You Need to Know More than the Numbers, You Need to Know the Story

It’s been a whirlwind first four months for Bullpen Consulting, I’ve been going non-stop since day one, I even went into work the evening I came home with my new daughter in March. The last couple days have been the first time I haven’t had an active consulting job since early January (so hey give me a call). However, it’s nice to take a little brain break and get some other things done, dentist yesterday and oil change today! The other major thing I’ve neglected is networking, not just because I need to line up my next job, but to read between the lines (of data).

A lot of people have the numbers, it’s understanding what they mean, it’s knowing the story behind the data. To get that colour, you need to talk with people in the industry, the lenders, the developers, the brokers, the sales and marketing managers, and the front-line sales representatives. I like to “blind shop” new home sites by pretending to be a purchaser and asking a lot of questions about buyer demographics and unit preferences, but having been around for 15 years and being extremely tall, I find I’m running into a lot of people that recognize me in the sales offices! I want them to spill the beans and not be guarded because they don’t know who I’m working with (sorry about my trickery people, but it’s necessary).

I very much respect my main competitors in the space (those that do residential market studies), as two of them have been my employers, and I know the others well. There is more than enough work to go around, as projects become more complicated, involve more partners, and include astronomical land and construction budgets – it doesn’t hurt to throw a few thousands dollars to the consultants to get a second opinion. I think my clients appreciate my analytics experience and that I’ve actually had skin in the game before, my opinions are more rounded than those that never have.

After submitted a proposal a couple weeks back, I was informed that I wasn’t awarded the job, but it wasn’t one of my most recognizable competition that got it. I’ve never seen someone from this firm at an housing event, at an industry social gathering, or a developer poker game. You can know the numbers, but you have to know the bigger story behind them: is the project on the right side of the street; what is that developer’s track record for overpricing or under-pricing projects, delivering on time, and what has been their absorption track-record (go for a sell-out or get to 70% and hike); what commissions and back-end deals were given to VVIPs, friends and family; was inventory held back; what about floor premiums, suite layouts, future obstructed views, parking ratio; the believability of the condo fee and occupancy date; is the project approved; who finances the project. These factors are just the tip of the iceberg, but you can only acquire much of this knowledge via experience and the right connections.

I tweeted another article with a misleading headline this morning (here) and I wonder how many decisions are being made based on a false readings of the data. Monthly data is lumpy, there isn’t always going to be a convenient and obvious narrative that fits the numbers perfectly. There are a lot of people that are going to tell you they know exactly what’s happening, trust me they don’t. After years of working with the macro and micro level data, I know exactly how some in the media are going to misinterpret the results and mislead – I want to make my clients and the public aware of these glaring errors.

With that said, I still want to grow my network further. If you’re in the new home broker, a developer, a major landowner, or a construction lender and we’ve never met, shoot me an email and let’s get together and chat.

If you’re an old friend I haven’t hit up in a while, give me a shout and let me know what you’re working on, maybe there’s a way I can help.

Have a great weekend, and stay in touch!



Further Reading

RENx: Batory & Bullpen determine the value premium for zoned condo lands

RENx: Can Mid-Sized Developers Survive the Influx of Public Money into Home building?




  1. Dear Ben:

    Wish this email finds you well.

    Reading your articles and blogs has broadened my view – especially since last year, I read your 2017 GTA Market Manuscript, which enlightened me to view the fine housing policy in a new perspective and learnt so many things.

    I’ve been studying purposely built rental market, there’re two voices: 1. The rental market has been picked up from 2000, and it reached the maximum by now, which will only decline but higher than the 90s; 2. The purpose-built rental market is far from enough, builders need to build more and the profit can be high in GTA .

    In these two opinion, which one do you agree? Or you think non is correct? Would you like to discuss some of your opinions as well?

    Waiting for your reply.

    Sincerely yours,

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