If it's true that records are meant to be broken, then certainly that was the case in 2006 when commercial property sales soared to ever-increasing heights, taking the nation's brokerage industry along for the ride. Investment sales nationwide topped a whopping $317 billion in 2006, a 15% increase over 2005 sales volume of $270 billion, according to New York-based Real Capital Analytics, which tracks deals $5 million and higher.

Leasing activity also rose as the national office vacancy rate declined to 13.6% at the end of 2006, down from 14.6% a year earlier, reports Chicago-based Grubb & Ellis. At the same time, new construction was largely held in check as a host of private equity and foreign investors plowed capital into existing properties.

While office buildings have proven to be hot commodities, the largest commercial property sale in history occurred in 2006 — an apartment complex. Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town, a 110-building complex located on the east side of Manhattan, sold for $5.4 billion to New York-based Tishman Speyer Properties and partner Blackrock Realty. CB Richard Ellis represented MetLife as the seller and closed the deal in 30 days, thanks to anarrowly targeted auction.

CB: King of the Hill — again

That New York deal, and others like it, helped Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis retain the top spot on NREI's annual top brokerage survey for the fourth consecutive year. In 2006, CBRE racked up a total of $224.6 billion in combined leasing and investment sales globally, up 33% from its $150.4 billion total in 2005 and nearly $100 billion higher than its 2004 volume of $127.4 billion. But not all of that growth was organic, since those totals include full-year volume for Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co., which CBRE acquired in December 2006.

Still, CBRE's $65 billion in lease transaction volume was more than double that of its nearest competitor, Cushman & Wakefield, which recorded $32.6 billion in lease deals. Christopher Ludeman, president of CBRE's brokerage operations in the Americas and a 25-year veteran of the firm, cites the continued national economic recovery for fueling both job growth and corporate expansion. As Ludeman puts it, “The occupier is back.”

A major shakeup juggled several other leading players. Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle jumped ahead of perennial No. 2, New York-based Cushman & Wakefield. JLL had ranked 6th in total leasing and sales volume in 2004 and 2005, but the difference was its 2006 investment sales volume of $70.9 billion, which accounted for 90% of its brokerage business.

“Our competitive set tends to be very brokerage led,” says Bill Krouch, CEO of investor services at Jones Lang LaSalle. “[But] it really is about the broad array of services and how we integrate them.”

Chicago-based Grubb & Ellis, another stalwart firm, dropped out of the top 10 for the first time in years, from fifth place in 2005 to 12th place in 2006.

Core values rising

As service providers look ahead to 2007 and 2008, they know it will be hard to top their record gains in 2006. For the first time in years, robust leasing activity is yielding upside for property owners, who can ratchet up rents in the face of little new supply and higher property values.

That helps explain why in February The Blackstone Group, based in New York, shelled out some $39 billion — including debt assumption — for Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust. Blackstone already has begun selling off pieces of the 108 million sq. ft. office portfolio.

And where there is a breakup, again there are brokers, points out Krouch of Jones Lang LaSalle. “For a service company, those are opportunities.”

Ben Johnson is a Texas-based writer.

TOP THREE SALES TRANSACTIONS OF 2006 (RANKED BY PRICE)
Property Market Price Cap Rate (%) Buyer
Peter Cooper Village/Town Manhattan $5.4 billion 3.2% Tishman Speyer/Stuyvesant Blackrock Realty
Mall of America Minn. Bloomington, $1.8 billion 6.6% Triple Five Group Center*
666 Fifth Avenue* Manhattan $1.8 billion 6.6% Kushner Cos.
1211 Sixth Avenue Manhattan $1.52 billion 5.3% Beacon Capital Partners/Lehman Brothers
Source: Real Capital Analytics
* tie
TOP THREE OFFICE LEASING DEALS OF 2006 (RANKED BY SIZE OF LEASE)
Building Market Lease (sq.ft.) Tenant Tenant Rep
Four Allen Center Houston 1.24 million Chevron Cushman & Wakefield of Texas
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Texas Dallas 980,000 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Texas The Staubach Co.
7 World Trade Center New York 589,945 Moody's Corp. Cushman & Wakefield
Source: CoStar Group

TOP 25 BROKERAGES

The Top 25 Brokerages listing is based on responses to NREI's Top Brokerage survey, which was conducted via e-mail in February and March 2007. Brokers were asked to provide the total dollar value of leasing transactions and investment sales globally in 2006. The totals were combined to determine the company's ranking. NREI makes every attempt to ensure the final survey is as comprehensive as possible, but some brokerages may choose not to participate.

  1. CB Richard Ellis

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $224.6 billion
    100 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 1050
    El Segundo, CA 90245
    Email: investorrelations@cbre.com
    Web site: www.cbre.com
    Officers: Brett White, President/CEO; Ken Kay, CFO; Cal Frese, President, Americas

  2. Jones Lang LaSalle

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $78.6 billion
    200 E. Randolph
    Chicago, IL 60601
    Phone: (312) 782-5800
    Email: paige.steers@am.jll.com
    Web site: www.joneslanglasalle.com
    Officers: Colin Dyer, President/CEO; Lauralee Martin, COO/CFO; Peter Roberts, CEO, Americas

  3. Cushman & Wakefield

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $76.9 billion
    51 W. 52nd St.
    New York, NY 10019
    Phone: (212) 841-7500
    Email: terence.spillane@cushwake.com
    Web site: www.cushwake.com
    Officers: Bruce Mosler, President/CEO; John Santora, COO; John Cushman, Chairman of the Board

  4. Colliers International

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $59.1 billion
    50 Milk St.
    Boston, MA 02109
    Phone: (617) 722-0221
    Email: kgalvin@colliers.com
    Web site: www.colliers.com
    Officers: Margaret Wigglesworth, President/CEO; David Kahnweiler, Chairman; Margaret Kemp Carlson, COO

  5. NAI Global

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $42 billion
    4 Independence Way
    Princeton, NJ 08540
    Phone: (609) 945-4000
    Email: clombardo@naiglobal.com
    Web site: www.naiglobal.com
    Officers: Jeffrey Finn, President/CEO; Gerald Finn, Founder/Chairman; Richard Kimball, EVP, U.S. Brokerage Operations

  6. Newmark Knight Frank

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $37.3 billion
    125 Park Ave.
    New York, NY 10017
    Phone: (212) 372-2000
    Email: inquiries@newmarkkf.com
    Web site: www.newmarkkf.com
    Officers: Barry M. Gosin, CEO; James D. Kuhn, President; Jeffrey R. Gural, Chairman

  7. ONCOR International

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $31.4 billion
    1 Campus Dr.
    Parsippany, NJ 07054
    Phone: (973) 407-6363
    Email: kristina.avallone@realogy.com
    Web site: www.oncorintl.com
    Officers: David Matthes, President/CEO

  8. The CORE Network

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $27.9 billion
    15150 Preston Rd., #300
    Dallas, TX 75248
    Phone: (972) 980-3994
    Email: info@corenetwork.org
    Web site: www.corenetwork.org
    Officers: F. Keene Miller, Chairman of the Board; Frank Buckley, Vice Chairman; Edward A. Cross II, Chairman Emeritus

  9. GVA Worldwide

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $26.5 billion
    1569 Sherman Ave., Suite 201C
    Evanston, IL 60201
    Phone: (847) 733-0883
    Email: info@gvaworldwide.com
    Web site: www.gvaworldwide.com
    Officers: Michael Corbett, President/CEO; Michael T. Cohen, Chairman; Betsy Baer, Executive Director

  10. The Staubach Co.

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $26 billion
    15601 Dallas Pky., Suite 400
    Addison, TX 75001
    Phone: (972) 361-5000
    Web site: www.staubach.com
    Officers: Roger Staubach, Chairman/CEO; Elysia Ragusa, President/COO; Bill Leiser, CFO

  11. Studley Inc.

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $25.4 billion
    300 Park Ave., 3rd Floor
    New York, NY 10022
    Phone: (212) 326-1000
    Web site: www.studley.com
    Officers: Mitchell S. Steir, Chairman/CEO; Michael D. Colacino, President; Stephen B. Goldstein, Vice Chairman, U.S. Operations

  12. Grubb & Ellis Co.

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $25.3 billion
    500 W. Monroe St., Suite 2800
    Chicago, IL 60661
    Phone: (312) 698-6700
    Email: corporatecommunications@grubb-ellis.com
    Web site: www.grubb-ellis.com
    Officers: Mark Rose, CEO; Maureen Ehrenberg, President, Global Client Services; Robert Osbrink, President, Transaction Services

  13. TCN Worldwide

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $20.8 billion
    2419 Coit Rd., Suite A
    Plano, TX 75075
    Phone: (972) 769-8701
    Email: info@tcnworldwide.com
    Website: www.tcnworldwide.com
    Officers: Ross Ford, President/CEO; Neil Siderow, Chairman; David Wagner, Vice Chairman

  14. Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $20.5 billion
    First Financial Plaza
    16830 Ventura Blvd., Suite 352
    Encino, CA 91436
    Phone: (818) 907-0600
    Email: scorso@marcusmillichap.com
    Web site: www.MarcusMillichap.com
    Officers: George M. Marcus, Chairman; William A. Millichap, Co-Chairman; Harvey E. Green, President/CEO

  15. Coldwell Banker Commercial Affiliates Inc.

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $15.3 billion
    One Campus Dr.
    Parsippany, NJ 07054
    Phone: (800) 222-2162
    Email: commercial@coldwellbanker.com
    Web site: www.ColdwellBankerCommercial.com
    Officers: Rick Davidson, President/COO; Fred Schmidt, SVP, Business Development; Paul VanDevender, VP, Strategic Development

  16. Sperry Van Ness

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $10.9 billion
    18881 Von Karman Ave., 8th Floor
    Irvine, CA 29612
    Phone: (949) 250-4100
    Email: info@svn.com
    Web site: www.svn.com
    Officers: Mark Van Ness, Co-Founder; Rand Sperry, Co-Founder; Jerry Anderson, President, National Advisor Organization

  17. Holliday Fenoglio Fowler (HFF Inc.)

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $10 billion
    2000 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 2000
    Houston, TX 77056
    Phone: (713) 852-3500
    Email: mmoren@hfflp.com
    Web site: www.hfflp.com
    Officers: John H. Pelusi Jr., Director and CEO; Gregory R. Conley, CFO; Nancy Goodson, COO; Mark Gibson, founding partner and currently Director of HFF; Joe B. Thornton Jr., Director of HFF

  18. Apartment Realty Advisors

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $8.4 billion
    1575 Northside Dr., Building 100, Suite 150
    Atlanta, GA 30318
    Phone: (404) 495-7300
    Email: lrobinson@arausa.com
    Web site: www.ARAusa.com
    Officers: Derrick Bloom, Chairman; Richard Robinson, President; Lisa Robinson, COO

  19. Transwestern

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $7.7 billion
    1900 W. Loop South, Suite 1300
    Houston, TX 77027
    Phone: (713) 270-7700
    Email: mediarelations@transwestern.net
    Web site: www.transwestern.net
    Officers: Robert Duncan, Chairman; Larry Heard, President/CEO; Mark Doran, COO

  20. Century 21 Real Estate LLC

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $4.9 billion
    1 Campus Dr.
    Parsippany, NJ 07054
    Phone: (877) 221-2765
    Email: specialtymarkets@century21.com
    Web site: www.century21.com
    Officers: Tom Kunz, President/CEO; Bev Thorne, SVP, Marketing; Ken Toumey, VP, Brand Management

  21. Voit Commercial Brokerage

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $3.2 billion
    21700 Oxnard St., Suite 350
    Woodland Hills, CA 91367
    Phone: (714) 978-7880
    Email: info@voitco.com
    Web site: www.voitco.com
    Officers: Robert D. Voit, President, The Voit Cos.; David Allison, EVP/COO, The Voit Cos.; John M. Owen III, SVP/Managing Partner, Voit Commercial Brokerage's Anaheim Metro & Las Vegas offices

  22. Molinaro Koger Inc.

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $3.1 billion
    1676 International Dr., Suite 575
    McLean, VA 22102
    Phone: (703) 760-9600
    Email: sales@mkhotels.com
    Web site: www.mkhotels.com
    Officers: Robert T. Koger, President

  23. PM Realty Group

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $2.75 billion
    1000 Main St., Suite 2400
    Houston, TX 77002
    Phone: (713) 209-5800
    Email: jgunn@pmrg.com
    Web site: www.pmrg.com
    Officers: Rick Kirk, CEO; Jimmy Gunn, President, Property Services; Roger Gregory, CFO

  24. Massey Knakal Realty Services

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $2.1 billion
    275 Madison Ave., 3rd Floor
    New York, NY 10016
    Phone: (212) 696-2500
    Web site: www.masseyknakal.com
    Officers: Robert Knakal, Chairman/Founding Partner; Paul Massey, Jr., Founding Partner; John Ciraulo, CEO

  25. Mid-America Real Estate Group

    Total amount of investment sales and leasing transactions: $1.65 billion
    One Parkview Plaza, 9th Floor
    Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
    Phone: (630) 954-7330
    Web site: www.midamericagrp.com
    Officers: Michael D. George, President; Stanley Nitzberg, Principal; Rick Drogosz, Principal