CoStar Group takes commercial sector by storm

by Neil Sharma16 May 2019

The commercial real estate sector sometimes gets short-shrifted when it comes to accessing data—unlike the residential sector which enjoys copious quantities from all corners—but one technology and analytics company is changing that.

CoStar Group,  founded in the United States over three decades ago, has grown into a multinational company with several Canadian branches, including in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and, soon, Montreal.

“You could look at it from two different sides,” said Roelof Van Dijk, CoStar’s market economist for Canada. “We’re a data analytics company, and with our data we’re trying to be the go-to source for data in the commercial real estate industry. When you look at where the industry has gotten data in the past, it’s usually been one source, but we want to answer all the different questions our pertinent clients have—whether they’re brokerages, landlords, investors, even tenants and vendors. It’s not just data on the ground floor but the analytics behind that, and that’s what my team brings to the table: analytics forecasting.”

Co-Star entered the Canadian market via Toronto in 2014, but not without years of due diligence so that it could hit the ground running with myriad offerings for its clients, which also include some of the REITs in the world.

“First and foremost, you have to look at where CoStar was in the U.S,” continued Van Dijk. “Most Canadian pension funds and life insurance companies—big institutional investors in commercial real estate—are CoStar clients and they nagged CoStar for years to launch in Canada. ‘We need something like this in Canada,’ was the message they’d give directly to our CEO every time they met him. As a result, it prompted the company to look into Canada, and Toronto being the epicentre of commercial real estate in country, this is where we started.”

One of the CoStar’s most impressive features is how quickly its data is updated. It has a large team of researchers who speak to individual players throughout the eco system, and their data updates are in the range of 12,000 daily.

“The data is constantly being updated and it’s reflected in the analytics, which are near instant, and it also modifies the forecast data, depending on what information is being updated,” said Van Dijk.

The data analytics and forecasting provided by CoStar allows users to measure their portfolios in certain markets versus other markets, and accordingly determine how effectively their funds can be allocated elsewhere in relation to their returns.

Toronto and Vancouver are two of North America’s hottest commercial markets, but Montreal is enjoying its most auspicious period in over 40 years, and given the slew of investment in the city, CoStar’s launch in the Quebecois metropolis will yield precise data that will doubtless help investors capitalize on the city’s renaissance.

“We’ve done a lot of the preliminary heavy lifting, as far as collecting inventory in Montreal,” said Van Dijk. “We’re developing our platform to be bilingual and recruiting bilingual researchers in the Montreal market. From day one, Montreal has been part of CoStar’s investment strategy, and as the second-largest city in Canada we’ve always intended to be there, but we want to launch properly with a bilingual version of the tool.”

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