Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development, The University of Reading, RG6 6AW, UKE-mail: email@example.com
Keywords Market intelligence, Real estate, Marketing information
In previous articles I have reviewed some of the sites that offer current information on the economy as a whole and sites that offer more detailed information on individual companies. In this article I shall concentrate on sites that offer up-to-date news and opinion on the real estate market. This includes company news but with an emphasis on key players in the property field and also more in-depth research reports on the current and forecast real estate markets.
CityOffices.net is a relatively new Web site (to me at least) offering information on the London office market. It is a joint venture between the specialist e-commerce and real estate research companies Estates Today and Metropolis Property Research. It claims that "City Offices provides comprehensive details on major office projects recently completed, under construction and planned in Central London and London Docklands." CityOffices.net (www.cityoffices.net) includes information on major office buildings in the central area of London, which is defined as the City of London, West End, Mid-Town, Southbank and Docklands and fringe areas. The promotional material claims that "a Frankfurt database will follow shortly and other European and UK cities will appear later this year". There is no sign of these at the time of writing (August, 2000) but I understand that a Birmingham version will go live in September, with a draft version of the Frankfurt database not far behind. The next European city after those will be Dublin.
The site has main sections headed "analysis", "my portfolio" and "news". The "analysis" section gives a list of reports and data with a clickable link. At the time of writing these included "Outlook for Central London Office Investment Market" from CB Hillier Parker and "Capital Restructuring – The City Office Market" a full text research report from King Sturge. Some of these are in PDF format and, if you do not already have the necessary Acrobat Reader, you can download it at no charge, details below. The "News" section is headed "CityOffices – London – Latest Office News" but when I was viewing the site on 11 August the "lastest news" was dated 2 August. Obviously it has been a quiet week in the office market!
In addition to the main section headings there are links to a full listing of "Completions 99-00", "Major Office Buildings under Construction", "Major Office Buildings in the Pipeline" and "Available Space in Major Buildings". Each listing in these files has a clickable link giving full details of the property. There is also a listing of the major players.
I found the site very well laid out and pleasing to the eye. It is easy to navigate at present although it remains to be seen if this will be the case as it grows. At the time of writing I did have trouble with some links returning error messages but I was impressed by the speed at which my e-mail queries were dealt with and feel assured that these are but teething problems. The need to update the "news" section more frequently is another area that should be addressed but, hopefully, by the time this article is in print these will have been sorted out.
Another useful source for online information on the property markets can be found at www.propertybull.com PropertyBull is also a recently launched site (April, 2000) and again I have found it a valuable source of information at several levels, giving easy access to a range of information from current property related news stories to full text in depth research reports. The site is edited by Stephen Palmer (no relation!), who "has 15 years' experience as an economist and property analyst with Chesterton, Knight Frank and most recently as a Director of Guardian Properties" and he aims to provide "free access to a wealth of industry specific news and information, specialist resources and support services, together with a range of e-commerce facilities". Registered users receive via e-mail a weekly bulletin, containing brief summaries of news, events and important happenings affecting the property profession with a particular, emphasis on e-commerce and its impact on property.
The three main links on the home page are for "eProperty News", "Forecasts" and "Company Profiles" and clicking on any of these gives you further options. For instance, the "Forecasts" section includes sub-sections on "Research", "Market Trends" and "Features". The "Company Information Zone" allows free searching on 1.4 million individual companies and provides full statutory and financial information. More detailed information is available on a pay-per-use basis.
Once an account has been set up users have access to company annual returns and reports on unincorporated businesses. The site claims that "until now it has been notoriously difficult to get reliable information on unincorporated businesses. That is no longer the case with ICC's new reports." The Company Information Zone offers two levels of report, the first gives you statutory information plus county court judgments and the other gives you the same information plus ICC credit ratings. "Annual Returns" is another new feature from ICC. These are downloadable document images of the originals filed at Companies House. If you order one of these, you can also download, without extra charge, any other document held in the same form.
The search facility is useful in that it allows you to search not only the PropertyBull site but also to extend your search to "specially selected" property related sites from across the world or the entire Internet with a choice of search engines. There is also a useful facility that allows you to e-mail articles you have found directly to colleagues from within the site.
This is a large site and contains a wealth of current information and many links to useful reports. It is partly a product of the size of the site that it is not always easy to get to information that you know is there. However, the depth and quality of the information makes the effort worthwhile. As the site continues to grow I hope the question of ease of navigation will be addressed.
The PropertyMall has been around in one form or another for a number of years and now markets itself as "The portal for the European commercial property industry" and claims that "The Property Mall is the largest freely accessible website for the commercial property industry in the UK. It attracts over 35,000 individual visitors per month who look at around 300,000 pages." The site, which can be found at www.propertymall.com, is much more than just a news service, it designs and hosts Web sites for clients and uses the news service as a way of drawing more visitors to its home page. It explains this policy thus, "Visitors have free access to the Mall to get the latest property news from Reuters, details of recent deals, research, appointments, jobs, e-mail addresses. The popularity of these services means that the websites we host become a justifiable investment from day one. A Property Mall website will enable you to tap into our loyal and rapidly growing visitor base, reaching tens of thousands of qualified prospects and turn them into your customers."
Although the news coverage is fairly basic, the site does offer a very comprehensive press release service and this is kept completely up to date. You can also receive a weekly e-mailed summary of press releases merely by giving your email address. There is, in addition, a full archive of press releases going back to April 1997. As the PropertyMall offers a hosting service it is obviously serves as a useful jumping off place to other sites. Hosted sites with a direct link from the PropertyMall include IPD, Chartwell Land, PRICOA, Greycoat and Gerald Eve.
The e-mail database is another handy feature although I am uncertain how it was compiled or how frequently it is updated. You can enter a search term under a choice of criteria: surname, job title, location, company or type of business and all matches are returned to you and can be emailed directly. A search for "Palmer" as a surname did bring up my details including my job title as Research Manager, but a search under "Research" for a job title gave no matches. However, if you met some man called Andrew at a party who said he worked in property finance in Manchester, he may well be the one person who fits all these criteria on the database.
The front page of the PropertyMall is rather overcrowded and bitty and it is not always obvious where the information you may want is situated. For instance when you first look at the top-level page you are presented with four columns headed from left to right "United Kingdom", "Press Releases", "Updates" and "Our Services". Scrolling down the columns, again from left to right, become "Our Services", "Jobs", "Web Studio" and "Hosted Sites". Further still the first column ends, and the others are "EGi Services", "Investments" and a continuation of "Hosted Sites".
I suspect there is a lot more meat in this site than I have been able to locate easily and, at present, I use it for little more than a quick way of catching up on press releases. That is a useful service but I feel that a bit of work on the design front would give a more comprehensible access to more of the site.
I have limited myself to these three sites in this piece in order to be able to review the sites in some depth. There are, obviously, a plethora of other sites covering this area. If anyone has any particularly useful (or bad!) sites they would like me to mention or if there is a specific topic you would like to be covered please contact me.
Sites reviewed in this article
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