Valuing the Grand Canyon

Valuing the Grand Canyon

"You're just a broker!"

That’s what my neighbor’s kid said to me. She was 10 and irritated that I wouldn’t let her take home my son’s whiffle bat.

What struck me was I wanted to respond: “No, I’m not just a broker. And who said I was ‘just a broker’ in that derogatory tone you just used? Was it your father? Your father, who’s just an investment banker?” But of course, I didn’t say that. I waited.

Now, the neighborhood kid is all grown up and she’s a college junior looking for an internship in – of all places – commercial real estate.

She came over to see me and asked if I could help. I made some introductions, and we talked about the difference between being “just a broker” and being a trusted advisor – part of the client’s team.

I asked, “Would you be surprised to know that someone had to determine the value of the Grand Canyon for the Federal Government? Now, think of an office tower in uptown Charlotte. It’s relatively straightforward to put a value on it, right? But how would you value the World Trade Center, months after 9/11?”

These are real-life examples of some of the assignments that the Counselors of Real Estate take on.

The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) is a little-known group of real estate nerds that I’m proud to be a part of. In simple terms, these people are committed to the industry, known for giving pure advice, and get paid for providing their thinking, and deliverables instead of purely transacting on a sale. Counselors include professionals from all aspects of real estate, including valuation, consulting, law, brokerage, and asset management to development, investment, lending, and corporate real estate.

The national group offers a public service called the Consulting Corps. The corps is designed to provide access to the highest level of expertise to handle real estate problems. I advise you check them out, as they are an impressive group. (Read examples of their work.)

Close to home, the Carolinas Chapter of the Counselors of Real Estate meets every other month. For years, the group sponsored the CREative Thinkers Award, where hundreds of real estate types in the Carolinas gathered to celebrate local projects that were remarkably creative. Past recipients include:

  • Dave Williams & Mark Mather and Elliott Close & Colby Mosier for Riverwalk / The Pump House
  • Billy Hughes for Loray Mill
  • Michael Tarwater & Carol Lovin
  • Kyle & Pattie Petty, Founders, and Stephen Overcash

At Cardinal, clients using our advisory consulting services gain insight and clarity by having access to three proprietary services:

  • The Due Diligence 360™ – a 221 point due diligence checklist identifying all of the physical characteristics and common pitfalls when investigating the acquisition of real estate.
  • The DSQ™ – a powerful report that provides clarity to leaders regarding their important real estate decisions, research, and a strategy to achieve their desired results.
  • The Prepared to Win-Win Negotiation Worksheet™ – a thorough assessment of your interests, and those of the other party’s, will help you identify strong alternatives, generate novel proposals, and stimulate discussion at the table.


Counselors of Real Estate is an invitation-only group and has grown to include 2,300 members worldwide. The Carolinas chapter includes more than 40 members.

Now, my neighborhood friend knows there can be more to being a real estate practitioner than just being a broker. I suggested to her that if she’d used Cardinal’s Prepared to Win-Win Negotiation Worksheet™, she would have stood a chance of going home with a whiffle ball bat.

If you have a project that’s stuck in a quagmire, or if you need “just a broker”, let’s talk about it.

Real estate transactions can be fraught with frustration and pitfalls.

Sometimes the hardest part turns out to be working with your broker, the person who is supposed to help you through the complexities. Veteran commercial real estate broker and client advisor John Culbertson discovered that brokers’ interests aren’t always aligned with those of their clients. He realized there was a better way to advocate for clients and get the deal done.


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