give clear briefs to the photographer, especially if there is a particular market or prospective client they want the photos to appeal to – such as startups or ‘blue chips’, niche or volume audiences, and so on.

  • Look local (and timing is critical): Knowing the area – its rhythms and moods – can mitigate some of the challenges an outsider might be faced with when capturing an office space or retail park. A local photographer can advise on what time is best for the lighting you need and want, which is one of the most critical decisions that you will make before a shoot.

A golden reflection, deep color saturation, or the sparkling backdrop of a city at night can all make the difference between a photo that shouts out to a viewer and a site that looks lifeless and cold.

  • Landscape, landscape, landscape… except when not: Almost exclusively, the landscape orientation lends itself best to CRE photography, and it is the most versatile for listings online and the types of standard content management systems many listing sites use.

There are, however, a handful of excellent reasons to break from this, such as drawing attention to an architectural feature or making a splash with printed peripherals. This “standard” operating procedure is shifting, especially as more listings are being viewed on mobile sites and apps (more directly below) in square and portrait form.

  • Tech-led: Fancy a 3D rendering or a sweeping drone shot? These kinds of photography are becoming cheaper and more accessible every day, and a professional CRE photographer will likely offer these extras or be able to recommend another service provider. Not every listing needs this, so be discerning.

Got a photography tip to share with your colleagues or an example of great real estate photography, from your listings or archives? Share this article, with your photography tip, and be sure to tag us on social media!