Browse Month: December 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays From Everybody At!

Happy Holiday!
Image by sibhusky2 via Flickr

A big thanks for reading and Happy Holidays to commercial real estate pros everywhere!  Here’s looking forward to a great and successful 2012 from Baja to Maine, the Cascades to the Everglades.

Speaking of the whole map of the country, we found a cute story about a certain red-suited gift distributor taking their annual tour of the landscape at 30,000 ft.  Ho ho ho!

NORAD Santa trackers have a record holiday

DENVER (AP) – Santa piled up more than presents this year — trackers at NORAD say he also broke records during his global mission Christmas Eve.

Volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado fielded just under 100,000 telephone queries about his progress late Saturday, breaking the previous mark of 80,000.

And his NORAD Facebook page approached one million “likes,” compared with 716,000 a year ago.

Volunteers at NORAD Tracks Santa said kids started calling at 4 a.m. Saturday to find out where Santa was.

“The phones are ringing like crazy,” Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis said Saturday.

Read entire story here.

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Coldwell Commercial’s College Bowl Property Finder

How can college football and listings data combine to help out commercial real estate professionals?

Once upon a time, access to listings was the largest missing piece of commercial property marketing.  Today, depending on the market, a decent supply of listings is almost a given on the web.  Nowhere moreso than at, naturally.

Solving one problem only gives rise to another.  We have more access to more data than ever before.  What we now need is to know what to do with all those listings.  How do we turn data and information into knowledge and wisdom?

One way to describe a commercial property market research is to call it an effort to watch the flow of things – people, tenants, dollars, attention, construction.  And when we look at markets nationally, we are looking for fixed locations where these flows converge — especially in secondary markets not known for their powers of economic concentration.

Coldwell Banker Commercial’s College Bowl Property Finder is a great example of how to pattern property searches around places of convergence and economic importance in secondary and tertiary markets.

Coldwell Banker Commercial College Bowl Commercial Property Finder
Coldwell Banker Commercial College Bowl Commercial Property Finder

Searching for commercial properties for sale or lease nearby to 35 games in 30 different cities was never made easier than it is here.  Use it for ad hoc economic analysis in dozens of different ways – hospitality analysis, comps, cap rate thumbnails – or plot an investment strategy centered on the economic impacts represented by the bowl games to the surrounding community.

(“Communities” would be more accurate.  In one case, I found this tool’s idea of “nearby” a little optimistic — should the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ really be listed as “nearby” to 138 miles-distant Flagstaff, AZ?    Then again, better to have too much data than too little, right? )

Tools like CBC’s College Bowl Property Finder will only grow in number across the business as time goes on and the industry continues to find ways of turning listings into gold, saving practitioners time and sparking imaginations across the marketplace.


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Finding And Renting Shared Office Space: Monitoring The Trends In A Growing Market

Cover of "Office Space (Special Edition w...
Cover via Amazon

When Patricia Lynne, CCIM addressed a commercial audience at NAR’s annual conference in 2011, she talked of a radically shifting office space marketplace.  She saw the common cubicle-farm concept of office space rapidly falling out of favor with the youngest office workers.  The millennial generation are used to high mobility, high connectivity and knowledge work, and the cube farms across the country just weren’t set up with these things in mind.

Further, a wave of venture capital is crossing the country, funding startups in technology and related fields, trying to springboard the next Groupon or Amazon.  The shared office model being second nature to the generation of workers  that will power these startups means that the office real estate practitioner who ignores this new pattern of economic development is likely missing out on a big chunk of the future.

While the predictions suggest a growth in alternative office occupancy models, a look around the web confirms it.  Indeed, shared office space, incubator-style arrangements idealized for startups and membership-based rental models are on the rise in primary and secondary markets.  Traditional office building listings websites and services are generally a poor fit for this market, so let’s take a look at some of its key sites that define the online marketplace in shared office space.

Craig’s List – Due to its information simplicity, CL remains hospitable to the shared office listing alongside the listings for more traditional listings for buildings, floors, blocks and the like.  Due to Craigslist’s history and cultural positioning with the technology industry, it will probably always be a stop for the prospective technology startup on the hunt for affordable, flexible and appropriate digs.

SuiteMatch – Powered in part by Zillow listings, this site provides listings in over twenty major cities.  Searches for spaces in Chicago came up with bupkus, so I got an impression of thin offerings, although listings did show up in markets highly identified with tech startups such as San Francisco. Just not as many as I expected.

Regus – Using Google AdSense aggressively and an effective landing page strategy to market shared spaces and suites, Regus is a player in this market that displays full understanding of search marketing . – This “national office sharing directory that solely focuses on unused space for rent that is available within an established business location” boasts”hundreds” of listings and focuses on 10 major markets.  Kudos for being upfront about the amount of listings, but I wished I could find more. – Neat design, map support and information-rich listings make this worth a look when considering a marketing plan for shared office space.

Overall, I saw all the hallmarks of a major marketplace in its early stages – plenty of room to grow.  What are some sites catering to shared office space that you’ve seen?


Related articles

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Flood Insurance, Small Business Credit Help And More: NAR Commercial 2011 Legislative Wrap Up

Washington dc

NAR 2012 Treasurer Bill Armstrong’s podcast wrapping up the year in legislative issues for REALTORS® touched on a series of important issues affecting commercial real estate. Podcasts are great (I like to listen in the car), but when the issues include far-reaching legislation, it’s important to break out and take a closer look at the content in text – to make it visible to readers and in the search engines.  So let’s break it out:

  • NFIP Flood Insurance:  The House and Senate recently signed off on a second short-term extension (through December 16th 2011) to the National Flood Insurance Program.  This benefits both commercial and residential real estate practitioners.  That means there’s been no lapse in the NFIP authority to issue flood insurance.  Bill also mentioned that NAR will continue to urge Congress to pass a five-year extension, and reminded REALTORS to respond to NAR’s call to action in support of the NFIP extension at 
  • FHA Mortgage Loan Limits: Congress restored a two year extension to FHA mortgage loan limits. Through 2013, the limit stands at 125% of local area median home prices. “While that doesn’t impact commercial real estate directly, our industry depends on a thriving workforce and housing market, so this is an issue that all commercial practitioners will benefit from”, said Armstrong.
  • Credit Union Member Business Lending Bill: The House Financial Services Subcommittee held a hearing after NAR’s support for this idea.    This bill impacts commercial practtcioners by raising the cap on credit union member business lending lending from 12.15% to 27.5% of total assets (for well-capitalized credit unions). This allows more capital to be available to struggling small businesses occupying commercial buildings. “NAR will continue to engage Congress and other stakeholders to push for a raise of the business lending cap for credit unions,” said Armstrong.
  • As part of the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010, NAR was able to help create a new commercial refinance program implemented by the Small Business Administration.  This allows small businesses to refinance certain owner-occupied commercial real esatte loans.  The new refi option was initially restricted to small businesses with CRE mortages maturing by end of 2012.  After extensive NAR lobbying, small business borrowers will be allowed to refinance certain CRE loans maturing after that date.
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The Benevolent Broker: Charitable Giving As A Business Edge

New ideas in commercial real estate are emerging to help us with age-old business challenges. Brokers have more tools than ever to aid in gaining information on markets and properties and to build networks.   But how many truly new ways to add value come along?  How can we serve our communities How creative can we really get in this industry?

To put it another way, what can be made part of the deal that is new, that captures the imagination, serves a mutual need and differentiates one broker from the next?  How can we make deals special?

Lately, we’ve seen a rise in a creative new business model that combines old-fashioned networking, commissions and charitable giving.   Different brokers around the country have struck upon a new way to add value by channeling portions of commissions into the hands of worthy causes that clients want to see funded.   Let’s take a quick look at two of these “benevolent broker” models:

Charity Realty International  The New Jersey-based effort of a Rochelle Park, NJ firm specializing in office, industrial, investment and real estate consulting,  is helmed by President James F. Costanzo.  “I have always had the dream of becoming a philanthropist,” says Costanzo, whose firm has pledged to donate 20% of its net revenue to various charities including Alzheimer’s Disease Research.

Rather than donating a percentage of profit or relying on himself to always donate when the paycheck reaches his pocket, Costanzo felt the most up front and consistent way to contribute was to include the donation as part of the contract.

“I pledge this up front, contractually in writing … it takes all of the human frailty of what you might do with the money once you get it out of the equation,” Costanzo said.

Also inserting charitable giving into the commercial real estate process is Chicago-based  Investing In Communities.  IIC allows clients to fund their favorite nonprofits for free by including the giving in the structure of the clients’ real estate transactions.   Replacing referral fees with a philanthropic approach, real estate professionals become members of IIC for a small fee, and pledge to contribute a percentage of commissions to the nonprofit selected by the client.

As the season is upon us, I have to wonder; what other charitable commission or referral fee ideas are out there?


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Your Vacancy Rate Could Be Worse: It Could Be China

The role of commercial real estate in the explosive, near double-digit growth of the Chinese economy might be imagined as follows: factories, dozens at a time, rise everywhere in the previously empty landscape, all to to meet the world’s demand for China’s manufactured goods and thereby pull along China’s economy and society into ever-greater prosperity.

Only half of that is true. Demand for goods is real, and factories and offices  have certainly proliferated – 2011 saw 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion) in commercial real estate investment. But China’s enormous growth is hiding a desperate struggle with the other pieces of the economic puzzle.

As it turns out, a sad thing happened on the way to Chinese prosperity. China’s building policies created a commercial and residential real estate glut that is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Empty, giant apartment and condo towers, desperate agents handing out collateral on highway exit ramps, and lonely maintenance staff sweeping floors of enormous shopping malls with 99.8% vacancy – these are not the images we expect to see when we consider the recent history of China’s impact on the world economy.  Yet this is what a TV crew for the Australian Broadcasting Company found in a 2011 piece called “China’s Ghost Cities And Malls”.

Warning: your heart will break when you meet the toy retailer stranded in an empty mall with no neighbors, no customers and no idea of what went wrong.



Bed Bug Detection: New Early Warning Devices Hit The Market

Sunflower Hotel Bed
Bed bugs: How can we know in time?

As we learned at NAR 2011 Annual last month, the growing bed bug problem is one that touches all commercial properties, not just multi-family and hospitality.  Offices, shopping centers, theaters, group housing and more are all subject to infestation by these highly mobile pests.  If there’s upholstery and walls, there can be bed bugs.   The legal risks are staggering, the personal ordeals harrowing and a magic bullet is nowhere in sight. Because the elusive critters make themselves very difficult to spot, a small problem becomes a big one invisibly, making early detection a must to head off potential nightmares.

Predictably, a booming business in bed bug remediation has arisen, encompassing traditional pest control, bed bug detection using specially trained dogs, and a wide range of best practice consulting services to help keep a lid on liabilities and keep property owners and managers well-informed.

Yet the technology of bed bug detection has not been a hotbed (sorry) of high technology.   Tending to be old school and beagle-based, the hunting down of early infestations has only begun to see new technologies appear.  The two newest are the Verifi Bed Bug Detector and  new radio wave detectors under development.

FMC Verifi Bed Bug Detector

The FMC corporation makes insecticides and pest control devices.   This week, FMC rolled out the Verifi Bed Bug Detector. Verifi is a kind of early detection trap for bed bugs, a small plastic box with chemical bait that discreetly mounts on a wall behind a bed or furniture. Once installed, managers can inspect the traps periodically to spot unwanted guests and decide to call in the big guns before the problem gets out of hand.


Turning The Tables: Radio Wave Bed Bug Detection Device Spots ‘Em When They’re Asleep

The most difficult aspect of tracking down and controlling bed bugs is their mobility.  They hide in walls and in wall features when it’s not night, meaning a major infestation can be hidden for a very long time. The VisiRay company of Corvallis, OR has announced a development deal with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to make detection devices that can see through walls and spot bed bugs when they’re asleep in the walls — let’s see how they like it.

Technology developed to scan air travelers is being used to create a device that can search for bedbugs in houses and hotel rooms, U.S. researchers said.

VisiRay of Corvallis, Ore., has signed an option agreement with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to create the devices, which would use millimeter wave technology to allow inspectors to see through drywall particle boards and view clear images of pests on the other side of a wall.

The company was started by graduate students from the University of Oregon Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.

“PNNL is focused on driving emerging technologies toward outcomes that solve issues of national importance,” Cheryl Cejka, PNNL director of technology commercialization, said in a release.

The agreement is part of the Startup America initiative announced by the White House this year to make licensing new technologies affordable for start-up companies.

The technology was initially developed with Federal Aviation Administration grants to use radio waves to scan passengers, the (Kennewick, Wash.) Tri-City Herald reported Monday. It is used at 78 U.S. airports.

The technology has been licensed for development of a device that could be used in stores to help shoppers select clothing sizes by providing a 3-D holographic image of their bodies, the newspaper said.

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