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Commercial Real Estate Data – Nationally Inconsistent

Commercial real estate data standards suck

data picsI had an out of state inquiry this week on a commercial property that I have listed.  Great news of course and I promptly sent the information back to the inquiring broker.  The conversation we had though was interesting in that the broker wanted me to send any and all comps that I had relating to the property, recent solds, actives and information on and all landlord rent concessions or as we Big Boy Commercial Real Estate peeps call it Tenant TI (we’re so fancy). Simple, fair and normal requests.  Here’s the problem.  All that data doesn’t really exist.  Ok, maybe it does exist, but in three or four different formats and possibly three to five different places… maybe.


For any Commercial Real Estate Broker or Agent today.  Three main Data Bases or MLS type services are used.

  1. Loopnet
  2. Co-Star
  3. Catylist/Commercial IQ

Click through the links for each service.  Look at each service proposed niche or uniqueness to the Commercial Real Estate Market.  All seem to provide quality data.  Here’s my problem.  It all sucks!!  Now before the whining and crying begins, let me state my points.


If the data that you can and need to provide to your clients does not give them the complete picture, then you have (dare I say it) failed.  All of the services mentioned above try to compile, aggregate, pool, drill down etc. that data gold.  But, they are only as good as the data they receive.  I have yet to come across any service that has the whole data picture.  My local board as an example has little or no commercial property data other than a sprinkle of duplex, small multi-family listings.


Why are there no data standards for Commercial Real Estate?  Residential real estate has very specific data standards.  My experience has been via the residential side is that you are not only required to provide specific data to your chosen MLS service.  It’s part of the agreement that you sign when gaining acceptance for membership.  I’ve heard of services fining the Broker or Agent for incorrect data.  Does this exist for Commercial Real Estate?  Are attempts being made?   Most commercial MLS type services that I am aware of are basically voluntary. WHY?


Why are there no comparable online environments likeTrulia or Zillow for Commercial Real Estate? Is a combination of both a possible answer to the Commercial Real Estate data void?  Is the Realtors Property Resource a possible solution?  Maybe, the data does not come from the Brokers at all.

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Well, don’t we all have some interesting ideas and experiences?  Most of the things I post are mostly questions or points of view from someone trying to serve my clients.  Do you have any experiences or examples that would be helpful?  What possible solutions can you provide?  One thing I do know, Commercial Real Estate is full of smart and opinionated people. Let’s get the conversation going.

Written By

Broker/Owner in Lafayette, IN, whose passion is Commercial Real Estate with focus on Technology, Social Media, and Networking.



  1. Gregory G Ogin

    February 9, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Have been struggling with this very same issue. Problems:
    Accurate input
    Brokers taking time to input
    No source to input one time only
    Major data sources do not talk to each other
    New data bases popping up daily.

    Need to:
    Create a one time entry format for data that can be uploaded by all end users.
    Joint sharing agreeement for data

    Seems simple to the user but complicated to the provider!

    • Duke Long

      February 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      Beautiful. Let’s start a list. It does seem simple from a user standpoint. But of course.. NO.
      Get me you and 3 more users in a room, We rule the world !!! Thanks for reading and sharing your point of view.

  2. Gregory St. Martin

    February 9, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Same problem here in Las Vegas. Our main source here is Property Line with LoopNet 2nd and CoStar a distant 3rd. Terrible system.

    • Duke Long

      February 9, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      I’m not looking for some kind of monopoly,but data standards would be a nice start!! Thanks for the comment

  3. Michael Canella

    February 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Truth is ..the big guys… CBRE, Colliers, Cushman Wakefield, Grubb Ellis….now Marcus Millichap, HFF and a few others only want to play in their own sandbox….they don’t want to play nice! And they abhore any national listing service for commercial real estate. You may see some of their listings on these services, but it’s only to placate their clients. Rarely on the big ticket investment transactions will you see them offer a co-broker fee…most will tell you to get lost…. have your buyer pay your commission, yadda, yadda….get used to it! It’s how they protect their empty suits. More importantly, it will be the future of this business in large metro areas, believe me. But as much as these listing services do suck, they are getting better each year ….and they suck in different ways. Loopnet is primarely a commercial broker driven service, while CoStar is a commercial buyer and seller driven service and both services do overlap…. but a lot of appraisers use the premium CoStar service…so it is getting more respect…and using both statigically can help you brand your name and business. Catylist is really a CCIM broker thing…it’s ok, but nowhere near Loopnet or CoStar.

    Be aware, as we go through these unchartered waters with the banking institutions and the economy….the big boys in commercial real estate will be getting a real taste of reality. They won’t be able to move quick enough. So while they will still be trying to control the $20M-$30M transaction (which I don’t have to tell you…there will be very damn few of)….what will be on the radar however are $500,000 to $2,000,000 deals, which the big boys have traditionally turned away….you know, the small business deals.

    So here’s my point. I would much prefer to have a 6% commision split on 5 – $1,000,000 deals rather than splitting 90 basis points on a $27M deal (and not getting it done!). And that ladies and gentelmen is survival!

    • Coy Davidson

      February 9, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      Have to disagree with you somewhat Michael….I am work for one of the so called big boys and what you are referring too is not some conspiracy by the these firms. The trend not to cooperate or require buyers to pay the buyer’s rep fees was started by the investment brokerage fraternity in general and to some degree the owners, particularly on trophy properties, who operated under the rational there are only a few qualified purchasers for my asset and I can identify them all. Then it trickled down to the NNN investment market and smaller properties when the market was hot which was a disservice to the property owners. I don’t agree with that mentality either. The investment brokers want to play in their own sandbox it’s not a large brokerage firm conspiracy but I will agree once the trend started many followed. I have my opinions on what firms were the early adopters of this mentality but I am going to refrain from calling anyone out.

      I am on the corporate services / tenant rep side but dabble in a few investment deals so I don’t have to deal with it that often.

    • Kevin Yarnall

      February 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      Great Comment, on target! I would like say, LoopNet to put in a little more effort to monitor the quality of the data that it accepts as well as put in place some better updating policy, This would go a long way to having more reliable data to access.

  4. Sam Scott

    February 9, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Commercial Real Estate Information, It’s Complicated.

    Your inquiry pertains to income producing property. In order to estimate the value of a property, you need to calculate the property’s potential Net Operating Income. Just knowing what the market rental rates are, although helpful, is insufficient. A landlord makes money from signage, parking and other services. A Landlord can recoup operating expenses, Tenant Improvements (buildout), taxes and insurance. A skilled Tenant Representative will negotiate on all these items to secure their tenant a good deal and minimize the tenant’s occupancy cost.

    So, getting a complete picture of what the market for lease space is very complex. I don’t think that data standards have much to do with it. Documenting the most important deal points of recent lease comps is difficult enough.

    Every market is different CoStar, LoopNet, Catylist, Xceligent, ePropertyData, CommercialSource are very different from market to market. Depending on the market and the property type, the various services will have strengths and weaknesses.

    Helping you client accomplish a successful transaction and achieve their business objectives, is the measure of success. Answering every question and providing them a “complete picture” is, in many cases, not possible. A well researched local Commercial Information Exchange (CIE) will have a great deal of active listings, lease comps and sale comps. Although not totally comprehensive it will provide a basis for evaluating alternatives, negotiating and making decisions.

    Each market defines its own data standards and there is a remarkable level of consistency between many commercial markets on most of the important data elements and terminology. Establishing consistency of data within a single market is most important, between different markets, less so.

    MLS with its rules and structure is a gift to the current generation of REALTORS from the previous generation of civically minded brokers. If MLS were invented today it would probably be less stringent and less consistent. Many significant commercial brokers will not cooperate with an authoritarian listing service that mandates strict compliance and enforces those rules with fines and penalties. These brokers have alternatives and competition dictates that flexibility and voluntary compliance be accommodated. Efforts to create better data are rooted in customer service, research and creative solutions to encourage and reward brokers and firms that help compile complete information. is NAR’s commercial portal. There are no commercial Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) because of the complexities of valuing such disparate properties. RPR is still largely theoretical and primarily residential in its focus, so only time will tell if RPR has any impact on the commercial marketplace. In addition to brokers, appraisers are an important source of information.

  5. Coy Davidson

    February 9, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Well stated Sam, and I might add is someone I know personally and is the most qualified person I know to comment on this subject.

    I would also add that if you are in a large market and when it comes to office space data, CoStar has no equivalent and while we all wish their data had a higher accuracy rate, its standardized and really solid compared to where we came from prior to there existence.

    Those of us in the office leasing side of the business both tenant and landlord reps often complain about CoStar, but we wouldn’t want to do operate without it, and it really wasn’t that long ago when were photocopying the black’s guide pages and having to call and verify the data on every building.

  6. Jeff Allen

    February 10, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’m a CRE newbie trying to learn, so my apologies in advance to everyone if I ask dumb/obvious questions.

    @Sam: Interesting. So commercial brokers are more or less taking the opposite route of most residential brokers, believing that the value created from owning their own information exceeds the value created if they were to pool their listings with their competitors in a shared repository. Quality information is actually a point of differentiation for CRE firms, as opposed to a point of parity for RES firms. Am I reading this right?

    So when a CRE buyer (or lessor) contacts a CRE agent to get shown properties, does the agent direct him to his own broker’s listings first? Are those potential conflicts of interest effectively addressed in the marketplace?

  7. Duke Long

    February 10, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Sam Michael,Coy and Jeff
    Very valuable comments and questions. Love the conversation and points of view. I said that there are smart and opinionated people in CRE. I guess my question sill remains. Why are there no data standards? Is it just because that’s the way it has always been?

  8. Infosam

    February 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    There are Levels of Cooperation

    @Jeff, most commercial brokers are reasonably cooperative and willing to share information about active listings, provided it does not take much time and energy, when they get around to it. Most organized firms have admins whose job it is to keep the various systems up-to-date. But these admins are always getting pulled in different directions and at some point they have to turn off the lights, go pickup the kids and start dinner.

    That is why a CIE/Listing Service needs to have a research team and good customer service to assist with data entry. If the process of sharing information is not pleasant and easy, then it will occur rarely. Firms like to promote themselves with an image of having a trove of proprietary internal information. The reality, once you get a look at their secret internal information cache, is usually some derivative analysis from a third party, or a spreadsheet of researched comparable deals from 6 months ago.

    Brokers tend to be less forthcoming about some of the sensitive deal points of completed transactions. Term, renewal/escalation clauses, extra TI allowances, signage and expense provisions are critical and rarely disclosed items. Many commercial representation agreements include confidentiality provisions, so the broker may be prohibited from disclosing details of their work. Much of this sensitive information may only be shared among close friends with years of collegiality and then only in an oblique and hypothetical context.

    Since there are few true Commercial MLS systems that include a unilateral offer to compensate and cooperate, most brokers want to establish an understanding that they will be paid by the seller/landlord rep prior to showing a property. The Texas Real Estate Commission’s “About Brokerage Services” form is mandated to inform potential clients about the possible absence of a fiduciary relationship.

    Duke: Thanks for bringing commercial brokers into this discussion. I’m still not sure why you are so focused on Data Standards or the lack thereof. Within the Texas Gulf Coast – Houston marketplace we have standards and consistent data and terminology. Perhaps our data record is not fully populated in all cases, but we get the most complete data possible and organize that information in a consistent manner. We are able to best serve this brokerage community by conforming to their conventions and we do not try to force our brokers to adopt terminology or business practices from another market. People who create and compile information tend to be less concerned about data standards than those who want to access and use someone else’s information. Between different markets there are only a few, non-critical, differences and inconsistencies in terminology or data elements. These differences in data address the differences between those markets and should not be treated as a problem to be solved or stamped out.

    Coy, Thanks for your kind words. Nice to see the Colliers’ team growing. Not many CRE firms can say that.

  9. Duke Long

    February 10, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    HMMMM …. Pondering,Thanks for your comments and point of view. It is appreciated

  10. Chris

    February 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I work with smaller brokers with those “proprietary” systems. Believe it or not, most of them take data collection and standards seriously – they’re in smaller markets and it’s a huge competitive advantage to have current listings (not just their own) and generate market data from it. We have no CoStar and only one market has a local commercial MLS so it’s LoopNet or DIY.

    But to the original post on standardizing data – good luck with that!

    Part of the problem is these systems are developed in one area of the country and they don’t realize things are different elsewhere. There *are* market differences – land in acres or SF, monthly or annual lease rates (and per SF or total), for example.

    Another problem is definitions/terminology. One developer I worked with kept referring to an APN – had no idea what he was talking about but it turns out it’s what we call the Tax (Map) ID in our markets. And you can’t always find agents in the same market agreeing on definitions. They have very spirited discussions here on things like what a flex building is, clear height vs. ceiling height, is Full Gross the same as Gross, etc…

    Don’t even get me started on property uses. We have the worst time trying to wedge our building major use (plus secondary uses and subuses) into all these aggregator’s (and they’re all different….) “property types”.

    Once you get past all that, there’s still the “sharing” issue. First, a lot of brokers believe that you only want to give up enough information to make someone call. Annoying for sure, but if you really want to know, you’ll call.

    Second, while most brokers are willing to push their exclusive listings, no one is going to give up information they have on non-exclusive listings (that’s what’s in those “proprietary systems” – along with all the competing broker exclusive listings) when there’s no way to get paid. The companies I work with – on average, 60% of their deals are done with a competing broker or involve space/a building that no broker has an exclusive on. Unless you can ensure a listing fee/can’t bypass the listing agent and go straight to the owner/landlord, why would you share this kind of information?

    • Duke Long

      February 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Beautiful explanation of the real CRE world. Question, are you agreeing with or do you have an idea of a solution? Again, thanks for the great input!

      • Chris

        February 11, 2010 at 3:37 pm

        If you’re looking to find it all in one place then a majority of the industry has to abandon LoopNet, CoStar and all the ones who are around now monetizing the data they often charge you to give them (that really galls me…) and go with an aggregator with a different model. We need a paradigm shift!!

        I like RealUp right now but not sure where it’s going. They take your data in any format, standardize it and put it out there for free. Their infrastructure costs right now are low but if they don’t get participants and traffic (and the ad money that will generate), then they can’t stay in business/add pay-for services like broker website integration.

        Also looking at BuildingSearch (they hope to pay for themselves/keep things free by pushing related services – lead generation – like office furniture) and Commercial Source (this one has that awful pay “per agent” model, though).

        But unless you can get another player in the field, we’re all stuck.

        • Duke Long

          February 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm

          HMMMM, going to have to post something !!

  11. Scott Meyer

    February 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm


    I agree with “Sam Scott” that Commercial Real Estate information is much more complicated compared to residential info. It is not just how many bedrrooms/baths and sf with a price. There are so many more fields of info that are vital to understnad a commercial property and its value.

    You will never get 100% participation form commercial real estate brokers becaue they hold their market infomation close to their chest as their competative advantage. That is why a research compnay to gather this info is so imortant. Two people could be looking at the exact same CRE info and come up with two different analysis.

    There is one system that does as complete a job as possible. And the only way they are able to do this is with a 1,100 full time person research team. There is a huge cost in keeping this data updated. Once this data is outdated, it is worthless becaue it changes so quickly. Therefore the cost has to be passed to the clients willing to pay for such acurate data. All of the “big boy” shops have tried to keep internal databases, but have failed to do so. It is too big of a task and the cost of doing so are prohibitive.

    In my opinion there will never be one system that EVERYONE can use. There will always be the professional systems like CoStar and the Free services that dont have accurate data loke Loopnet/board systems.

    So as a broker you have to make the choice of which provider to go with. I would go with the one who pioneered this type of data collection and who has been doing it the longest with proven accuracy.

    All arrows point to CoStar. And with CoStar making a push into all secondary marktet where loopnet has help market shares due to lack of competation, CoSatr will be the one left standing. This time next year, you will not have many options as CoSatr will be closer to the defacto starndard as we will ever have.


  12. Duke Long

    February 10, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Scott, Thanks for the share! Question ..what if you don’t get any real data say from one of the top 5 firms? How can a value be placed on it if is does not represent the real market? Again, Thanks for the input!

  13. Paul Brockmeyer

    February 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Accurate, Comprehensive, Cheap. Pick two!

    Sam’s comments are spot-on. The problem of assembling a repository of CRE data that’s both comprehensive and accurate is extremely complicated and the situation is wildly different market-to-market, segment-to-segment. There’s always an answer to the question of “where can I find it”, but that answer is often going to be different in Chicago versus Tampa, for industrial versus retail, for sale versus lease, and for institutional versus conventional.

    Loopnet is pretty comprehensive in many markets, but in the end, it’s really just an unverified bulletin board. Costar’s a little better on accuracy, but the cost is outrageous. The industry’s best bet to aggregate a national set of data that’s accurate, comprehensive, and cheap is (no surprise) to look to how it was accomplished in residential – the MLS model.

    Now let me disclaim my bias: I’ve spent the past 10 years building commercial MLS (or CIE) software at Catylist. I’ve watched this happen in market after market – brokers get fed up with paying crazy prices for mediocre data and decide to come together to build their own database. Sam’s market (Houston) is a great example. Their CIE has been THE place to find CRE data for years. It takes local oversight and inside knowledge to build a quality database, and it’s amazing what a couple researchers and some software can do when the community embraces it. As the big national guys continue to raise their prices, you can be sure the CIE movement will continue.

    Commercial has lagged behind residential in this mainly because it’s a much more complex animal – much harder to standardize and aggregate on a national scale. Which is where Duke’s original point about data standards comes into play…

    It sounds like “data standards” is being used interchangeable here for a couple different ideas: standards for quality and standards for format. In terms of quality, I again agree with Sam — in my experience, most local groups do a good job of establishing and policing information, establishing local standards germane to their market. The real win will be when CRE adopts a standard data format. OSCRE’s been working on one for years, but as with all things of that scope, progress is slow. Being able to fling data from source to source quickly and easily is the missing link to that Holy Grail – a comprehensive national database aggregated from quality, locally-controlled databases.

    Things are moving in the right direction… there is hope!

    @Gregory: There’s actually some pretty interesting stuff going on in the Vegas market right now:

    • Duke Long

      February 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm

      Preaching to the choir. We use Catylist as our provider for our State Commercial Board. I am not and I repeat not endorsing Catylist in any way shape or form. Part of the reason for the post was to help define what exists today and what other possibilities are out there. My frustration as a Broker is in dealing with incomplete or no data all. Also dealing with multiple clients in multiple states. Yes I know it’s my job but, some general form of consistency would be helpful. A weak arguement maybe ,but a least at start. I feel a follow up post coming on. Thanks for the input and point of view.

  14. Scott Meyer

    February 11, 2010 at 1:19 pm


    Your right if you dont get participation form the major firms, that is a huge blow. Lickily CoStar was prepared to prevent that sinerio. They have national agreements in place with the largest firms in the county with automatic uploads for firms like Cushman, JLL, CBRE, Marcus, Grubb and many others. This woule eliminate missing a major group of lisitngs in a certain market. The other factor is that there is no advantage to NOT giving CoStar your data. It is free to put info on CoStar. It always has been and always will be free to get your lisintings into the database. You just have to go through a researcher at CoStar so they can input it into a standard format so it can be verified. And brokers understand that if they want to be visable to firms like CBRE, they HAVE to be on CoStar.


    Every market has a local board and database. I think the local board will have a harder time getting participation from ALL firms than CoStar would. CoStar Coexists with all these differeent board systems in each market.
    CoStar provides so much more insight than just listing infomation. They have software built in to help forecast, trend, look historically, and really manage the data to allow each person to get what they want out. That has taken 25 years of software development to establish. I can not see a new service on the block with that type of R&D to be able to offer a platform that is comparable for much less.

    I think the local board systems can compete for 2nd optionwith a loopnet or Excellegent, but not with CoStar….but CoStar does have a price tag to have access to this type of information. And if the broker does not know how to utalize and leverage this type of data, it is useless to have such accutrate data.

    • Duke Long

      February 11, 2010 at 2:13 pm

      My experience has been that the ” Big Firms ” may only give out certain data such as aggregated lease and sales volume. Not specific information on an individual transactions Citing the need to protect the clients confidentiality and interests.for that transaction. To that point I completly agree with that “policy”. The obvious question then becomes,Why pay for data that I know does not represent the actal market?
      Thanks for your comments and input.

      • TomG

        February 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm

        Hi all,
        Some quick observations –
        In many areas commercial brokers are not members of a local realtors board, and don’t want to be ‘confused’ with residential brokers.
        There are multiple discussions here, getting accurate info on listings currently on the market, sale comps, lease comps – and then IF you had this information, consistency so that you could compare.

        For many firms maintaining a good internal database of available space is a fundamental part of doing business. It’s part of their market research, market knowledge and differentiation from another firm.

        Quality over quantity – buyers don’t want to be buried in comps – they want to know what’s a good comparison and why.

        Often parallels are made to financial markets – that outwardly appear to have all of this information automated. In fact, they do not. There is nowhere to find out “all” of the people that want to sell a particular stock. There is no national market for buying large quantities of stock.

        Doing the research, knowing the marketplace, developing a high quality database of profiled contacts to market to is the challenge.

        And rather than looking to an external system that you have very little control over, look towards developing internal databases that are an asset of your firm.


        • Duke Long

          February 11, 2010 at 4:07 pm

          So ,let’s do the same for residential? Because of course it’s so very different?

  15. Jason Ells

    February 11, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    All interesting comments but you’re missing one simple fact that separates our commercial world from that of the residential/MLS…terms and conditions of lease transactions are not public record. In fact many deals contain confidentiality clauses. Forget the technology and systems…figure out how to share this info without conflicting with your clients, and without getting sued and you’ll be on the right track.

    Good luck.

  16. Paul Brockmeyer

    February 12, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Couple follow-up points:

    I think it’s very important to the industry that whatever becomes THE defacto national source of data is a collaborative effort rather than the work of a single company. The CIE philosophy has always been that no one knows a market better than the local experts (whether an association or joint effort of the major firms), and they should maintain control of their CRE data. A single national database should come from those markets pooling their data — not from a big vendor driving things from the top down.

    A collaboration ensures that costs are fair and the control stays in the hands of the community rather than a single company.

    Scott – CIEs have come a long way over the past 10 years, and many are now completely functional research and marketing databases, repositories of sale and lease comps, building records, demographics, market statistics, as well as active listings. Again, it varies market-to-market, but in a good market the CIE has BETTER data than any of the national providers. The number of these successful CIEs is growing.

    I know, I know… this is all coming from a CIE vendor. For what it’s worth though, we’re passionate about this model because we believe in it, not because we build these things 🙂

  17. Coy Davidson

    February 13, 2010 at 1:25 am

    “The conversation we had though was interesting in that the broker wanted me to send any and all comps that I had relating to the property, recent solds, actives and information on and all landlord rent concessions or as we Big Boy Commercial Real Estate peeps call it Tenant TI (we’re so fancy).”

    What standardized information are we talking about here? We all want the property specifics, size, features, sales price, lease rate etc, sales contact, leasing contact. CoStar does a pretty good job with that. A piece of income producing real estate is not a house. You can’t always share sensitive financial data that can impact future negotiations and the ability to maximize the value of the asset. Furthermore, leasing brokers are not for the most part going to share all the economic details of a lease transaction rate, concessions etc., certainly not to the general public, every deal is different and in the case of multi-tenant building there are numerous transactions with different variables.

    A commercial broker’s knowledge of terms of actual deals including concessions is part of his value as a service provider. If you go into the Ford Dealership to buy a car they don’t have a big whiteboard on the wall showing the actual price of all the units they have recently sold and the features that were on each specific unit, as well as the same information for every ford dealership in the city. Now if 95% of the auto sales were conducted by REALTORS and you had to put that data in the MLS according to set data standards in order to list a car…well then you might have a easily obtainable source of data for comparable auto sales.

    So if I have a client that sends me from Texas to Indiana to buy some commercial real estate I have to go to numerous sources and do my homework and ask for the information where ever I can get it to make sure I have a comprehensive view of the market. Duke, I don’t blame out of town broker for asking for the information…that’s what he is getting paid to do. However are you going to share any of that information that is not going to justify the value you are trying to attain for your seller?

    What if residential REALTORS had viable alternatives to the MLS system and I stress viable. Then you may very well see various levels of information in multiple systems just like commercial real estate. The real point is no data provider in commercial has a relative monopoly on the market like the MLS system does in residential. It seems CoStar is headed in that direction at least in the large markets which suggest why the brokerage firms in the large markets are willing to pay the “price” for the data.The frustration for the small shops and independent brokers is that they may not want to pay that price. Which gets to the “big boys only want to play in their sandbox” theory. For the most part all the big firms in Houston make their listing data available in multiple sources. Yes, some brokers do take high profile listings to suspected qualified purchasers before it hits the general market. That is not an inherent big firm policy, that is just a broker tendency, it just seems that way because the big firms get the lion’s share of the high profile listings.

    Bottom line is we don’t do business exactly like residential REALTORS and I am not sure I would want to!

  18. Garrett Krueger

    February 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    Thanks for starting a very interesting conversation Duke! All in all, most brokerage companies are happy to share available for lease data with other brokerage firms.

    The challenge on the for sale side is that double ending a deal will usually be a broker’s first attempt. If they cant do that through their database. brokers will then expose it to the entire market (whether their is a co-op fee or not). This seems like pretty standard practice to me whether you are working at a national firm or a local firm. That being said, eventually that data will hit Costar, Loopnet, or a local player.

    My issue with comps is that on the lease side, they aren’t public info and this means that they are extremely valuable. I don’t see brokers starting to share this data with any portal unless the portals start much more strongly motivating the brokers. The current strategy of just calling them or offering to make them a Power Broker if they submit all of their recent deals will not work. On the for sale side, I bet many portals or data sites are providing accurate (althougth probably a little dated info).

    Paul’s comments on sharing data across the brokers and portals seemed like an idea that could work as well. I work at a portal in California that specializes in driving leads for spaces under 5,000 sq ft and we have been pretty successfully getting brokers to provide data as long as the up front fees aren’t too steep for the service. At the end of the day in real estate, if someone adds value to your business, you are happy to pay for it. The challenge pops up once you feel like you are paying for a marketing tool that does little for you.

  19. Heywood

    February 16, 2010 at 8:24 pm


    10 bucks tells me that you never really looked at CoStar. Your assertions (ant the assertions of someof your readers) that CoStar hasnt standardized commercial real estate data tells me that you really arent knowledgable about the product but are going by what you hear from your friends and the rumor mill.

    1. As someone who has used all three websites, they are all different. CoStar is the only company that aggregates the data. They do the research. The other two are mere bullitin boards, and regurgitate the data that is put in by the brokers. Not to say that there is no value there, but they arent the same.

    2. I am not sure why, if you are listing a property, you would have to provide comps for the buyers broker. Isnt that the responsibility of the buyers broker? Why would the buyers broker even rely on the sales comps that are cherry picked by you?

    3. Have you looked at the sales comps that you could have bought on CoStar? They actually include pdfs of deeds.

    4. While the commercial information isnt as standard as the res side, i think that with CoStar, there is much more standardization.

    I urge you, and the other people whwo thing that “Commercial Real Estate Data Standards Suck” to call your local CoStar rep asap, and get a personal demo. You’ll thank me later.

  20. Dave Lewand

    February 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    I’m glad to have stumbled into this conversation, albeit a little late. Kudos to you, Duke, for bringing this issue to the forefront. Data standardization has been an issue on the commercial side seemingly forever, with many failed attempts as LoopNet and CoStar developed into the dominant players, for better or for worse.

    Although I’ve spent the past 5-7 years in commercial real estate marketing, I entered the industry 15 yrs ago as a intern research analyst for CB. I spent the next 5 yrs at Cushman & Wakefield (Chicago & St. Louis). I then worked 5 years for companies that finally morphed into what today is called Realm (ARGUS Financial Software, B.J. Murray, CTI Limited, DYNA Software and Newstar Solutions). My role at this company and going forward began to lean toward marketing and away from pure research and analysis.

    C&W was a tremendous place to learn, because at that time they were the dominant player in market data collection and analysis – particularly office data & market analysis. C&W, like their competitors, collected their own data and developed/mined their own proprietary database. An extremely competitive research environment and a great time for real estate information.

    Well, As each firm worked to hone their crafts and maintain competitive research departments, Andrew Florance (CoStar) was building/selling his concept – and buying local databases as he accumulated enough cash in each market. For some smaller firms with no ability to gather in-house data, the concept made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, some of the larger firms began to agree that outsourcing research (buying CoStar) made a lot of sense as well. And some firms even thought it made sense to datadump CoStar into their proprietary database while continuing to perform their own analysis….. the beginning of the end.

    On the office side, 9/11 was the final blow. Research grunts could no longer physically canvass office buildings floor-by-floor pretending to be a tenant in that building, all-the-while frantically writing/recording data. Hey, I was one of those grunts in 1993-1994 – went through many pairs of shoes that year!

    CoStar is here to stay – for better or for worse. Some view them as an information dynamo, while others view them as an army of revolving door idiots.

    I separate LoopNet completely from the above because I do not view them as a dependable source for macro-level property data but rather a marketing engine that propels property information. Although Dennis DeAndre of LoopNet may have at one time wanted to take on LoopNet as a data source, I think he conceded and concentrated further on his engine rather that building an army. I think LoopNet provides a great marketing skeleton in a popular, accepted format, but it should not be viewed as a source capable of quantifying data on a macro-level… at least not reliably. It’s only as good as the data provided by its editor. When utilized correctly, it effectively markets/houses your availabilities, comps, etc.

    I can’t really speak on Catalyst/CommercialSource as I don’t work closely with anyone who has ever used it. I only know that they market themselves relentlessly via email.

    I’ll keep track of this conversation, and better track of this website/forum. Separately, feel free to contact me @davelewand

    • Duke Long

      February 18, 2010 at 11:44 am

      Dave, WOW
      Thanks for the input and also for taking the “Let’s get the conversation going” thing to heart.
      Fantastic points of view.

  21. Michael Canella

    February 18, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    Great discussion….really great! Better than reading the WSJ. While these internet commercial listiing services will be very important going forward, there’s nothing like being able to work a deal and close the sale….I am talking about “selling”! Let’s not forget, ladies and gentlemen, it’s what has what made the good ole’ USA great…whether it’s widgets or commercial real estate. Granted, the internet has changed everything…but it’s STILL merely a tool. So while we wring our hands, just remember, there is a deal out there waiting just for you. The opportunity ahead will be unfamiliar to those looking for the easy deal. This journey will not be for those who require warmth….so get out of your comfort zone and make some money! ….me included!

    • Thomas C Gibson

      February 19, 2010 at 10:08 am

      The evolution of marketplaces …

      Once upon a time, to find out the price of a stock you had to call your brokerage firm.
      When a real brokerage firm started providing the near real time prices on their website, they thought they wouldn’t need as many people in their call center, and reduced staff.

      What actually happened is that clients called asking more complex questions about trading strategies. The reduced call center was not ready for the volume or complexity of calls.

      Information – Listings – will eventually be free.
      This will not replace the role of the broker – it will require the brokers to raise their game, become more knowldgeable, and proprietary information that separates you from others will be the key.

      • Duke Long

        February 19, 2010 at 3:50 pm

        There ya go!!! I like the way you are thinking… Now that’s how to be a CRE Broker !!
        Thanks for the input and point of view…which I happen to agree with !!

  22. Square Feet

    February 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm


    I wrote a post on the lack of transparency a couple weeks ago. Hate to do a link to my own blog here, but I think it’s appropriate ( not because of what I wrote, but the comments that ensued below.

    Unfortunately, many in the industry continue to walk down the same path.

    Bigger picture though, I think these problems all stem from the association/board level. The databases are merely a side-show. The residential market is extremely strong and tight-knit, from the local organization/board all the way up to NAR. My local commercial association/board charges a $100 a year, has a golf tournament, and an awards dinner. Just look at their website for a good laugh ( The second most seemingly important link on the site pertains to the self-inflicted awards dinner and the calendar of events also includes a golf tournament.

    Click on the “our area of service” to see the highly sophisticated mapping technology used to outline the service area of the association while you are at it.

    With that sort of budget and set of priorities little will get done. This will require new leadership which can convince member brokers/companies to invest – by way of increased dues – into technology, lobbying, etc.

  23. Fred

    February 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

    I’ve found this discussion interesting, and appreciated, Duke.

    My experience with CoStar was mostly negative. While they might have the “data” that we would all like. that’s pretty much it. So I’m irked when I see Scott Meyer’s post glorifying CoStar.

    I googled his name, and guess who is blatantly promoting themselves here? Scott Meyer, an account executive for CoStar. Consistent with CoStar “standards”, he doesn’t disclose, that he works for CoStar.

    I wonder if you can compare computer ip addresses for your posters, Duke. I have a hard time believing poster Heywood is anyone other than Scott Meyer. Mostly because usually people encourage others to check out a service for themselves. But Heywood says to “call your local CoStar rep”, which sounds like something an account executive from CoStar would say.

    • Benn Rosales

      February 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

      Anytime a brand is mentioned we expect the brand to react, and we hope it would be openly, as we welcome interaction and dialog, and not astroturfing. This type of change and forward thinking will take ideas and suggestions as well as corporate brands willing to crowdsource for the betterment of the profession and the tools professionals use. We encourage costar and any other brand to engage with eyes and ears wide open as this type of focus group is invaluable even if it comes with some criticism.


      • Duke Long

        February 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm

        Thank you Benn

    • Heywood

      February 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm


      I am not Scott, nor do I know him. I will say though that just because you had one bad experience with a CoStar rep doesnt mean that this would be true with everyone.

      You should note, as a commercial real estate professional that you are, that CoStar is very different than Loopnet….Which is very different than Catylist. The differences are gigantic, and while each service has it’s detractors, they all serve a purpose…

      When I state that you should contact your local CoStar Account Rep, it is clearly becasue THAT IS THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN ACTUALLY SEE COSTAR!. It is not a service that you can just sign up for online. Their salesreps are in every market, and they actually work with you.

      If you want to see what they are all about, their webpage would be a start….but you can only understand it in a one on one meeting.

      • Duke Long

        February 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm

        And you position at C0-Star is ????

  24. Office Space Chris Hancock

    March 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    While I agree that sharing information would be helpful to inexperienced brokers – it is the nature of the beast. I am young and when I first started I had no clue on how to get into the door to propose a listing of a multi million dollar downtown office building. But over the course of time, I was able to build an internal database with resources and built in timelines that now allow me to pounce on opportunities as they arise.

    In my opinion, the deals don’t get done from knowledge gained on loopnet and costar. Knowledge of your market is created by hunting and gathering the information over time. And after time, that knowledge becomes power.

    • tcgibson

      March 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      As Chris says, with rare exceptions deals don’t get done based on Loopnet, CoStar, or any other listing service. That’s not meant to knock them – it is just reality that the firms that are dominant in their markets focus on maintaining a high quality proprietary database. The most valuable information often can not be shared because of confidentiality – ranging from details about their leases, concessions, renegotiated rent, sales figures, etc.

      • Duke Long

        March 3, 2010 at 12:26 pm

        Thanks for the comment,
        Expect the above mentioned providers to pounce on your e-mail, to explain their relevance. Again, thanks for the input .

        • Office Space Chris Hancock

          March 3, 2010 at 1:13 pm

          There’s no denying the services that Loopnet, CoStar and others provide. But nothing can offer insight into the market like a seasoned commercial pro who has combed the area for years and seen the action from the front lines. If everything were transparent it would eradicate the need for realtors in general – both commercial and residential.

          • Paul Brockmeyer

            March 3, 2010 at 1:27 pm

            I 100% agree: “nothing can offer insight into the market like a seasoned commercial pro who has combed the area for years and seen the action from the front lines”.

            But that experience doesn’t need to be tied to the source of the data. Having data transparency eliminates a major headache (data collection and verification) and frees up the agents’ time to focus on their strengths: analysis and decision making.

            The guidance of a good broker is essential, especially with the added complexities of commercial deals. In a market with great transparency, the only brokers that won’t be necessary are those that can’t provide those services (those that had been previously making commission checks by hoarding data as opposed to providing valuable service).

  25. Matt Kossler

    March 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Speaking of inconsitent data – I don’t know what we pay at our office for “Costar Tenant” but my experience has been that the square footage and lease expiration information is incorrect AT LEAST 50% of the time. Aside from walking buildings to generate leads, has anyone else found any databases that provide this kind of information – more accurately than Costar Tenant?

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