Assuming such pricing measures actually work, it would give Newmark Grubb Knight Frank a huge leg up against competitors. “Tenants and landlords are going to see that we have the best information and they’re going to want to work with us,” Mr. Lehrman said.
Of course, the devil is in the details. Much skepticism has rippled through the industry as to whether BGC can actually create a system that commodifies real estate leasing, a business many professionals believe fluctuates so widely from deal to deal that it’s impossible to value in such a broad fashion.
“You can have two spaces that are identical, but one landlord measures the space at 12,000 square feet and the other at 10,000 square feet,” said one real estate broker knowledgeable on market statistics who sits on an industry committee for the database company CoStar.
“You have free-rent periods in one deal that are six months; in the other, 12 months,” said the broker. “You have incentives that are kicked in. There are way too many variables for leasing deals to fit into that kind of a trading model. I mean, if you’re buying and selling gold, you could do it. An ounce of gold [there] is an ounce of gold here, in Brazil or in China. It’s not .99 ounces here and 1.23 ounces somewhere else. But with leases, it’s different.”
How BGC plans to overcome some of these hurdles is unclear. Mr. Lehrman indicated that the company would release more details in the coming months.
One thing is clear, whether or not the company’s push for newfangled leasing derivatives and market measures proves to be successful: it has built a solid real estate services company in a remarkably short span.
Mr. Lehrman comes from a real estate family that was involved in retail development, including the Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market.
“My grandfather trained me,” Mr. Lehrman said. “When I was a young kid he would take me into buildings and we would count the number of columns in a space and guess the space between them. I still will go into restaurants today and count the number of chairs and tables in the place.”
Given his ties to retail, Mr. Lehrman said he has been coming to ICSC for about 30 years. But for much of his career he focused on finance, partnering with his friend and fellow Columbia University graduate Anthony Orso in the early 1990s to launch a business raising equity for joint-venture partnerships.