Data Driven

By on Dec 19, 2013 in News

When Ron Brock began forming the business idea that would ultimately become Pierce-Eislen, a data research firm focused on the commercial apartment industry, online databases and the Internet were still in the incubation stages.RonBrock

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Brock’s company, Pierce-Eislen (acquired in 2013 by Yardi Systems) is the leading provider of performance information about apartment communities.

Nationwide intelligence on markets, developments, rents, occupancy and more can all be gleaned from the company’s reports. They are sought out by lenders, investors, developers, multifamily managers and economists as accurate indicators of economic trend and performance.

With more than four decades now in the apartment industry, working as a developer, broker and business leader, Brock has tremendous perspective on how much the industry has changed. And as he observed in a recent interview, the rate of that change seems to be speeding up lately.

“It wasn’t very long ago that the real estate industry was extremely unsophisticated. Even when we formed Pierce-Eislen, it was that way. You get the Millennials coming along, and they expect to be able to pull up some data on the Internet and do their work,” Brock said. Advancement in the warehousing and analysis of business intelligence, he said, has been beneficial to Pierce-Eislen as the company strives to provide bigger and better reports.

“Until recently, we provided what has happened and what’s happening currently. We didn’t look forward. Now, we have a new system that has a forward look that we’ll be introducing sometime in the not too distant future.”

 Nationwide market intelligence

Pierce-Eislen’s rent surveys target 60 major apartment markets around the country. A full market survey, comprising all properties in the given market of 50 units or more, is conducted three times a year. A smaller sample survey is completed each month. The firm’s patented context rating system compares similar properties and determines which are excelling and which are struggling.

Subscribers to the database are able to make better decisions about where they place investment dollars, lend funds, or build a new community.

Brock is also in the unique position of being able to closely observe what’s happening on the ground at the development and occupancy levels, with hard data at his fingertips to back up the trends he sees.

As the post-recession recovery continues, he notes that new apartment stock is about to potentially soften rents in many regions, especially for new properties coming online.

“Concessions are typically more active when the market is going soft, which it currently is. We’re seeing concessions all over the country now in the new projects, to be able to attract renters,” Brock said.

He also believes that developers have overbuilt inventory of Class A luxury units that attract “lifestyle renters,” – people who choose apartment living because they can afford it and it is convenient for them.

“The reason they’re being overdone is because you’ve got capital sources and lenders that that’s where they want their money to go,” Brock said.

One area of the apartment market that is still hurting for adequate supply is less-expensive properties that service “have to rent” residents, people whose economic status gives them no other choice but to rent their home.

“That segment is probably the fastest growing, because the young household, whether it’s a single person or a couple, typically goes there for a first- time rental option. Supply is restricted, demand is more likely to be increased, which means that will be a better rental segment of the market, rather than the upper end, in the near future.”

A name with a story

A request to “hear about the founders” of Pierce-Eislen always gives Brock a good chuckle. With a national marketing background prior to entering the real estate world, he applied great personal creativity to the selection of the company’s name.

Wanting it to have heft, authority and inspire esteem, the inspirations for Pierce and Eislen actually draw from the cinema world.

Pierce is for Pierce Brosnan, the dapper, handsome, Irish-born actor most famous for his roles as James Bond.PierceEislen

Eislen was inspired by Mos Eisley Cantina – the rowdy, fictional Star Wars bar in the pirate city of Mos Eisley, featured in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Brock was watching the film with his grandson and jotted down the Eisley name, amending it slightly for a more formal feel.

So while neither Pierce Brosnan nor George Lucas can take credit for founding the research firm, they have certainly inspired its actual founder – and lent their name to years of useful data to come.

Learn more about Pierce-Eislen by visiting