In March, 30-year industry veteran Gregg Lorberbaum will release his new book Leasing NYC, a primer for the complicated leasing process in New York City. The book, initially targeted at end users, will also benefit the brokerage community, and at least four major firms in the New York metropolitan area have already snapped up copies. Mr. Lorberbaum, a principal at Centric Real Estate Advisors, spoke with The Commercial Observer about the book, its audience and the current gap of information in the market.
Mr. Lorberbaum: The audience for the book is twofold. It’s directed toward end users of space that do not have real estate departments. In one-off deals, if you don’t have a real estate department, you are ill-equipped to handle the process. People are better informed to buy a car than they are to buy office space.
People are not well-versed in how to do this. I said to myself, why not write a book about it? The format I have is geared toward the end user.
Is there any use for the book on the brokerage side?
All the brokerage companies are buying it for their training programs. One company has bought hundreds at a time. The other audience is young brokers.
I coach young brokers, and I know what they don’t know. If you work at any one of the big shops, they have entire departments that do each of these things. A young broker isn’t really exposed to skills he needs to do his job.
Are there books like this already on the market?
No books like this one. No other books that combine a beautiful aesthetic [with] a generosity of spirit. It’s an $85 coffee-table book that will retail for $35.
It’s sort of a career milestone. After 30 years, I thought there was a need for it.
Can you talk a little bit about the photography in the book?
Rather than go with stock photography, we had Adrian Wilson, with a prominent following, who has never done a book before. He’s the photographer for Apple. When he’s photographing a site, they trick the place out and close it down and the light comes in right when it needs to.
These are hedge funds; he ends up photographing around people’s lunch. People understood the dexterity with which he did that.
In your experience, what are brokers doing right or wrong?
My book is written for the one-off person, and they suffer, in my opinion. Most people that own privately held companies have a broad skill set, and the process is way more complicated than just leasing space. The brokerage industry has grown beautifully to accommodate corporate users over a national base, but the one-off user doesn’t get the benefit of that. The one-off deal doesn’t get the A-team.
There’s a lack of transparency, since it’s largely a commodity. Brokerages are commission-based and are internally competitive. The biggest issue right now is conflicts of interest. Clients need to know to ask questions. The role of the real estate adviser is something I introduce in the book, and it’s been very well-received by corporations. That’s the area where I’ve gotten the most significant response.
How did the industry reach this point?
The industry has grown tremendously. If you look at the metamorphosis of the industry, it has grown beautifully and is very symbiotic in its development in corporate America. What happened is, brokerage companies were these small companies that only represented landlords and were hired to find tenants. Landlords then started owning space in different cities and landlords become national.
Brokerage companies expanded when a tenant wanted space nationally. For instance, when a company like Morgan Stanley needed space in New York, they also needed space in Chicago and L.A. Small brokerages became consortiums and went national, which didn’t really work. Then the question became, how do you serve two masters? How do you represent landlords and then represent the tenants?