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I’m Not as Good at Baseball as I Thought–What About You?

A few years ago I played in a softball league. It was my first time back on the field in fifteen years, and I was ready to resume my glory days. In my prime, I was an excellent shortstop and outfielder with an inordinate amount of power in my bat. You know, one year I batted above .900 with three homeruns. I made the All-Star team that year with boys that were an age group above me. That year, by the way, was 1988 and it was one of the last years I was actually good at baseball. In my mind, I never stopped being good at baseball; I was always that nine-year-old boy that had a knack for the game.


And so, when I agreed to play softball, I expected to be the player I was in my mind. If you’re curious as to my vision, I wore the number three and a Yankee’s cap. My season didn’t reflect that image. There were a few diving catches and the occasional extra base hit, but not a whole lot more. Mercifully, we didn’t keep official stats, but I could look back through the book and see my results. It was foolish for me to think that my unfounded perception would be reality. My self-assessment was way off. I wasn’t as skilled as I thought and was totally unaware, and it was completely natural. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect, and you can fall victim too. My delusion cost me pride—your business probably has a bit more on the line.


There has never been a time in history where we have had more access to data. In fact, we have so much information available to us that we’ve had to invent a new term for the really massive and complex stuff—big data. That term hardly does it justice. To put it in perspective, we created about five billion gigabytes of information from the beginning of human history through 2003. We now create that much data every 10 minutes. The point is we have a lot at our fingertips to help us make decisions.


Commercial real estate has not been exempt and largely it has been a positive evolution. Business owners and executives have easy access to reams of transactional information, tax data, comparable sales, and property availability. Demographic and psychographic data, traffic counts, and amazing mapping software are readily available online. Marketing information provided by brokers typically provides photos, floor plans, and building specifications in addition to many of the items outlined above. All of this information is supplemented by rows of file cabinets containing construction schedules, environmental reports, and site plans at the offices of brokers, architects, and engineers.


When you have tons of data, you have to filter out the noise. On a larger scale, there won’t be a shortage of effort with promises of data mining, a goal of real-time data, and projections that the sexiest job in the next decade will be that of a statistician. The takeaway seems to be that data is cheap and abundant and the ability to actually interpret, explain, and add value is the skill suffering from scarcity. Data is just the raw material of knowledge and therein lies the challenge as it relates to commercial real estate.


Like the illusions of grandeur regarding my baseball skills brought on by selective memory, data too can produce a false sense of confidence for users. Given its availability, it’s easy to flood a commercial real estate project with seemingly relevant legal, tax, engineering, and market data. The task of deciphering the information independently in a manner that adds value to your business decision is the more difficult proposition. Could you do it by yourself? The Dunning-Kruger effect would suggest you think you can. I just hope your results are better than mine, because I wasn’t Babe Ruth.


Tim Reamer provides commercial real estate brokerage and consulting services with Cottonwood Commercial and specializes in retail representation, investment property (multifamily | commercial | NNN), and development projects. Learn more at