Office Space

T. Dallas Smith Recalls Life Before CoStar

By February 6, 2019 August 13th, 2019 No Comments

Atlanta-based T. Dallas Smith & Company is a national firm focused exclusively on tenant representation across office, industrial and land markets.

The firm’s founder, T. Dallas Smith, is an advocate for furthering diversity across the commercial real estate market and has made a significant impact on his community and industry throughout his 36 year career; his clients include AT&T, Coca-Cola, FedEx, JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft.  He has negotiated over seven million square feet of commercial property and five thousand acres of land acquisitions totaling more than $5 billion in aggregate value.

As Principal and CEO, Smith oversees all of the firm’s commercial brokerage activity and personally works with select clients – and strives to identify and develop diverse talent to augment an industry that is his passion.

Smith was an early adopter of CoStar, using it to identify potential opportunities, properly value transactions, and connect with the right players to get deals made.  Because of his extensive experience and time in the industry, he also remembers what life was like without CoStar.

An Expert’s Perspective

“I started in commercial real estate before there were computers,” says Smith. “Back then, if you wanted to find out when a tenant’s lease would end, you needed to go knock on that door, keep showing up, keep coming back until you got to know people by name. After a long time, you would hope to get a chance to meet the president or CEO, and that’s how you found out”. He recalls how he kept track of critical contact, property and market information using index cards.

“I was the airport guy in Atlanta back then. If you were going to do any business around the airport, I was the guy, because I had my own index cards, and I could tell you who the tenants were,” he says. He grew his presence and business interaction by interaction, and piece by piece, in order to become an Atlanta expert. “I knew all the landlords. I knew all the landlords’ reps. I would take their brochures, copy them, and type information on them. That’s what I’d show my clients.”

Smith notes, “As a tenant rep, I was CoStar before there was CoStar.”

After adopting CoStar and its treasury of portfolio, tenant, sale comp, lease comp, image and analysis data, “what used to take me three days to put together myself now took me three minutes,” Smith explains. “I remember what used to go into gathering this type of information. I understand the value that CoStar provides. So I try to give my brokers a look at the old way first, so they can truly appreciate what they’re getting from CoStar. It’s similar to long division in elementary school. You’ve got to learn to do it on the chalk board, and then you can use the calculator. I want our brokers to fully understand the process, so they can understand how important it is to use CoStar regularly.”

A Case in Point

Smith recalls meeting with a local broker in a particular city at the request of one of his clients, shortly after the CoStar mobile app had been released.

“We were told by our client that we needed to work with this broker because he knew the city, knew the market, had been there his entire life. I’ll call him ‘Mr. City.’ He was supposed to be the expert.

“We met to discuss how to sell a piece of property,” Smith continues. “I had my iPad, and using CoStar, I began pulling up comps in the area. I was able to say, for example, that ‘Property 123 Main Street sold for this amount.’ I could pull up the tax deeds and all the other pertinent information related to that property.

“And Mr. City says: ‘Oh, that’s what it sold for. Oh, that’s who bought that. Oh, that’s when that property sold,’” Smith recalls. “He was not Mr. City. CoStar was Mr. City, and that’s when I truly realized the power and value there.”

Pristine Data and Clean, Classic Reports

Since then, Smith has been asked by some of his largest clients how his firm is able to get better deals than its larger competitors. “I tell them, we have information that we know how to use, and we can use it very nimbly,” Smith says. “Because we have that data from CoStar, we can go into markets and have conversations with folks, and we do this whether it’s a two thousand square foot deal or a four hundred thousand square foot deal. We pull together classic reports using CoStar to show clearly what we are proposing and what we can do.”

Smith notes that CoStar gives his firm an added edge when conducting property tours. “Typically I’ll take my clients on a tour of five properties in a day,” he explains. “I’m going to have classic, one-page property summaries from CoStar with me. If it’s five buildings, I’ve got five pages, and maybe an agenda sheet on top. I can make updates with the click of a button if the itinerary needs to change.”

New Opportunities

Smith believes CoStar has played a big role in helping his firm establish its extensive reach; it’s also helped his brokers build on their expertise.

“We focus on being the specialists when it comes to tenant rep. That’s what we do – day in and day out – and we do it very well,” he says. “We know CoStar focuses on creating great technology. And we know that technology keeps getting better and better. “

Smith notes that not having CoStar would significantly impact how he does business today. “Without CoStar, I’d be limited to Georgia. I’d have to be in my home state,” he says. “Right now, we’re doing deals in 36 different states. My business would go from 35 additional states.“ He adds that once, “geography was everything, but that has all changed. A lot of firms are still hanging onto geography, and I believe you need to either adopt new technology, or you won’t be in the business.”

“We couldn’t do what we’re doing without CoStar,” Smith says. “It’s really the backbone to what we’re doing, and it makes us look good.”

SOURCE: CoStar Group