February 12, 2024

Local market, global reach: the power of a network

I just returned from the NAI Global 2024 Convention, a networking and professional development event for NAI Global affiliates.

My experience was quite a bit different this year, since I’ve moved from being chair of the member executive leadership committee to holding an advisory role. As “immediate past chair,” my list of responsibilities is much shorter. But the sense of responsibility I feel for the members of this organization is just as profound—it’s been and continues to be such a privilege to serve this group.

And I really do mean “serve,” by the way. Board positions are honorary and voluntary and the board itself isn’t fiduciary or otherwise power-wielding, and that’s a large part of why we joined NAI Global in the first place. The organization doesn’t follow a corporate model; it’s a network of independently owned firms. Each market has just one affiliate, and when we learned about a Portland-area opening in 2016, we pursued membership.

Better together

Right from the start, we invested deeply in the NAI Global network. National and global firms tend to invest most of their resources in major markets, and as part of a secondary market we latched onto the opportunity we saw through NAI Global to stay truly “Portland” while also becoming part of something much larger.

We did our best to engage well, to stay present, to give and glean industry wisdom and to share business and brokerage. In other words, we used the network for its intended purpose: building relationships and resources around the world, rooted in the belief that we’re better together. At the same time, we were able to keep leveraging our hyperlocal expertise to serve our own communities on the ground. This investment in a strong foundation of connectedness and knowledge continues to pay dividends to our clients today.

Just two years in, NAI Global selected NAI Elliott as its 2018 member of the year—an unexpected honor at the time. It makes perfect sense to me now, after years of growing with and through this network and helping others grow. NAI-plus-Elliott is a fantastic fit, and “better together” sums our experience up well.

Data, or it didn’t happen

Of course, we didn’t join up with NAI Global to make friends for the sake of making friends. These relationships and shared values are also great for business.

Here are some 2023 year-end stats:

Another way we can track performance across the network is by looking at broker-to-broker transactions. When our clients deal with non-local parties, we offer our internal referral network to connect them with professionals we already know and trust, who offer both world-class knowledge and local expertise. When brokers close a transaction together, NAI Global takes a 10% commission, and that commission becomes a representative sample of network volume.

The 2023 data tell a pretty compelling story when compared to other metrics we’ve seen and heard. Keep in mind we’re comparing data in a down market, so instead of asking to what extent revenue grew, we’re looking at how much or how little it fell:

  • Fourth-quarter data from CRBE showed that U.S. commercial real estate investment volume dropped 44% year over year from 2022.
  • Meanwhile, NAI Global’s broker-to-broker transaction volume decreased by just 18%.
  • Our own total revenue at NAI Elliott (encompassing network and non-network sales and leases) fell only 19% over the same time frame.

Although these aren’t 100% apples-to-apples comparisons, the data suggests NAI Global affiliates outperformed their competitors in a down market. And that, I think, speaks to the nature of the network: the combination of local expertise and international reach is dynamic. And these relationships? They’re making a difference. 

The laws of CRE physics

We looked back on 2023 in January from our perspective as a Portland business. This month, on the heels of an event with attendees from across the world, I’m reflecting through a wider lens.

We projected uncertainty for 2024, and that prediction has held up. So far, the only notable update is the Fed’s decision last month to maintain interest rates at 5.25% to 5.5%. But here’s the thing about uncertainty over a long-enough period of time: we get tired of it.

Objects at rest stay at rest, but people don’t. Call it momentum or call it a mutiny, but when that catalyzing moment hits for each of us I think we’ll look to ourselves and the communities we trust for sources of truth and direction—not to the status quo or the government or economic trends.

This was a theme I picked up on as I listened to NAI Global Conference speakers. The people who make up this industry are extremely aware of the intensity of this year’s unknowns and polarizing issues, but they aren’t content to let stagnation settle in unchecked just because they can’t predict the future. They’re pricing in unknowns—the election, inflation and interest rates—and appear to be prepared to move forward with developments, expansions, capital investments and more.

Anecdotally, we had a significant amount of activity in January. It could be a fluke. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign: that our people are too potent and our opportunities too compelling for us to be satisfied with killing time. And that together, we’re not only better—we’re unstoppable. 

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