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VOL. 126 | NO. 240 | Friday, December 9, 2011

‘A Different Place’

City stands out as place where brokers work in friendly competition

By Sarah Baker

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In Memphis’ small commercial real estate network, it’s not uncommon for brokers to be on opposite sides of the negotiating table one hour then clinking beers in celebration at Jim’s Place East the next.

Members mingle at the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) holiday party Tuesday night at Owen Brennan’s.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“I’ve spent time in Nashville and Atlanta, I’ve talked to other people in Dallas and some other markets and it just doesn’t seem to be the same,” said Jim Mercer, industrial broker with CB Richard Ellis Memphis. “They kind of look at us funny and say, ‘I can’t believe how y’all operate.’ Their markets are a lot different, brokers hate each other, they hardly talk. We don’t have that in Memphis, it’s always great getting together.”

Despite the precious commodity of time, brokers across all local CRE sectors seem to set aside plenty of it for networking and cross-promotion. At the Certified Commercial Investment Member holiday party Tuesday, Dec. 6, outgoing president Tanis Hackmeyer said it boils down to friendly competition.

“Say I’ve got a listing nearby,” Hackmeyer said. “I’ll call the broker across the street and say, ‘I’ll pass my clients your way, you pass yours mine.’”

It’s a concept that is unique to commercial brokers, said Bud Worsham of Crye-Leike Commercial.

“It’s not that way when it comes to residential,” he said. “They all butt heads.”

And it’s not just potential leads that are being shared, said Shawn Massey, partner with The Shopping Center Group LLC, who uses social media to congratulate competitors on recent deals.

Recent Facebook posts by Massey include, “Welcome to the neighborhood, Pure Barre!” – linking to an article involving Colliers International and StoneCrest Investments – and “Congratulations to our friends at Investec” – alluding to the Memphis-based firm’s recent affiliation with California-based Sperry Van Ness International.

The exchange of valuable statistics is also commonplace in Memphis’ CRE network, said Jim Rainer of Grubb & Ellis-Memphis and founding member of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors Commercial Council.

“Market reports, comparables, sales or leases to the extent that it’s not compromising your client’s interest, we share that information,” Rainer said. “It helps people understand the market better, if you will. You create a network. If you’re the kind of guy that’s all about me, people learn that pretty quick. You won’t have those opportunities.”

Rainer, a self-dubbed “retired SIOR” (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors) and a 26-year industry veteran, attributed a large portion of his success to established brokers that helped him along the way.

“We’ve got some older brokers that were such great mentors for a lot of people here,” Rainer said. “All of those guys were all SIORs and CCIMs and those sorts of organizations. They promote their organizations and were always willing to help younger guys. Memphis is just a different place, I guess. Culturally, everybody’s friendly and people are just willing to help.”

Not only are brokers keen on aiding each other but also those in need. That’s why 2011 MAAR Commercial Council President Ron Riley installed the first annual golf tournament for Make-A-Wish this summer.

Like seeing a deal through the finish line, it’s rewarding to see the fruits of one’s labor, Riley said.

“The real genesis behind the tournament was is we have 330 members in the Commercial Council,” Riley said. “We’re all very close-knit simply because it is a big city with a small-town feel. Part of that’s a Southern mentality, too. We’re all very cognizant and aware of what’s going on with people outside the general scope of real estate.”

At the end of the day, it all boils down to relationships, said Mark Utley of Utley Properties.

“If it was just about the money,” Utley said, “there are other businesses to get into.”

PROPERTY SALES 27 150 2,415
MORTGAGES 57 228 2,835
BUILDING PERMITS 157 441 6,509
BANKRUPTCIES 61 133 1,920