Whether you’re a first-time broker or one who’s been in the industry for decades, deciding which commercial real estate brokerage company to hitch your wagon to can feel daunting.
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when deciding which commercial real estate broker to work for.
You should consider the following questions:
1. What asset class are you most interested in?
Some brokerage firms specialize in certain asset classes, such as hotel sales or multifamily residential sales. Naturally, you’ll want to work for a brokerage company that has a niche in the asset class you’re most interested in.
2. How well-established is the brokerage company?
There are definitely pros and cons for going to work for a large, well-established brokerage firm. For example, they probably have a long-history in your local market and are highly regarded.
Larger companies also tend to have more resources available for commercial brokers, such as analysts and marketing professionals that can help with routine tasks such as analyzing a deal or creating collateral to sell a property.
Conversely, the more established the company, the less room there may be for you to go after clients as these clients may already be covered by someone else in the firm.
3. What is the brokerage company’s annual transaction volume?
Any one company can have an off-the-charts year, so it’s good to look back at the past 3-5 years to evaluate a company’s annual transaction volume. This will highlight how active the brokerage firm is in your market.
4. How nimble is a commercial real estate brokerage?
As companies expand, there’s a tendency to become more bureaucratic. More systems to use, more policies to follow. For some, this is a good thing.
For example, the first-time CRE broker might appreciate this level of structure.
Those who are more experienced, though, may prefer to work for a brokerage company that is more nimble, scrappier, and more agile in their business practices.
Best Commercial Real Estate Firms to Work For
(by Transaction Volume)
Let’s start by looking at some of the top national commercial real estate brokerage companies to work for based on transaction volume. These companies consistently rank in the top five for sales volume on a year-to-year basis.
CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE is one of the world’s largest commercial real estate companies with a staggering 90,000 employees worldwide.
The company provides an array of services, including sales and leasing brokerage, project management, investment management, appraisal and valuation, strategic consulting and development services.
- 2017 transaction volume: $337 billion
- 2018 annual revenue: $21.3 billion (+14% from the year prior)
One benefit to working for a company like CBRE is the company has so many different product lines that it allows brokers to gain exposure to different sides of the industry.
The company represents both buyers and sellers of commercial real estate. Brokers can work with the asset and portfolio managers to provide more comprehensive services to their clients.
This wraparound approach is a draw for many CRE customers, and is one of the main reasons why brokers go to work for CBRE.
Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc. (JLL)
JLL is another global, Fortune 500 company. As of the beginning of this year, JLL had approximately 88,000 employees – a number that has since increased with JLL’s acquisition of HFF earlier this year.
The purchase makes JLL one of the most powerful commercial brokerage companies in the world.
JLL, which has always had a niche in real estate and investment management, now has the ability to provide world-class capital markets services and expertise to its clients.
“We are delighted to bring together JLL and HFF to create one of the most strategic, connected and creative capital advisors in the world,” said Christian Ulbrich, Global CEO of JLL at the time of the acquisition.
“By combining the impressive capabilities, talent and expertise that distinguish both organizations, we will deliver exciting new growth opportunities and ensure we are best position to achieve ambitions for our clients and all our stakeholders.”
- 2017 transaction volume: $252 billion
- 2018 annual revenue: $16.3 billion (+13% from the year prior)
Cushman & Wakefield
Cushman & Wakefield is best known for its brokerage services, but the company also provides comprehensive commercial property management capabilities.
The company has offices in approximately 400 offices and 70 countries, totaling nearly 51,000 employees.
Cushman & Wakefield has been around since 1917 when it began as a small family business in New York. The company has tried to retain that “family owned” feel, despite its astronomical growth.
Cushman & Wakefield has also been recognized as a forward-thinking organization that invests in its employees and wants to see its brokers excel.
The company routinely invests in cutting-edge technology to support its brokers and streamline processes.
Their core values include Collaboration, Integrity & Respect, and Trust & Confidence.
Cushman pledges to let brokers put their “handprints in the cement” as the firm expands, allowing employees to contribute to the company’s development and ongoing evolution.
- 2016 transaction volume: $191 billion (2017 data unavailable)
- 2018 annual revenue: $8.2 billion (+19% from the year prior)
Newmark Knight Frank (NKF)
Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) is another world-leading commercial real estate advisory firm that draws some of the industry’s top CRE brokers.
The company prides itself on delivering the highest level of service to clients in a way that exceeds their expectation.
NKF has a fully-integrated platform that provides clients with a single-source solution for every phase of owning or occupying a piece of commercial real estate.
NKF offers a robust benefits package for employees, which includes: industry-leading parental leave (up to 16 weeks for U.S.-based brokers), generous healthcare benefits,
Bright Horizons back-up childcare, generous paid time off, education reimbursement, referral program, and endless opportunities to network and connect with others in the industry.
One of NKF’s core values is “maximizing human resources” – which is important to brokers deciding which CRE to work for.
The company is dedicated to attracting and retaining the industry’s best minds. Employees are empowered to challenge traditional thinking within a broader knowledge-sharing entrepreneurial environment.
- 2017 transaction volume: $151 billion
- 2017 annual revenue: $1.5 billion (+18% from the year prior)
Forbes magazine named Colliers International one of America’s Best Large Employers in 2019, and with good reason.
The company of nearly 17,000 people earned this designation for providing robust support and resources to brokers working for them.
Colliers is known to empower its staff in ways that allow brokers to exceed their customer’s expectations. The firm also encourages collaborating among team members to drive exceptional results.
These are just a few of the reasons brokers choose to go work for Colliers.
Colliers has many services lines for brokers trying to find their niche, including capital markets, landlord representation, valuation and advisory, corporate solutions, real estate management services, property marketing, tenant representation, project management and more.
- 2018 transaction volume: $116.3 billion
- 2018 annual revenue: $2.8 billion (+16% from the year prior)
Best Commercial Real Estate Firms to Work For
(by Asset Class)
The international brokerage firms listed above serve an array of asset classes.
There are other brokerage firms, though, that are smaller and specialize in specific asset classes.
These are the top brokerage companies to work for by asset class:
Office: Eastdil Secured
The Eastdil Secured office transaction team provides clients with industry-leading disposition, development, acquisition, financing and recapitalization services for office properties in both core and suburban markets across the U.S.
The company was founded to operate similarly to an investment banking firm, except with a real estate emphasis.
This allows Eastil to provide unparalleled brokerage service (sales and capital markets) to its office clients.
Multifamily: Walker & Dunlop
Walker & Dunlop states its mission is to be the premier commercial real estate finance company in the country, but the firm offers much more than capital market service.
In fact, Walker & Dunlop has emerged as one of the nation’s leading multifamily brokerage companies (sales, leasing and debt/equity).
Walker & Dunlop brokers have facilitated some of the largest multifamily transactions in recent memory, including the $1.9 billion sale of Monogram Residential Trust’s multifamily portfolio to Greystar.
Industrial: Lee & Associates
Lee & Associates is the single largest commercial real estate firm in North America owned entirely by real estate professionals.
The company, which routinely ranks as one of the nation’s top industrial brokerage firms, represents both small buyers and sellers as well as institutional investors.
Brokers with Lee & Associates are expected to be experts in their local markets, and the company support’s this goal by providing state-of-the-art resources to employees.
Retail: Marcus & Millichap
The Marcus & Millichap National Retail Group (NRG) is comprised of more than 430 investment specialists located across the United States and Canada.
The NRG closed more than 3,600 retail transactions last year worth more than $11.1 billion.
At any given point in time, the company has more than 1,500 retail listings for sale.
Marcus & Millichap brokers are supported by a team of investment sales, financing, research and advisory team members. The company serves private investors, professionals and institutions needing any retail needs.
Hotel: Avison Young Group
Avison Young offers brokerage services of all kinds, but the company really stands out for its hospitality group.
On average, the AY hotel group has closed one transaction every five years for the past five years.
The company has sold more than 107 Marriott hotels, 73 Hiltons, 51 Hyatt hotels since 2013. In total, Avison Young has sold more than 390 hotel properties across all brands since 2013.
Senior Housing: Berkadia
With Americans living longer than ever before, there’s a renewed interest in seniors housing. Berkadia, a Berkshire Hathaway and Jefferies Financial Group company, is one of the nation’s top seniors housing brokerage companies.
The company is a top-ranked HUD lender and leading producer with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, allowing the company to deliver the most complex independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing projects of any scale and in any location across the country.