Real estate researcher to open White Marsh office, add 250 jobs

September 13, 2006|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

CoStar Group Inc., a commercial real estate research firm based in Bethesda, said yesterday that it plans to bring 250 jobs to White Marsh in the next year to meet growing demand for commercial property information.

The company, embarking on a plan to collect data and photographs on every commercial building in the nation, is preparing to sign a lease on an undisclosed White Marsh office where most of the new research associates and mangers will work, the company said.

A temporary office will likely open in October, where the company will begin hiring and training, the company said.

The nearly 20-year-old company now tracks more than one million commercial properties in 66 U.S. markets, including Baltimore, and in the United Kingdom, covering the office, industrial and retail sectors.

Customers such as commercial brokers, building owners, financial investors, mortgage lenders, developers, appraisers and retailers, access the database - now at 34 billion square feet of space - via the Internet to find commercial space for tenants, buildings for sale and the value of sale transactions and to stay on top of the market.

But the company sees uncharted territory all over the United States, even in existing markets, said Dean Violagis, CoStar's vice president of research.

"There are a lot of markets throughout the country in which a commercial real estate market exists, but no one's tracking these properties," Violagis said. "There are viable real estate markets that are not served with our information systems. Commercial real estate brokers don't want to be tracing the data. They want an easier way to get their hands on data," such as vacancy rates and buildings available for sale.

Besides hiring more in-house researchers for White Marsh, the company has purchased an additional 100 cars to add to its fleet of 48 for use by field researchers based out of their cars in markets across the country and is pushing ahead with tracking of retail properties, one of CoStar's newer market segments.

CoStar field researchers drive custom-designed cars that serve as high-tech mobile offices. The cars come with computers and GPS tracking software linked to high-resolution satellite aerial images, wireless technology to transmit and receive data, high-resolution digital cameras and hand-held laser instruments to measure buildings and place them on digital maps.

Field researchers work in half-mile grids to collect details on every building, every available space and every new leasing sign.

The company now employs more than 1,000 workers in the United States and the United Kingdom, with more than half - 537 - in the Bethesda headquarters and a 160-employee office in Columbia that opened in 2004. More than 800 employees are either research analysts or field researchers who drive the streets to find and inspect commercial buildings

Having property information readily available for clients can save time and money, said David B. Wills, vice president of NAI Michael Companies in Lanham, a commercial brokerage that handles leasing, sales and property management throughout Maryland.

"It's cost-effective," Wills said of the CoStar data. "If we had to hire our own research team, the amount of telephone calls they'd have to make to have current, up-to-date information, they wouldn't be able to physically handle it. The depth of the data is a lot more detailed than we'd have time to keep on our own. When we have clients looking for space, they want to know now what's available."

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