The Ultimate Commercial Real Estate Broker Research Tools for 2019

Commercial real estate research tools and books provide accurate, organized, and up-to-date information for brokers and agents. At CXRE, we use the latest tools and read the best books to help you find the perfect commercial property.

Below are the 15 top commercial real estate research tools for 2019:

1 CRM (Customer-Relationship Management)

Topping the list is the tool no commercial broker or agent should be without. Not only does a CRM like ClientLook let you manage your prospects, clients, and pipeline, but it also has back-office functions. In addition, mobile-friendly CRMs let you take your office with you.

If you are a larger firm with more than 10 staff, and a significant customization budget, we recommend Zoho CRM.

Mobile-friendly CRMs let you take your office with you.

2 Research & Analytics

Doing commercial real estate research, learning about vacancy research, and a host of other tasks are easier for a commercial real estate research analyst with analytic tools systems like Reonomy or REIS. However, some tools, like CoStar, are more applicable to the Houston market. CoStar is an excellent source of information for listings, sales information (besides sales price), leases, contact research, and demographics. CoStar can give you the answers to almost anything you need other than sales price (Since Texas is a non-disclosure state, many brokers and parties to the transactions do not disclose the sales price of properties. To obtain this information, one must either leverage relationships or pay for the information).

Luckily Real Capital Analytics has a team of researchers that pours over documents from every market (even overseas markets) in order to obtain hard-to-obtain sales prices. While they do cover properties under $2.5M, their researchers aren’t actively pursuing information of deals under that limit.

Another great source of research and analytics information is LandVision. This tool allows you to see the information even more visually than many of the competitors. Another tool, BLDUP, offers real estate development specific information that lets you look up developments by city, neighborhood, developer name, sector, or project. It provides photos and information about the developers along with developments they have constructed. In addition, it provides details on completion dates, what type of development it is, how many units will be delivered, where the development is located, and even the number of parking spaces.

Every county in Texas has an appraisal district that incorporates GIS data into their public records.

3 GIS (Geographic Information Systems)

In essence, a GIS holds useful geographic and spatial data. With a GIS, a commercial real estate researcher can better advise clients using important geographic data. Furthermore, every county in Texas has an appraisal district that incorporates GIS data into their public records. This allows you to access a large amount of public real estate data online. Specifically, the information includes assessed value of building and land, valuation of improvements on land, taxes, building class, ownership history, and almost any other information that is publicly available regarding the subject property. Please note that the county’s assessed value is not the actual market value of the property if it were to be sold.

4 Building Research

Knowing as much as possible about buildings is essential. For example, tools like Reonomy, CoStar, Real Capital Analytics, LandVision, Specific County Appraisal District’s websites, and Moody’s product Real Estate Information Services Network (a combination of proprietary services they’ve acquired such as REIS, coupled with CompStak, and Rockport Val) give you the information needed to form educated opinions of value. This includes important building information like square footage, the tenants, length of leases, and taxes for individual buildings.

Missing docs delay transactions.

5 Document Generation

Few things are more embarrassing for a professional commercial real estate agent than lacking the necessary paperwork. Not only is it embarrassing, but missing docs delay transactions. As a result, a document generation tool, like the one within REI Wise, keeps you from missing anything. Another great tool is ZipForms. Also, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) generates forms used in real estate transactions including sales and leases.

6 Leasing and Asset Management

Commercial real estate professionals can market, manage, and lease an entire portfolio of assets with tools like VisualLease, or CoStar. The latter lets subscribers see every available lease entered into the platform along with the tenants in certain buildings. This can be indispensable when helping to locate new tenants or assisting a buyer in purchasing a new building for their business. On top of that, it allows you to locate your client into the best possible area and know the local area’s competition. This feature also allows an enterprising leasing agent to look for tenants of competing buildings and recruit them to another building.

In addition, Asset and Leasing managers’ jobs are made easier by Buildium. This tool tracks all expenses, enables easier transactions with tenants and vendors, makes it all easily accessible through online portals, and even allows tenants to pay their rent online.

However, the best lease administration software on the market might be Quarem. This software allows a leasing broker and owner to manage their leases, properties, and assets in one centralized location.

7 Marketing

Numerous marketing tools exist for commercial real estate. Some automate certain processes to make agents’ jobs easier. Others, like Matterport, are specialized marketing tools which produce virtual walkthroughs of properties.

These tools can provide an income-approach-based evaluation of the property to potential clients.

8 Valuation

Tools like Costar Suite and Real Capital Analytics give researchers and brokers the sales information they need to build an appropriate model in programs like Excel, Google Sheets, or Argus. As a result, these tools can provide an income-approach-based evaluation of the property to potential clients.

Other Tools include ProAPOD, a very user-friendly tool that allows you to create return on equity, return on investment, cash flow, and profitability analysis reports. Additionally, if someone needs to brush up on how to construct a discounted-cash-flow model, Youtube has many tutorials to teach how to construct a good DCF model for real estate valuation or acquisition.

9 Mapping Technology

Zillow helps home buyers find homes. However, commercial real estate requires more robust tools. In brief, mapping programs like LandVision let brokers find properties quicker, see detailed property information, and even contact property owners. Additionally, there are free sources available that contain public data like a county’s appraisal district database.

If you are an enterprise level firm like CXRE that has developers, we recommend going full-throttle with Google’s Enterprise Mapping solutions.

10 Benchmark Tools

For these tools, simply enter property info and the tools evaluate benchmarks like debt-coverage-ratio and gross-rent-multiplier. Also, commercial real estate research tools like RealBench, RealData’s Real Estate Investment Analysis (REIA), can compare several properties at once. Other tools are also available like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets which allow you to build custom tools for benchmarking, enabling you to build a tool specifically for your client’s needs.

Getting your people paid is crucial to keeping them happy.

11 Broker Payroll

Getting your people paid is crucial to keeping them happy. Since commercial real estate is typically paid by commissions, special payroll tools like Brokermint and CommissionTrac are necessary.

12 Commercial Comp Tracker

Comps (or comparables) are a cornerstone of commercial real estate. Accurate information about comps offer a solid idea how much your clients should pay to lease or purchase a property.  As a non-disclosure state, Texas adds a layer of complication for obtaining this important information. Some sales data is available within CoStar, Reonomy, and LandVision, but not enough for dependably completing evaluations.

In order to obtain reliable sales price information, a broker either has to build their own network of contacts or purchase the information from a source like Real Capital Analytics. This company has nearly every commercial transaction that has taken place in an area and can suggest comparable sales of the subject property based on your criteria.

Commercial real estate audiences more are more likely to use LinkedIn, Twitter, or the industry specific RealConnex, instead of Facebook or other social media networks like Instagram.

13 Social Networks

Social media takes networking to an entirely new level, but you also have to know your audience. Commercial real estate audiences more are more likely to use LinkedIn, Twitter, or the industry specific RealConnex, instead of Facebook or other social media networks like Instagram.

Using Twitter or Linkedin lets a researcher follow important influential individuals or people who have important information on their market. Many commercial real estate organizations also have a presence on social media. For example Hines has an Instagram profile showing pictures of their past and present developments along with their investments.

14 Cash Flow

PlanEASe is specifically geared towards the analysis of multi-unit residential and office property management. With it, a commercial real estate researcher can easily access cash flow analysis and financial analysis. Other great tools include Argus (products designed specifically for commercial real estate) and RealData’s Real Estate Investment Analysis (REIA) (generates compelling presentations demonstrating cash flow and many other financial metrics to demonstrate value to your clients).

RealNex’s MarketEdge is another product that allows a real estate researcher to demonstrate cash flow and it’s discounted value for up to 20 years. If a researcher is comfortable enough, they can build their own models within Excel or Google Sheets in order to deliver a custom cash flow model to the client.

One of the most popular programs for creating cash flow projections is Property Metrics. It allows you to create detailed models of complex leases then show how they affect cash flow and property valuation. It also lets you model rent escalations, expirations, vacancy factors, tenant improvements, commissions, and the likelihood of lease renewal.

15 Property Management Software

These commercial real estate research tools help property managers track tenants and properties. Specialized tools, like Aquicore, even provide real-time analytics for energy usage.

Other tools like Buildium enable property managers to interact with tenants. Managers can notify property managers of maintenance that must be completed. On top of that, their new partnership with HappyCo allows the property manager to inspect all of their units from their mobile phone.

Technology makes life easier for a commercial real estate researcher.

The Tools to Serve All Your Commercial Real Estate Needs

These days, technology makes life easier for a commercial real estate researcher. As central Texas’ leading firm, CXRE does the commercial real estate research for you. Not only can CXRE assist you with office leasing, but we also handle purchases of various commercial properties. In addition, we handle medical offices, land, industrial warehouses, retail properties, and others.

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