The following Q&A was completed as part of our conversational Commercial Real Estate FAQ Interview Series, we hope you find it helpful.
Sticking with the “classics” is sometimes the best way to go when using software resources in commercial real estate investing. Excel, when one knows how to use it, is an excellent resource in keeping organized with various properties. Other programs like Argas and CoStar have their advantages, but maybe shouldn’t be relied upon completely in all instances. While software and technology is useful in commercial real estate investing, a great assistant can provide more help on the ground than any piece of technology.
Richard Wilson: After investing in commercial real estate for so long, are there a couple of tools or software resources or databases that you really rely upon quite often?
Robert Borris: Well, I’m a big believer in Excel to do spreadsheets and things like that. But anybody who knows Excel at all, you have to know how to use it, it’s not brainless. There is a program used widely in the institutional arena to evaluate properties called Argas. Argas is a prompting, self-prompting, kind of economic analysis type of program. I don’t particularly care for it and the reason, two reasons, number one I’ve taken three classes on how to use Argas and after the teacher said, you know, “Here are the parameters. Did everybody get 25,337,000? Show me your hands who got the number.” Nobody raised their hand, which means nobody got it. Bunch of smart people in the room, or pretty smart people, nobody gets the answer you know there’s something about the program. The other assumption that Argas does, which is good for institutions and it’s good for multi-family, here’s a critical assumption error and the assumption is if you have a tenant in an industrial building that occupies the whole building, he will either renew the lease or he won’t. You either have 100% or you’ve got zero. You don’t say “Well, there’s a 75% probability they’ll renew, so I’ll ascribe 75% to it.” That’s ridiculous. That’s true maybe when you have hundreds of tenants, but if you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 tenants, you need to dig deeper than that, and you have to make your own assumption. You have a tenant or don’t you have a tenant? I mean, that’s a little problematic.
The other tool that’s really good is, well pretty good, is CoStar. CoStar is getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and their databases are getting bigger all the time, and you can do a lot of research relative to CoStar. However, I wouldn’t swear by it, it’s a good guide, but it’s certainly not a bible. It does help. The third bit of advice is you need to have a good assistant, that’s really good because they can do a lot of legwork for you and go to the properties, and look at it, and take pictures, talk to people and it’s, you know, and that could really be a big help to you.
Richard: Right, sure.