October 2010: Commercial News Round Up

News briefs to keep you in the know about the commercial real estate industry.

October 1, 2010

Detecting the Bias in Online Endorsements

If you use testimonials or endorsements in your social media outlets to promote your commercial real estate business, you may find yourself at odds with recently updated Federal Trade Commission guidelines, says Jamie Rubin, partner at the law firm of Wildman Harrold in Chicago.

The revised guidelines, which were issued by the FTC in October 2009, require that if sources have "a material connection" with the product or service they are endorsing, the post must disclose the relationship. Endorsers who receive a fee or something else of value must disclose that relationship, and companies have the obligation to inform endorsers of that requirement.

Finally, companies must monitor endorsers’ statements to make sure they make appropriate disclosures. Some large companies are now looking into establishing policies and providing training for their endorsers.

Part of the challenge with following the guidelines is that they don’t clearly define what constitutes a material connection, says Rubin. Both the amount of compensation and the frequency matter, but it isn’t clear where the dividing line rests.

"If you give someone a nominal gift one time, you might not have to disclose it, but if you give a large number of nominal gifts to the same person, it might be a connection that requires disclosure," he explains.

Rubin points out that FTC guidelines requiring disclosure for compensation aren’t new. The difference is that these guidelines specifically address the use of endorsements in social media.

As the blogging universe has exploded, giving samples of products—some worth hundreds of dollars—to influential bloggers has become "prevalent," explains Rubin. The gifts aren’t illegal, but it’s hard to know if getting an expensive sample may sway a blogger’s opinion. These revisions have raised controversy among bloggers and advertisers, but they are, in part, an attempt to make it easier for readers to evaluate bias.

Commercial Goes Country

Looking for a new opportunity in commercial brokerage or management? Think small—small town, that is. A 2009 study by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that remote U.S. counties will see a dramatic increase in boomer retirees for the next decade.

The report predicts that this migration will raise older rural populations by two-thirds by 2020. Retirees are moving to smaller communities for lower costs and quiet neighborhoods, but once they’re there, boomers are opening businesses, shopping, and leasing apartments. And all that property has to be bought, sold, leased, and managed, says Glenna Twing, CPM, of Property Connections LLC in Cornville, Ariz.

Twing knows about small-town opportunities first hand. The 25-year real estate management veteran moved her commercial brokerage and management business a year ago from Phoenix to Cottonwood/Cornville, an area of about 15,000 people near Sedona, Ariz. It’s been a great success.

Twing has positioned her company as the Verde Valley commercial leasing company representing landlords and tenants. She currently has 12 clients and several tenants occupying office, medical, small retail, and some industrial space. She has good working relationships with the few commercial real estate companies in the area as they specialize in sales rather than leasing and management.

Her next priority is to work with commercial lending banks on leasing up distressed commercial properties prior to refinance or sale.

An Eventful Fall for Real Estate

Fall is conference time. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and its commercial affiliates have organized a wide selection of networking and educational events for commercial practitioners that will help take the edge off the coming cold.

One warm weather option is the Institute of Real Estate Management’s IREM iCon, from Oct. 19–23 in Orlando. Sessions will focus on hot topics such as capital markets, the evolving crisis with financing and troubled assets, and the social media fear factor. Register at www.iremicon.com.

The CCIM Institute’s 2010 ReFocus conference is also in Orlando, from Oct. 22–23. There are sessions on monetary policy and its effect on financing, the business value of green, the economy, and more. Register at www.CCIM.com.

The weather is a little chancier at the Counselors of Real Estate Annual Convention event, Oct. 17–20 in Philadelphia, but Indian summer is inevitable at the Society of Office and Industrial REALTORS® 2010 World Conference, which will take place Oct. 21–23 in San Antonio.

Rounding out a month’s worth of networking and education are the commercial events at NARdiGras 2010, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTOS®’ conference, Nov. 5–8 in New Orleans. Topics include commercial trends, how to ramp up your brokerage, and tenant retention. Register now at REALTOR.org/conference.

Mariwyn Evans

Mariwyn Evans is a former REALTOR® Magazine writer and editor, covering both residential brokerage and commercial real estate topics.