By Billy Gray on September 27, 2013.
Commercial lease transactions, also known as lease comps, are a highly valuable tool for understanding the commercial real estate market, evaluating properties and negotiating deals. Brokers, appraisers and researchers have been trading lease comps for years, but, thus far, the process has been, in large part, unorganized and inefficient. Fortunately, CompStak, Inc. has provided a free online platform where brokers, appraisers, researchers and landlords can exchange information about said deals. We spoke with Danny Shachar, director of operations at CompStak, about what the company can do for you. How and why was Compstak conceived?
The problem commercial real estate brokers face is that information about completed lease transactions isn’t really shared anywhere. A broker wants to be able to show clients what other companies are paying for similar space and what competitors are charging in rent, but there’s no central database to go get market information. You have to start calling other brokers who’ve made similar deals, which is a painful process, because you don’t know who to call or how long it will take for them to get back to you. Co-founders Michael Mandel (CEO) and Vadim Belobrovka (CTO) founded the company to solve this issue of transparency.
How’d you manage to resolve this issue, and how exactly does the site work?
Compstak users can find information on renting office, retail store or industrial space in seconds instead of trying to guess who has the information they need. Our members send us information about completed commercial lease transactions. They earn points for every comp they send, and they use those points to buy the comps they don’t have. For every deal they send, they can get one back. While searching the database does not require any points, getting the full deal information requires them to spend their points.
Who pays and who doesn’t?
It’s free for brokers, appraisers and researchers, but we verify everyone’s identity so that not everyone can use it. Landlords, on the other hand, subscribe—this is how we make money. Normally, our paying customers are very large networks or banks or real state investors. A broker can get access for free—same with tenants. If you’re a reporter, though, we wouldn’t grant you access.
Would you say that this actually helps create market efficiency?
With commercial real estate, it’s difficult to get a good view of what else is going on in the market. As a tenant, it’s not easy to find out if you’re actually paying a fair price. Also, as a broker, you never get a full picture of what’s going on, so the market becomes inefficient. With Compstak, it’s like the stock market: You know how much your investment is making, and you’ve got annual reports and all of the other information you need to make decisions. This means it’s priced right and removes some of the risk in investment.
Is transparency always a good thing?
We view transparency as an improvement to the market. If a landlord thinks they can charge way above and beyond market prices because nobody knows what the value is, sure, they would benefit from inefficiency. However, it could go the other way—what if they’re undercharging for a space? What if they could be getting more? Transparency in commercial real estate is something we value. We feel that it’s something that moves the industry along and makes everybody who participates in the commercial real estate industry more knowledgeable and better at what they do.
This probably makes some people unhappy.
We’re rocking the boat, because there are a lot of people who aren’t interested in things changing and don’t want to share information. If you’re in a large brokerage, you may not want to share details, because that’s where your competitive advantage is. But comps are always traded in commercial real estate. They have been forever. People will always trade. If you really want to get unbiased information, you’d go to Compstak, because we don’t take sides. We collect info and take data as it is. We aren’t pro-tenant or pro-landlord. We just tell it like it is.
What’s your “indecent exposure” policy?
Our members agree not to disclose information they’re not allowed to disclose. That’s part of the user agreement. I would say a lot of our information doesn’t come from people involved in the actual transaction but from people who know about it. If you’re a member, you’re part of the circle that would get this info anyway, like a broker, appraiser, researcher or landlord. It’s not like we’re WikiLeaks.