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Real estate researchers coming out of the woodwork

Despite the still-stagnant economy, some might say that things are looking up for investors in commercial real estate. More high net worth and institutional investors are adding real estate to their portfolios, and in the process real estate is evolving and maturing as an asset class. As a result, there's an increasing demand for better, more detailed information on potential investments.

Enter the real estate research staffers. Once relegated to dusty libraries to assemble quarterly reports and mundane slideshows, these employees are becoming increasingly valuable to real estate firms whose clients are looking for more sophisticated analysis. They've been charged with helping clients predict how variables such as hiring trends and investment yields could affect investments, allowing investors to be more confident in their decisions. The traditional data investors receive is still made available, but with online data providers doing much of that work, firms' in-house researchers are able to provide more information and personalized service.

They're doing it in more creative ways, too. Interactive Google Earth analyses, iPad applications and global positioning tools can provide clients with better data. It doesn't hurt that the researchers are increasingly dedicated to their jobs. Viewed less as a stepping stone position and more as a career choice, the job of a researcher is becoming one with more expertise. Rather than simply providing basic information on vacancy and pricing, researchers are relied upon to offer expert analysis, which again benefits investors.

Of course, this enhanced analysis can't take the place of expertise on other transactional matters. Investors will still require information and legal representation when it comes to negotiating and drafting agreements, reviewing transaction documents and completing pre-closing work, for example. But more information on the front end can only help the entire transaction run more smoothly.

Source: The Washington Post, "Real estate witnesses the rise of the researchers," Jonathan O'Connell, June 18, 2012

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