commercial leasing

How CREA and the MLS are destroying commercial real estate through DDF

If you are a commercial real estate agent and you use the MLS, you may have noticed an unsettling trend in the last few years. CRE brokers are accustomed to having a particular flow to their deals that are unique and more elaborate in comparison to most residential real estate transactions. We are also accustomed to working both ends of a deal, especially when it comes to leasing. We have knowledge of how to complete these transactions with professionalism, transparency, and without assistance.

In recent years CREA has implemented DDF (Data Distribution Facility) to all MLS listings by default, unless your board office allows you to disable it at the brokerage level, many don’t. Why is DDF damaging to the commercial real estate profession? DDF allows any brokerage utilizing the MLS to market your listing, without additional consent from you, automatically. While this allows for more exposure of one listing on the internet, it’s a double edged sword that has led to incompetent representation for commercial buyer/tenant leads. Brokerages that are all or mostly residential focused are now getting buyer and tenant leads for commercial real estate listings they don’t have, and more importantly, don’t have the experience or expertise to properly represent someone in a commercial real estate transaction.

A few years ago I operated a small but profitable commercial real estate brokerage. My desire to focus on dealmaking rather than broker of record responsibilities lead me to the decision to close shop and join another brokerage. I was accustomed to operating strictly with commercial standards and it was rare for me to encounter a deal with another agent who wasn’t a commercial practitioner. These days my MLS listings barely generate direct leads for me, instead I’m regularly bombarded with showing requests from residential agents who have received a random lead and don’t know how to handle it. The vast majority of real estate practitioners are residential, with little or no experience to properly complete or even offer good advice for a commercial lease or sale transaction.

When commercial realtors encounter a residential agent with a buyer or tenant, it’s usually an incredibly frustrating experience to try and complete a deal. I for one often observe agents that:

-Don’t know anything about their clients needs or business requirements before showing a property.

-Don’t know the market conditions for commercial, office, or industrial properties.

-Know little or nothing about environmental site assessments.

-Don’t know what BOMA is or how to measure a building according to its standards.

-Make interior measurements and assume the landlord is trying to charge for extra square footage.

-Don’t know how to write a commercial offer to lease or commercial agreement of purchase and sale.

-Have never written, negotiated, or read a commercial lease.

-Can’t calculate the monthly rent.

-Don’t understand what TMI is.

-Misrepresent their clients interests because they simply don’t understand them.

-Can’t answer basic CRE questions and needs to consult their broker of record or another agent in their office for answers.

This list can unfortunately go on and on.

What this leads to is the public being misrepresented when they are accidentally matched up with someone who simply isn’t qualified to complete a commercial transaction and I have heard complaints from businesses who had incredibly frustrating experiences and difficulties as a result. Unfortunately I’ve raised concerns with CREA about this platform and there seems to be no concern about ensuring that people are matched up with quality commercial practitioners for their business needs, and there seems to be no concern for commercial practitioners unique business model.

Is there a solution? As long as the MLS is being used and has DDF implemented it will continue to degrade the commercial real estate profession at a rapid pace. Maybe it’s time commercial practitioners acknowledge the harm that is being caused to this industry and pursue an alternative. CREA has designed the MLS to cater to the housing industry and over the years have continuously failed to improve the commercial real estate sector. What if all commercial practitioners abandoned use of the MLS in pursuit of an alternative such as Loopnet or Spacelist to be the new norm? That’s a conversation worth having.

Until then, if you’re a business owner in need of commercial real estate services, just make certain that you’re dealing with an agent that’s qualified to represent your interests.