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Steve Williams, an international property consultant, knows the value of real estate. He’s been appraising properties on five continents for the past 40-years. The UK native is a former president of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a prominent global organization for property, land, construction and related environmental professionals, and a founding partner of New York City-based Williams-Murdoch Inc., a valuation advisory practice.

For the past year, he’s advised Real Capital Analytics on its newly created global property database. “RCA’s global database is a paradigm shift in the way investment data is shared,” he says. “The old idea of closely protecting data in a culture of secrecy is being replaced by a belief that accessing the data is only the first step. The real skill is using interpretive skills that come from market knowledge and experience, to distill the data into meaningful investment strategies.” Here are more of his thoughts:

GlobeSt.com: Why is RCA calling this the “first global commercial real estate transaction database”?

Williams: No one has previously collected detailed data about sales of commercial/investment properties–that is, office, retail, hotels, multi-family, industrial and development land– across the world. RCA has done this for US markets since 2000. Now, after overcoming such issues as different ways of measuring buildings, converting currencies at the time of the sale and smoothing technical and reporting protocols, the database–with mapping–is about to be launched.

GlobeSt.com: What kinds of data does it include?

Williams: The data includes details of the sale, including price paid and an analysis of the price per unit–for example, per sf or square meter. It also provides names and contact information of buyers and sellers, financing information and cap rates, where available. RCA also provides a list of the top buyers and sellers for each property type, by investment volume. The data sources vary from published information to RCA’s established network of market participants–buyers, sellers, brokers and lenders. RCA’s team of multi-lingual researchers tries to verify each sale from at least three sources.

GlobeSt.com: What are the objectives behind the database?

Williams: The primary demand is the appetite of global capital markets for accurate, real-time information about investment activity in developed and emerging real estate markets, worldwide. Following the 2007 financial uncertainty, the cross-border capital markets’ demand for a better “window” on market activity became more urgent.

GlobeSt.com: One of the things RICS has mentioned is increased global transparency. Why is that so important?

Williams: Transparency is essential for wise investing. While for the past five years the RICS has published its Global Property Survey , RCA is the first to provide the details of the transactions that lie behind the global trends. It is also important to note that the independence of RCA’s research, with no self-interest in the market, gives it a strong element of credibility.

The world’s financial markets trade on up-to-the-minute “ticker” data about stocks and commodities. It is only very recently, thanks to the work of data providers like RCA, that the capital markets can trade in investment real estate with a comparable degree of informational comfort.

GlobeSt.com: How do you expect the database to expand or evolve over time?

Williams: Although RCA has been careful not to over-promise or come to the market unprepared, its products and services will constantly evolve. With an increasing time-span of sales history, RCA will continue to build. Much of this will result from pushing the technology frontier. But significant strides will be made as investors themselves embrace a more transparent real estate culture and become more willing to reveal transactional details. Today’s collaborative business world encourages a more enlightened approach to data sharing.

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