We often get asked why there’s no central database for commercial real estate properties. While a majority of residential listings can be found on the MLS (www.realtor.ca), there is a significantly smaller percentage of commercial listings available on any one single platform.
By choice, many of the commercial real estate brokerages in Alberta are not members of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). As a result, agents at these brokerages are not “Realtors” by the trademark definition and therefore cannot list properties on realtor.ca.
To fill the gap for properties not listed on realtor.ca, two companies have made in-roads into establishing a property database. Loopnet.com (which has recently been bought by Costar) and Spacelist.ca, a Canadian company, display commercial real estate listings in most major markets. Both companies, however, are subject to strict advertising guidelines in which listings cannot be advertised without express consent from both the brokerage and the seller / landlord. These guidelines apply to all companies & websites that advertise properties.
In residential real estate, the MLS® System agreements in place between and among brokerages, real estate boards and CREA allow all properties listed with a member brokerage to be displayed on realtor.ca. In commercial real estate, no such co-operative agreement exists. Therefore, Loopnet, Spacelist or any other website can only advertise listings where the brokerage has given permission to display their listings. As it pertains to Alberta, any company or website displaying listings without this permission is in breach of the Real Estate Act.
The landscape of commercial listings is more complex than most people realize. In the absence of a central database, property listings are sourced from many different sources, including dozens of different commercial brokerages and general landlords/sellers. The latter would include companies such as RioCan, Morguard, York Realty and Dream, to name a few. With numerous sources to manually sort through, searching for a property becomes a very time-intensive task, particularly as the data is constantly changing.
To show what work is involved, we took an arbitrary area to show how many listings are available and how many can be found on each platform. For our example, we chose Acheson, an industrial park five minutes west of Edmonton. Our search was for all industrial properties available for lease. After manually searching through all the listing platforms, brokerages and general landlords, we identified 22 listings available. Here is a breakdown of how many are found on the different listing services:
There was also some overlap as a few properties were also listed on multiple platforms. Taking out the overlapping properties, these three listing platforms account for only 55% of the market. The rest of the listings were found on other brokerage or general landlord websites.
While this will undoubtedly vary between different sub-markets, it highlights how imperative it is to look beyond any single listing database. In other words, it takes a lot of leg work to ensure that all options can be considered. Relying on only one website can be the difference between settling and finding the optimal space for your business.
Why we chose Acheson
Acheson is admittedly a crude approximation of market share as it’s a small sample size of the overall commercial real estate market in Edmonton and was done at one specific point in time. Also, there are other asset classes in the area and properties for sale that we did not take into account. Our example also focuses only on the total amount of listings, not the size of each listing. This was simply an exercise to show the amount of total availabilities for one area and how the major platforms fared for market share. This will undoubtedly change over time and over different areas. Acheson is a good example as brokers from Edmonton, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain actively work in the area in addition to some of the buildings being owned by large institutional landlords. There are ~ 10,000 acres of industrial land with over 200 businesses in the area.
Chad GriffithsPartner, SIOR, CCIM
Chad is a partner with NAI Commercial Real Estate and focuses on the Greater Edmonton area. Chad entered the industry in 2004 and has completed over 400 commercial transactions with clients ranging from small, local companies to large institutional owners. Chad has been a top 15 producer with NAI Canada-wide since 2013.
Ryan BrownPartner, BCom, SIOR
Ryan is a partner with NAI Commercial Real Estate in Edmonton and is currently ranked nationally as one of NAI's top advisors. Having executed in excess of $100 Million worth of sales transactions and over 2 Million square feet of lease transactions, Ryan has developed a firm understanding of asset evaluation and an aptitude for building design, functionality, and long-term practicality.
Darcie is a licensed Commercial Real Estate Agent in the Province of Alberta with a focus on the Edmonton market and its surrounding areas. Darcie accomplishes custom solutions for her clients through her personable nature and results driven attitude. Darcie can help if you are looking to invest in commercial real estate or are looking for representation for a sale or lease transactions.
EdmontonCommercial.com offers expert analysis and research in a weekly blog along with resources for landlords, tenants, sellers and buyers in the market. Seeking to buy or lease? We track every property available for sale and for lease in Greater Edmonton. Get the latest news and check the latest listings—anytime.