Numbers Don’t Tell The Whole Story

We live in a fast food society. I wrote about this more than once on my now dormant NeuerSpace blog. 

We read or listen to our news in sound bites and as it scrolls across the bottom of a screen.  Many people (not me) listen to their music via streaming services, and iTunes made it easy to buy individual songs, rather than complete albums.

Many times, we don’t seek the whole story. We just want the headlines, the highlights or the hit song. In our social lives, this may make us more time-efficient, and we can sift through more information faster to get to what we really want. 

But, there’s a shift happening in our industry towards that trend and it concerns me. 

Our data is being commoditized. Companies like CBRE and our larger competitors had a competitive advantage for many years because we were the only ones with great market data. We spent millions of dollars to be ahead of boutique firms and we were able to use that data to provide our clients with all of the tools available in the market to drive the best deals.

However, now there are services like CompStak, which just raised $4.4M, mostly from the real estate community, that offer data for free. They crowdsource comps. Since I am not a subscriber to their site, I have no idea if they confirm the data or if you can simply add comps at will, but that aspect concerns me.

Trading comps is a way for brokers to get smarter about their markets, but it’s rarely the numbers that tell the story. Was the space vacant for a long time? What was the condition of the space prior to lease signing? What was the tenant’s goal? There are so many questions to ask and talking to one of the brokers involved in the deal is the only way to get a peek behind the curtain and learn what drove the numbers.

If you’ve read some of my earlier submissions, you know I am a fan of picking up the phone and actually talking to people. I am also a fan of providing our clients with thoughtful advice and the best information possible. In my opinion, it’s a bit lazy to just quote market statistics or comps and not understand the drivers behind the numbers.

In many ways, our industry is getting smarter and more efficient by using technology, but that same technology is also making it easier for some to fake their way through.