December 7, 2007
Full speed ahead as CBA turns 30
By BARBARA TRAVERS
The year 1977 may be remembered by locals as when the Seattle Mariners first stepped onto the Kingdome’s Astroturf. But it was also the year that introduced a whole new business ball game to Northwest commercial real estate brokers. Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown that year just as an intrepid group of local industry leaders launched the Commercial & Investment Broker’s Association to a cautiously optimistic audience.
CIBA’s plan was to introduce a multiple listing service (MLS) for commercial properties an unprecedented venture. The member-owned association would share a philosophy of ongoing communication and cooperation, governed by a voluntary board of directors.
Alan Tonnon, now a real estate attorney and principal of Bellevue-based Washington International, was executive officer of the Washington Real Estate Educational Foundation in the mid-1970s when he received a call from colleague and broker Jim Foster, then principal of James B. Foster & Associates.
“Jim had read about an informal commercial multiple listing service, modeled after the residential service, and suggested we look into developing a similar, formal model here in the Northwest,” Tonnon said.
The two discussed the idea over breakfast at the old Thunderbird in Bellevue. After much research and due diligence, they introduced the concept to Bob Gardner, former executive officer of the Eastside Brokers Association, a multiple listing agency for residential properties.
Gardner, who knew the mechanics of running a MLS, was intrigued.
Up and running
Gardner, Tonnon and Foster hammered out details for the next few years and in 1976 were joined by respected brokers Tom Baenen, Robert Van Cleave and Mike Read to bring order to the marketplace and establish fair and beneficial business standards for the growing industry. These five individuals each served as president of the nonprofit association over the first five years.
CIBA incorporated in 1977, chose a board of directors and began the arduous task of producing a comprehensive and accurate list of investment opportunities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Members, who paid $100 to join and quarterly dues of $50, submitted listings via written forms that included details on commercial property offerings plus one crucial, mandatory document an exclusive listing contract.
“Until CIBA was formed, commercial brokers worked off verbal agreements that resulted in commission struggles and prohibited the sharing of reliable information,” Tonnon said. “Brokers were now able to get written, exclusive listings with guaranteed fee structures. They gained equal footing with residential brokers, who had been doing this for years.”
Smaller brokerage firms got the association off and running. It was a slow start and there was resistance from larger firms that had internal listing systems in place. After all, why share inside information?
“It took a lot of presentations and phone calls to get people to participate, as there was skepticism,” said Foster, who now heads The Foster Company in Bellevue. “We went through many trials and tribulations, but CIBA developed into an incredible organization and phenomenal marketing tool that has resulted in billions of dollars worth of business for its members.”
Managers of larger brokerage firms came to realize that CIBA data was vital and gave them access to a bounty of information not just their own delivered in a professional and ethical manner. Sellers and landlords acknowledged that the strength of exclusive listings resulted in focused and loyal service from the exclusive agent. The broad marketing effectiveness through the listing accessibility proved invaluable.
CIBA becomes CBA
CIBA shortened its name to Commercial Brokers Association in 1997 as it evolved into an organization that broadened its services, listings and membership base. Exclusive listings include lease and investment opportunities in the state of Washington.
CBA has more than 1,050 member offices with more than 4,650 commercial real estate agents, with some members in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. Ninety-two associate member offices also participate. Quite the incremental increase from the estimated 200 charter members from 30 years ago.
Commercial real estate affiliates financial firms, appraisers, architects, attorneys, developers, engineers and title companies can join.
The days of submitting hand-written and faxed forms are long gone. CBA started its Internet-based system in 1997 and went completely online a year later. Members submit exclusive listings online and can access information from anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
The Web site is continuously updated by members, as well as CBA staff, and offers much more than property listings. Internet-based market analyses on property sales are available in minutes, continuing education courses are offered monthly, and legal forms developed by CBA’s attorneys with input from brokers have become the industry standard for commercial real estate transactions.
CBA has 18 full-time employees and 10 researchers who verify every property detail.
Arvin Vander Veen, senior vice president with Colliers International, has been a CBA member for 28 years and a board director for 25 years.
“Without CBA, I would not have been able to establish the career I now have,” said Vander Veen. “I know the services of CBA have advanced hundreds of commercial agents’ careers in Washington. The strength of our investment market is a tribute to CBA as once properties hit the market via CBA, they sell quickly. We have the best commercial multiple listing service in the nation. And you can take that to the bank.”
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