DNA of #CRE: The State of Commercial Brokerage in 2021

The face of industrial actual property brokerage is quickly evolving. As the demographics of the sector change, specialists tout new concepts in enterprise and tech alike, and the very nature of the trade responds to disruptive forces just like the impression of COVID-19. For a discipline that focuses so closely on networking, interpersonal communication, and hands-on advertising methods, the pandemic, which led to widespread shutdowns in each state and each trade, had profound impacts. Commercial brokers who had spent years or a long time oiling the equipment of their processes all of a sudden discovered themselves compelled to develop new, remote-friendly ways and methods to make sure their continued success. Meanwhile, newer brokers have been considering creatively about tips on how to use the instruments at their disposal to drive extra enterprise in ever extra artistic methods. 

In order to grasp these modifications, industrial brokerage tech supplier Buildout and dealer database theBrokerChecklist developed and administered the “DNA of #CRE,” a survey of 500 of the nation’s prime brokers, a smaller marketer-focused survey, and an extra survey specializing in COVID-19. In this report, we are going to dive into the information from these surveys to discover how brokers are working in this new panorama. First, we are going to assessment the DNA of #CRE’s findings and supply evaluation for the altering state of brokerage crew dynamics. Next, we are going to discover the use of expertise and information in the trendy brokerage panorama. Then, we are going to cowl firm-level traits and assessment how brokers are interacting with shoppers in this new world. Finally, we are going to discover areas for course of enchancment in the brand new brokerage universe. 

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Dear Reader,

Commercial actual property, like most industries, is present process fast change. Brokerages are confronted with new and complicated challenges each day—however these challenges convey alternatives. Brokers and brokerages that adapt to the wants of the altering CRE panorama will separate from the pack, positioning themselves as market leaders.

In this report, you’ll discover survey outcomes compiled from lots of of brokerages, detailing the state of the trade right this moment, in addition to how they plan to maneuver ahead. The outcomes cowl hiring challenges, COVID-19, expertise, information, prospecting, networking, and extra.

We hope the data contained in these pages will make it easier to develop the methods and ways crucial to put your self and crew in a place of energy as the long run unfolds. With a transparent understanding of the obstacles going through CRE, you’ll be able to take motion now and thrive regardless of them.

In 2010, whereas chatting with a pissed off dealer in a espresso store, two software program engineers realized of unimaginable inefficiencies going through industrial actual property. They believed deeply that brokers required higher expertise and based Buildout to ship actual worth throughout the trade. When I first noticed the appliance in 2013, I promptly left my brokerage to assist these sensible engineers accomplish their aim.

It’s with that very same mission in thoughts—to offer CRE brokerages with the instruments and sources they should succeed—that we share this report with you right this moment. We hope this helps you precisely assess the place your brokerage stands in comparison with the remainder of the trade and establish the steps you could take to realize your objectives.

Kris KriscoChief Customer OfficerBuildout

Before we get too far into the small print, we’ll think about the high-level takeaways of the place brokerage is right this moment. Who are the brokers that make up the industrial actual property gross sales and leasing enterprise? This part will present a quick government abstract of the findings of our survey at a excessive degree. 

About 60 p.c of our respondents had been brokers who work at smaller regional or native companies. Most work in cities or, to a lesser extent, suburbs. Over half of our respondents had been in their 50s or above, and about 80 p.c of respondents are males. Most of our respondents have over a decade of expertise and sometimes work in the workplace, retail, or industrial sectors. 

In basic, these brokers work at small places of work with only a handful of different brokers. Over 50 p.c use CoStar and LoopNet for property data, and most, over 80 p.c, preserve non-public databases of properties and shoppers separate from their colleagues and officemates. An overwhelming majority of brokers derive most of their enterprise from referrals or, to a lesser extent, chilly calling for enterprise. And regardless of the impacts of COVID-19 on advertising and media, lower than 13 p.c use video webinars as a advertising technique. 

Broker profile

60.4 p.c of respondents had been unbiased brokers working at smaller or native companies, whereas 39.6 p.c labored at nationwide companies like CBRE or JLL. In phrases of location, most brokers work in city markets (63.1 p.c), with 33.4 p.c working in suburban areas. Only 3.4 p.c of brokers labored in rural markets, pointing to the decrease density of conventional industrial actual property like workplace, retail, and multifamily in these areas. 

25.7 p.c of our respondents had been 60-70 years previous, whereas 25.9 p.c had been in their 50s. Interestingly, 9.5 p.c mentioned they had been over 70, whereas solely 4 p.c had been in their 20s. There are just a few implications from this. For one factor, since brokerage is usually fee primarily based, many brokers in all probability be taught what works for them comparatively early on in their careers or in any other case wash out of the sector. This signifies that a dealer who enters the sector in his or her 20s or 30s has a few years to hone their craft. By the time they’re in their older years, many brokers have in all probability refined their companies into well-oiled machines, that means that for some, persevering with to remain concerned in the sector is a no brainer. Brokerage additionally continues to be a male-dominated discipline, with 79.2 p.c of respondents saying they’re males.

A better take a look at the 4 p.c of respondents in their 20s reveals some fascinating insights, as properly. COVID-19’s slowing and distancing impacts to enterprise in all probability decreased new hiring exercise throughout a world pattern of actual property companies, however even earlier than the outbreak, industrial actual property expertise was troublesome to draw. SelectLeaders, an actual property hiring web site, performs an annual survey of hiring traits and sentiment. Their 2020 Network Hiring Trends Survey, accomplished in January 2020 earlier than COVID-19 exploded, included a quote from an nameless respondent who opined: “I’m a recruiter and I anticipate hiring to be more and more troublesome in 2020. Human Capital would be the most sought-after useful resource in 2020. Unemployment is at the moment at a 50-yr low. It will get even tighter in 2020. I predict continued wage progress as employers search to recruit and retain prime expertise.”

Consequently, we see that actual property hiring was troublesome earlier than COVID-19 and can in all probability stay so properly after the outbreak is behind us. This might drive senior-level brokers and brokerage HR leaders to search for different methods to complement their groups’ manpower, like adopting extra tech platforms and automations, or outsourcing easy duties to offshore expertise. 

Most brokers work in the workplace, retail, and industrial sectors, with a reasonably even break up of 26.1 p.c, 21.3 p.c, and 24.5 p.c respectively. In phrases of expertise, 69 p.c had a minimum of 11 years underneath their belt.

COVID-19’s impacts have been felt otherwise by totally different brokers. Despite the truth that many survey respondents work in the highly-impacted workplace and retail markets, 26.4 p.c mentioned their companies had been no much less busy throughout COVID-19 than they had been earlier than. This speaks to the warmth of the 2020-2021 industrial actual property market, adequate to maintain stress on brokers even whereas COVID-19 was stifling enterprise extra broadly. Even a world pandemic wasn’t sufficient to decelerate a big chunk of brokers. Interestingly, 16.3 p.c of brokers mentioned they didn’t change their operations as a result of COVID-19. Perhaps these had been brokers who didn’t interact in a lot in-person networking to start with. Alternatively, this cohort would possibly embody brokers who merely didn’t let COVID-19 have an effect on their busy networking schedules and brokers who labored so steadily with current, acquainted contacts that in-person conferences weren’t thought-about necessary to start with. 

Office dimension

Most of the person brokerage places of work on the market are small. 30.2 p.c of respondents mentioned they work at an workplace with just one to 4 different brokers, whereas solely 6.9 p.c mentioned they work at places of work with greater than 100 different brokers. This is sensible given the largely unbiased, native or regional agency make-up of our survey respondents. Also, even larger brokerage companies like CBRE might have a big quantity of small places of work occupied by solely a small quantity of brokers. 

As the inhabitants flows and distant work methods prompted by COVID-19 put extra previously unappreciated, less-developed markets to nationwide relevance, this might be an rising pattern. A regional actual property agency with an enormous presence in, say, the Southwest seeking to increase into the Midwest or northern mountain states would possibly see match to open a small satellite tv for pc workplace in Tulsa or Boise, however it’s unlikely that workplace would see a big quantity of brokers occupying it from day one. 

Alongside COVID-19, the largest latest brokerage recreation changer has been the adoption of a various set of expertise and information instruments to assist drive higher crew effectivity. Of course, whereas many brokerages recognized the adoption of these applied sciences as a good suggestion previous to COVID-19, the outbreak itself has led to a rise in tech adoption, notably in areas like digital excursions and videoconferencing. In this part, we’ll discover how brokers are utilizing tech and information in their day-to-day work. 


Data is a mission-critical commodity for industrial brokers. Those who’ve nice information in their arsenal can direct prospecting extra successfully, value extra precisely, and discover consumers and tenants extra simply. 

In maintaining with the identical response that brokers have made yearly the DNA of #CRE survey has been supplied, CoStar and LoopNet proceed to be the largest trade information sources. However, this pattern seems to be declining, with fewer brokers utilizing these instruments for property data this 12 months (57.6 p.c) than final 12 months (63.9 p.c). Some of these brokers is likely to be shifting towards Catylist, a rival itemizing and property analysis platform. 

Within the agency, greater than half of all respondents don’t have a shared contact and analysis database. Many brokers are reluctant to share their private enterprise contacts, typically the outcome of costly and time-consuming prospecting campaigns, with even their officemates. In truth, 81.4 p.c of brokers preserve non-public property databases separate from what is out there through CoStar or different paid information sources. 


In addition to information, brokers are utilizing a wider vary of applied sciences now than ever earlier than. According to Vijay Mehra, who’s the founder and CEO of Rethink, a broker-focused CRM that was just lately acquired by Buildout, “It’s not the case that solely enterprise gamers can afford tech. Now, smaller groups are adopting enterprise-level SaaS instruments.” However, proliferating expertise modifications the job description for brokers. 

One fascinating space to assessment is the 80+ p.c of brokers who preserve non-public property databases. Of these brokers, the most important single group with about 21 p.c of complete responses mentioned they use Outlook to deal with this non-public information. While Outlook is a well-known choice to most professionals with little studying curve, it’s also a a lot much less highly effective instrument than virtually any purpose-built CRM, actual property particular or not. When taken along with the 15 p.c of respondents who use spreadsheets to deal with this information, it is likely to be doable for a big quantity of brokers to extend their productiveness by shifting to a database resolution that enables for more practical filtering, automation, and suggestion of leads than simply Outlook or a spreadsheet.

Another space for enchancment is best coordination between brokers throughout the similar companies. While it’s comprehensible that many brokers wish to defend their confidential leads and property data, sharing data throughout an workplace might be helpful for rising the effectiveness of every particular person dealer on the crew. 

For starters, places of work might put collectively a database of properties and contacts which can be non-confidential. This might assist brokers with filling wants faster, as a substitute of needing to manually ship out e mail referrals; for example, if a multifamily dealer discovered a purchaser in search of industrial house. Such a non-confidential database might embody property traits, dimension, and even pricing, in addition to the wants profiles of consumers, with out names, addresses, or contact data related. When seeking to fill a shopper’s want, brokers might seek the advice of this inner database and join with the document’s proprietor whether or not they’re one cubicle down or on the opposite aspect of the constructing. 

This type of inner database might be made more practical by means of a broker-oriented CRM and deal platform. However, it is probably not crucial to purchase one thing particular to brokers. Modern no-code purposes like Airtable or Smartsheet enable for customers to simply customise databases, submission types, and views to showcase solely the data wanted with out distractions. This is probably not an acceptable process for a senior dealer, however a more recent crew member or advertising help workers might take such a mission on over the course of a pair weeks.

On the opposite hand, true purpose-built methods can provide functionalities that no-code options can not present. One space the place that is notably evident is integrations. Connecting totally different methods collectively, and automating itemizing upkeep, is necessary to enabling streamlined deal platform use. And whereas varied no-code automation platforms provide customers the power to simply combine totally different instruments, software program inside the true property discipline is usually too area of interest to have pre-built integrations able to go. For this motive, if brokers are in search of their CRM to combine with different actual property software program, or syndicate listings to a variety of actual property websites, going the broker-specific route is more practical. 

For brokers seeking to enhance their effectivity whereas making themselves extra enticing to potential shoppers, merely choosing the proper platform is probably not sufficient. Instead, they could have to additionally think about how they are going to join their platforms to one another and make them clear to shoppers. Sophisticated actual property corporations and occupiers in search of house seemingly have their very own instruments, and guaranteeing these totally different methods can share information shouldn’t be an afterthought. 

According to Vijay, offering information transparency, in addition to frequent and detailed updates, will be the distinction between shedding and successful a deal. “If I’m hiring a landlord rep, I wish to know what tech you’ll be utilizing to handle excursions and leads, whether or not we are able to automate, and should you’ll share your information with me,” he defined. 

Interacting with potential consumers, sellers, landlords, and tenants has all the time been the core of the brokerage enterprise. But whereas that is simply as true right this moment because it was 20 years in the past, the methods in which brokers really make and develop these connections are altering. 


Brokers proceed to derive most of their new enterprise from referrals. The most typical prospecting methodology, with 79.7 p.c of brokers deciding on it as a tactic, is referrals from previous shoppers and consumers. 57.6 p.c additionally look to referrals from different brokers to gas their prospecting engines. 

Cold calling is used as a prospecting tactic by 65.5 p.c of brokers. This determine might be distorted by dealer tenure size, since extra senior brokers have a tendency to go away chilly calling campaigns to extra junior crew members.

These outcomes point out the facility of fame for industrial actual property brokers regardless of area of interest or location. Interestingly, chilly calling, though broadly practiced by properly over half of all brokers, is accountable for much less precise new enterprise exercise than referrals. Cold calling campaigns and referrals take many differing kinds and quantities of effort to develop. Many of the talents and practices that result in referral enterprise, like deep market perception, content material growth, and creation of successful collateral signify an both/or proposition for brokers seeking to successfully handle time. Either dedicate time to chilly calling, or dedicate time to creating fame {and professional} stature. 


Broker networking has shifted in latest months, because the impacts of COVID-19 made some typical occasions, just like the enterprise lunch, more durable to execute. 

Perhaps as a result of impacts of COVID-19, the overwhelming majority of brokers say that cellphone calls are their most useful relationship-building methodology. While some brokers might view the dominance of cellphone calls as a motive to bulk up on different strategies, in order to extend relationship-building effectiveness throughout the board, an alternate take can be for brokers to spend much more time enhancing the standard of their cellphone calls, maybe investing in options to assist monitor, monitor, and iterate on name scripts.

Despite their comparatively excessive profile from corporations like Walker & Dunlop and Marcus & Millichap, solely a minority of brokers (12.8 p.c) are utilizing digital occasions to have interaction with their shoppers. This might be as a result of of the standard narrative that many CRE professionals are gradual to undertake new expertise, nevertheless it might level to different causative components as properly, such because the impression of “Zoom fatigue” because of the wholesale adoption of videoconferencing to interchange in-person conferences through the pandemic. 

More apparently, increasingly brokers say they’re specializing in constructing their private manufacturers in artistic methods like content material creation and social media. In the DNA of #CRE COVID-19 dealer survey, over 16 p.c of respondents mentioned creating extra private model content material was the brand new tactic that almost all successfully helped them nurture relationships, whereas 12.8 p.c mentioned the identical for constructing thought management and trade predictive content material. There are seemingly each push and pull components at play right here. Some brokers, notably those who wound up much less busy over the course of the outbreak, definitely discovered themselves with extra time with which to create extra branding, advertising, and content material collateral. Additionally, 1 / 4 of brokerage advertising professionals, like help workers and leaders inside advertising departments at brokerages, have been engaged on creating video content material for his or her groups.

Through the course of our analysis, we collected enter on a quantity of transaction administration and advertising areas which can be essential to every deal.

One conclusion we discovered was that almost all brokers do their very own advertising work for the offers they transact. This factors to the necessity for industrial actual property brokers to develop expertise in a variety of totally different areas. Brokerage itself requires the acquainted polished skills in evaluation and networking, however the advertising course of represents a very talent set fully. Brokers with exceptionally sturdy networks might not have to put in a lot work to market their properties, nevertheless it goes with out saying that those that perceive the ideas of digital advertising, and certainly perceive tips on how to arrange and publish their very own collateral and ads, are prone to be extra profitable in getting the very best charges and costs for his or her shoppers.

Far from each dealer has the power to enlist the assistance of a devoted advertising workers member, however those that do are capable of leverage the talents and experiences of these professionals in ways in which brokers themselves might not have the experience to do. For occasion, the bulk of dealer advertising workers, who in keeping with our survey distinction with brokers by being predominantly feminine, are likely to make good use of video advertising. Video manufacturing, though enabled by purposes and software program instruments, is the kind of enterprise exercise that may take an intensive quantity of time to develop into competent in.

At the identical time, 47 p.c of marketer respondents mentioned they don’t monitor advertising ROI. Some answered that they weren’t certain tips on how to, others mentioned it was lower than them, the same quantity mentioned it was too time consuming, and a pair indicated that it wouldn’t be definitely worth the effort. However, notably on extra profitable groups, this type of information might be very worthwhile to gather, serving to brokers determine the place to allocate sources in consideration of how a lot every transaction is price.

In distinction with advertising, most brokers surveyed indicated that another person on their crew handles post-close deal again workplace processes. This signifies that almost all of brokers do depend on different workers at their companies for half of the transaction course of, regardless of their much less frequent reliance on advertising workers. This might signify a chance to cross-train brokerage again workplace professionals with particular advertising expertise like video manufacturing and collateral creation.

In this report, we’ve got shared data from the DNA of #CRE survey and analyzed what these information factors signify. We coated dealer demographics, agency profiles, information, tech, and prospecting methods, and uncovered insights for every class. 

The brokerage discipline is giant, dynamic, and present process a interval of fast transformation. COVID-19 has accelerated a lot of this transformation, and it’s seemingly that the brand new views gained through the outbreak is not going to disappear even when the outbreak is quickly underneath management. 

Brokers in 2021 have so much to consider, from discovering new methods to get their messaging and advertising by means of to potential consumers, sellers, landlords, and tenants, to maintaining monitor of markets which can be going from underappreciated to pink scorching in the blink of a watch. In this report, we additionally explored a quantity of alternatives for brokers to enhance their productiveness primarily based on the solutions we acquired. Focus areas tended to cluster round tech and prospecting methods. The future of brokerage is up for grabs, notably because the established leaders in the sector proceed to become older and ultimately retire. As we’ve seen in this report, capitalizing on this chance requires flexibility, tech-friendliness, and of course, a beneficiant serving to of dealer hustle.


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