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The 3 Ways To Build Your Commercial Real Estate Prospecting Database

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I am often asked the question: How do I find the numbers for the prospects I need to be calling? The answer is surprisingly simple.

How many of you remember the second half of 2008 – when the economy completely tanked? You may recall how the sky was falling. Everything changed. Many in the CRE industry didn’t make it.

For the number of years before that time, a monkey could have made six figures. Transactional velocity was everywhere. Cap rates were compressing. Capital was cheap and readily available. Deals would just walk in your door. But when the market turned, top producers kept succeeding while others fell away. How did they do it?

There are two ways to find and win business. The easiest way is someone with a problem or opportunity calls you. The best way is you go find the business you want to do. Those who relied on business finding them, didn’t make it after 2008 – or at least their business seriously suffered. Those who built their business on prospecting, and continuous prospecting – continued to succeed. When the pie got much smaller, it was the dedicated prospectors who picked up market share and pressed on.

So, if I’m going to build my business on dedicated and focused prospecting, how do I find the numbers of the decision makers? I’m glad you asked.


1. Buy it – This is the fastest and easiest way to get the data you need. It is also the most expensive. I’ve included a list of some options below. Hopefully, you have access to one or more of these tools through your office. Or you could be like me and live in a place that isn’t covered by anyone. If that is the case, this option is basically out for you.

  • CoStar – CoStar is the company we all love to hate, but they certainly have their place. The have hundreds (maybe thousands) of researchers who spend all day calling brokers and verifying information. Then they sell that information back to you. CoStar also provides everything from comps, to owner information, to lease details, to analytics. It is expensive, but they have a huge customer base because they provide a ton of value.
  • Real Capital Analytics – RCA is my favorite source of information. They track all transactions over a certain amount (currently above $2,000,000). Beyond that, I believe they have the best analytics in the business and nobody understands and analyzes the flow of capital better than them. They also produce monthly reports for the different asset verticals (retail, office, multifamily, etc.) that detail what markets are hot, what cap rates are doing, and much more. These reports are gold, and can make you very valuable to your clients and prospects.
  • REIS – REIS is a service that has been tracking comps and trends for 30 years, and they are very good at it. They also excel at breaking the corporate veil and finding who are the members of LLC’s and other ownership structures. They are also expensive.
  • ProspectNow – ProspectNow is a newer company that provides ownership information of properties all over the United States – and their coverage is impressive. If they cover your area, they are a great option. A huge benefit here is they have a low monthly subscription fee. They are definitely one of your more economical options that provide names, phone numbers, and often even emails.
  • PropertyShark – PropertyShark is similar to ProspectNow with some add on services. For instance, you can get a property report that includes all the data on the property. You can get an ownership report with names and numbers, ownership history, deeds, liens, etc. You can also produce a ready-to-mail list of owners of properties in a certain geography – pretty sweet, really. They are a bit more expensive than ProspectNow and their prices change based on what geography you need. Worth checking out.
  • National Assessor and Property Tax Resource – This website is free and connects your with county assessors in every state – assuming that county is online. You get what you pay for. This site doesn’t have searches or analytics like these other sites. But, if you need raw information on a budget, this is a great place to start.

Remember, no data source is perfect. If you get data that is 80% valid, consider it solid. The market is simply too dynamic.


2. Outsource it – You can hire others to build your database for you. Here is something to consider. If you are new to the business, doing the work has great value. It will accelerate your rise to becoming a recognized market expert. However, if you’ve been in the business more than 2 years, your time is way too valuable to do this kind of work yourself.

There are a several options that can do this work for you, one of our favorites is Upwork. This portal of independent contractors will compete for your work. We found great resources in the U.S., but also in India, and the Philippines as well. There are several other outsource options, and all you need to do is Google “outsource data research” to see the plethora of vendors looking for your business.

3. Do it yourself – If you are new to the business, this is what you should be doing at least 5 hours a week. Or, you may live in a geography too small for other services like CoStar or ProspectNow to cover. If that is the case, you may have to become the detective yourself. Head on down to the local assessor’s office and start pulling data. The one thing you can’t do, is prospect without ownership data.

So, these are the three ways: buy it, outsource it, or DIY. My challenge to you is to commit to dedicated and systematic prospecting — whatever that looks like. Build your list and then go after the business you want. That’s what the best do. Go and do likewise!

2 Responses

  1. We have about 6000 names in our database. I’ve been debating about purchasing names or updating what we have. We regularly update any names with expiration dates. Today when we update we add much more information to help us decide if we want to market to firms based on their size. Any thoughts on updating verses purchasing lists. (We do have co-star tenant comps)

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