February 29, 2016

Commercial Real Estate Group Sees Quick Growth

By Lance Allan
– The Daily News –

It can be a competitive business, but for Memphis commercial real estate professionals, a little competition doesn’t stand in the way of working together.

With that thought in mind, the Memphis Area Association of Realtors formed the MAAR Commercial Council in an effort to unite the industry. The group, which officially began in January with 100 members, has come a long way in a short time, growing to its current 230 members.

“The association was formed to give better representation to a group of people who practice commercial real estate who had not had it before,” said Joel Fulmer, senior vice president of Boyle Investment Co. and president-elect of the council. “The commercial broker community does have special needs of its own. This organization was put together to recognize those needs.”

Next steps. The idea has caught on within the commercial real estate community.

“We are not at the point where the majority of commercial real estate firms have joined the organization,” said Melanie Blakeney, technology services director for MAAR and staff executive for the council. “It shows that there is a need for the council and some sort of collaborative effort between all of them. Now that we have them involved, we can see what else needs to be accomplished.”

New trend. By better organizing its commercial real estate industry, Memphis is keeping step with other areas of the country. Five years ago, there were only five commercial divisions associated with local real estate associations such as MAAR. Today, that number has grown to 44.

“Realtor associations equated to residential Realtor associations,” Blakeney said. “They just did not provide a lot of service to commercial brokers five years ago. It’s dramatically growing. And what we’re doing locally is paralleling what is happening on a national level.”

The National Association of Realtors has been a catalyst for growth in commercial divisions providing support and organizational advice.

Industry resource. MAAR CommLink an online database that will feature commercial properties for sale and for lease in Metro Memphis, will serve as a highlight for the council when it is launched this fall. The new resource will include a members-only site and a limited access public site.

“It will serve as a one-stop shop for not only all of the real estate brokers, but also the general public to look and see what space is available in Memphis.” Fulmer said. “If it takes off like what we think it’s going to, it’s going to be far and above the most comprehensive source of information that we’ve ever had.”

In a pool of council members on various issues respondents were receptive to the idea of a commercial information exchange.

“We surveyed our commercial practitioners here locally, and one of the really desirable survey results was that we needed a commercial information exchange.” Said Will Barden, principal broker with Barden Commercial Realty and chairman of the committee working to launch CommLink.

Providing a voice. A primary objective of the council is to provide a voice for commercial professionals to government entities.

Real estate organizations on the local, state and national level have always provided a lobbying voice for Realtors. But that history has focused primarily on residential real estate.

“In perception, I think there’s quite a bit of commercial representation, but it probably hasn’t been maybe as widely recognized as the residential side.” Barden said.

And now seemed like a good time to bring a more focused voice to the table. Blackeney added.

“We realized if a council is formed to represent commercial interest in the community, we’re a lot more likely to be effective regarding legislative issues on a local, state and national level.” Blakeney said. “We can better understand what the needs of the commercial brokers are, so in turn we can convey that to elected officials.”

The group has already gotten its feet wet.

“One of the first things we did was partner with the (Memphis Regional Chamber’s) group, the Commercial Alliance, to work with loosening proposed seismic code guidelines that would have had a devastating effect on new construction and retrofitting of commercial building,” Blackeney said. “We were able to at least get a stay on that so we can work to come up with guidelines that are more reasonable.”

Uniting the industry. Several resource organizations are available for Commercial Realtors, including professional associations such as the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and the Institute of Real Estate Management. But a local group that brought professionals together from all facets of the industry just didn’t exist prior to the Commercial Council.

“In all those groups, we have our own mission, but there was a lot of crossover and overplay.” Barden said. “So MAAR reached out and created this Commercial Council … I think we can collectively speak with a louder voice when we’re all mobilized and have the same goal.”

United industry leaders has been an important early success for the council.

“What is gratifying is because of the Commercial Alliance, we were able to bring some major new members into the overall MAAR membership and membership in the commercial group,” Fulmer said of firms such as CB Richard Ellis and Belz Enterprises. “Those were big key pieces to the overall puzzle that had been missing.”

Bringing commercial real estate professionals together has not only helped build a strong foundation for the group, but also has provided valuable information for its members.

“The council provides a place for all of us to meet, deliberate, kind of prioritize what the commercial Realtor’s needs are, and then to go about creating committees or lobbying people, or whatever it takes.” Barden said.