Week of March 27, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Reis.Com: Rich RE Info, and Some of It's Free

Real estate market-watching: It's a bit different from the experience of those stock-centric folks who close their eyes at night and still see that little ticker scrolling across the bottom of the darkness.

Instead, vacancy rates are a big element in keeping a finger on the pulse of real estate markets. A too-tight market likely signals that you'll pay out the wazoo, while inordinately high vacancy rates may mean those locations would doom certain facility types. Vacancy nirvana, of course, lies somewhere in-between.

That's where the Web site for New York City-based "Reis Reports" (www.reis.com) comes in. Here's how the site describes the company's mission: "Objective and thoughtful assessment of real estate markets is the bedrock upon which superior real estate decisions are built."

Well, yes. Hard to argue with that.

But this site backs its rubric with an impressive array of in-depth real estate knowledge -- and some of it's free to users.

That high real estate IQ here is not altogether unexpected, as the Reis site is no cyberspace Charley-Come-Lately. The site marks the online evolution of "The Reis Reports," a subscriber-based print-product service founded in 1980 "to promote the use of real estate market research services among institutional owners," as the site explains.

But a lot of users who don't remotely fit into the institutional investor category will likely find a lot to like here.

Free Quarterly Reports
On 50-Plus U.S. Metros

News stories, for example, are one of the free things you'll find on this site's home page. Those stories have a broad U.S. geographic range. Most (if not all) of the stories look like they come from the Lexis/Nexis folks (who tend to do nice work).

But for most users, that's not this site's prime informational nut. That distinction would go to this site's free quarterly market summaries on four property types for 50-plus U.S. metros (the site calls them the "50 top" metro markets).

Generally, this free site section provides summaries for four property markets for each of those 50-plus metros: apartment, industrial, office and retail, including information on rent growth, inventory growth and vacancy rates.

For example, we looked at the San Francisco office market summary, which in part included this rather succinct description:

"One of the nation's premier Class A markets . . . very strong. The SoMa submarket, nicknamed 'Multimedia Gulch,' a revitalizing area on the outskirts of the downtown financial district, is a recent leader in demand, much of it arising from Internet-related, multimedia companies. Although a number of major firms have vacated the CBD in pursuit of lower rents in recent years, occupancy and demand are high, construction is constrained by growth management policies, and rents are among the nation's most expensive. The reported office vacancy rate is 4.7%, down from 4.8% a year earlier, representing 3.7 million square feet of vacant stock. [T]his is the smallest rate and volume of vacant space seen here since 1983."

Moreover, in a nifty added touch, your click on a selected metro area brings up recent stories about that particular area in the site's "Newsroom" window. Users can also search the "Newsroom" archives for stories that have been printed over the last three months.

Here's how you get to those freebie market profile goodies:

Click on the "Free Market Rankings" icon and then select the metro and property market in which you're interested. That gives you three more options: "Performance Ratings," "Rent Growth Projections" and "Vacancy Projections."

Rank Orders and
Free Email Subscriptions

Obviously, this site is stuffed with data. And that makes its smooth navigation all the more notable -- and welcome.

Equally welcome is the site's flexibility for users needs.

For example, if you want a ranked order of these 50-plus U.S. metros, you simply click on the link for one of a number of variables (and, yes, one of those options is vacancy rates). That quickly gives you the rank order that you want to generate.

The site also offers registered users a free email subscription to "ReisCast," a biweekly market briefing. That delivery, the site says, "includes a free 'Reis Observer,' [which] offers analysis of local economic and market conditions" for the 50-plus U.S. metros. Users can create their own personal profile so they only get info targeted to their particular needs.

In addition, the site's "Insights" section provides some well-written pieces on the larger trends affecting the real estate market.

For example, during our visit, we looked at an intriguing piece by columnist and Pepperdine University Institute for Public Policy Senior Fellow Joel Kotkin that's wonderfully entitled, "Nerdistans: High-Tech's New Hometowns." The article looks at the development of "highly planned regions . . . along the nation's metropolitan peripheries . . . [that] have been designed to accommodate science-based and information industries."

Notable Clients in the Queue
For the For-Fee Stuff

And, yes, inevitably, this site also has stuff to sell. But unlike many other sites, the freebies provided here make a damn good case for the for-sale products.

For example, the site explains that "ReisSource will [soon] offer 10-page, Adobe Acrobat MetroTrends and Submarket Reports for US$79 each, including "historical performance indicators for the past 5 years, asking rent, vacancy rate, inventory growth and construction."

For-fee offering make sense for this outfit, which does a ton of information-gathering and stores it in a proprietary database.

That, in turn, has produced an impressive client roster (listed as an option in the "About Reis" section). Just a cursory look at the alphabetical top half of that client roster revealed names like Aetna Life Insurance Co., A.G. Edwards & Sons, Deutsche Banc Alex Brown, FannieMae, FDIC and Freddie Mac.

A Quibble: It's Not Such a
Small, Small World After All

If there's a quibble to be made here, it's probably that the site only covers the 50-plus U.S. metro markets. (Is there no end to bottomless cyberspace hungers? No, probably not in the lifetimes of any of us alive when this is written.)

That leaves a lot of the not-so-small world out of the mix here. On the other hand, putting this much market information together isn't likely something that can - or should - be done quickly. Nonetheless, this site's information may get richer through alliances.

Late last year, for example, Colliers and Reis Reports formed "a strategic marketing alliance" providing that the Reis site will publish Colliers' U.S. market reports. Earlier in 1999, Reis and Colliers Canada came to an agreement for Reis to publish Colliers Canadian market reports.



©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.