Having commanded a dominant position within many of the minor markets in the United States, Coldwell Banker Commercial is trying to position itself as a player in the big leagues.
Retail Traffic: What is your assessment of the current market?
Richard Davidson: It's a tale of two markets — cap rates and fundamentals; usually, they run concurrently. What has happened this time is the spigot has been shut off, thinning out the buyer pool and creating less competition for assets.
RT: Is what's occurring in residential real estate telegraphing what we can expect in the retail sector?
Davidson: No. There haven't been any fire sales at this point. We haven't seen significant signs of buyers and sellers not seeing eye to eye. What we have seen are some sellers choosing not to sell in this declining market preferring instead to hold on to their assets until the market turns around. From a retail standpoint we've had a declining housing market, which has impacted shopping centers. The fundamentals have not deteriorated … we have seen flat or rising rental rates.
RT: How has the tightening credit market influenced that activity?
Davidson: Capital is available. Most of our buyers are finding financing at local banks. It's the local banks that are aware of the dynamics within their respective markets. Lenders' decisions, however, are no longer heavily weighted on the pro-forma numbers … they want to see the developer have more of an equity stake in the project. If a project doesn't make fundamental or financial sense, it is just simply not getting done.
RT: How would you characterize this year's activity at RECon and how does it compare with last year's ICSC Spring Convention?
Davidson: Last year at the Spring Convention we tracked $8 million in commissions as a result of deals initiated here. This year, at RECon we've had a tremendous amount of activity. Our booth has been as busy as it has ever been in terms of both traffic and activity. Retailers are looking for developers and developers are looking for retailers. The supply has outstripped the demand and along with that there has been an increase in rents. I'll have to get back to you later in terms of the amount of commissions generated at the show. It could take a while.
RT: Under your leadership how has Coldwell Banker Commercial transformed itself?
Davidson: We've repositioned ourselves to be more of a national player competing with CBRE and Jones Lang LaSalle instead of being perceived as just a secondary or tertiary market player. That can be quantified by our professional associates, the companies we affiliate with and the number of transactions completed. In 2007 we completed 20 million transactions totaling $15.9 billion, which generated $320 million in revenue. We finished 2007 with the biggest gross revenue ever. We've also expanded our offerings and established a presence in Minneapolis, Little Rock and Seattle with offices where there is a lot of opportunity to leverage those affiliates. Investment products account for 35 percent of our business; industrial, 30 percent; retail, 25 percent and multifamily, 10 percent.
RT: What's the next step in the quest to become a national player?
Davidson: We will have a major strategy announcement encompassing all our sectors in the first quarter of 2009.