“Transparency increases the accountability of commercial real estate professionals to their clients,” says CEO and co-founder of CompStak Michael Mandel. And in the future, being accountable is going to make the difference between those who succeed and those who don't.
A former Grubb & Ellis broker, Mandel has aided industry transparency by creating CompStak, an online repository of crowd-sourced leasing comparables currently available for 17 U.S. markets. CompStak's Exchange platform is free to commercial real estate brokers, researchers, and appraisers who provide comps. Basically members “put in one comp and get one comp out,” Mandel says. “We do a lot of work to validate the data - both computer based and using our team of analysts to verify. But our members are incentivized to put in good data - they earn credits by supplying and updating comps and lose credits when another member updates the data they've provided.”
A second platform, CompStak Enterprise, offers fee-based comp information and counts companies such as Equity Office Properties, the Carlyle Group, and JP Morgan Chase as users.
In nearly four years, the firm has grown to 55 employees, with plans to increase coverage to most major and secondary U.S. markets, plus some international ones, including London.
As technology disrupts decades-old entrenched industry habits, Mandel believes that creativity, drive, and professionalism will differentiate the best brokers. “If information becomes the table stakes, then commercial real estate brokers have to become more creative to get deals done. For example, they may have to figure out how to change a class B building into a class A property.”
To stay ahead of the game, Mandel advises commercial real estate professionals - including owners and users - to be early adopters and continually incorporate new technology into their best practices. “Early adoption of new technology creates a competitive advantage in the industry,” he says.
Transparency, accountability, and creativity will transform brokers' roles, Mandel adds. In the not-too-distant future, “brokers will look more like lawyers and accountants,” he says. “The more competent, creative, and accountable brokers will become consultative advisers. The others will fall by the wayside.”