Don’t worry—this is a story reported by the Washington Post yesterday, and it involves real estate transaction values--— the often-private details about how much businesses are paying to lease office buildings.
Apparently, a CBRE executive sent a memo December 9th instructing its thousands of brokers (BVR’s data estimates CBRE does almost a fifth of all office leases in the U.S.) to withhold transaction data from CoStar. CoStar does the same thing BVR does—except for real estate appraisers and agents. The market for real estate transaction data has become somewhat dangerously consolidated over the last years as CoStar and others have acquired nearly all the smaller providers (its nearly $1 billion acquisition of LoopNet, a listing service, is now under antitrust review).
The CBRE memo was meant to be shared internally only, but the Post quoted it as saying CoStar “has becoming increasingly creative in attempting to induce us to release transaction details to them” via ranking categories—if the deals don’t get reported, the brokers don’t show up at the top of these rankings. The memo called such rankings “illegitimate…Your clients, the media and the local business community at large should be advised that the CoStar rankings are inherently flawed, and not at all reflective of market position or individual professional achievement,” it said. CBRE also claims that it avoids disclosing any leasing information with third parties.
CoStar of course disagrees—pointing out that CBRE can alter market pricing by hoarding its transactions, a practice it claims is anti-competitive.
Ironic comparisons to the business valuation world. BVR customers, at least, don’t have to worry about a similar problem in their profession. First of all, private company business sale transaction data is infinitely hard to compile than real estate data, which, despite the protests here, is nearly always available.
Second the BV world has not consolidated—there are many data providers, with most of the best of them available via bvresources.com or other sources.
Third, we’re such a small profession. It’s unlikely the FTC will find a billion dollar data provider deal in the business appraisal world to complain about. Though the owners of BVR would be happy to entertain an offer in that price range…any time! We’ll buy all of our customers dinner for a year when that deal closes…