The term “thought leader” gets thrown around a lot. For good reason. Technology has increased the pace of change exponentially in our everyday lives. Staying on top of new trends has never been more important. A whole industry has sprung up to help keep us current on the latest tech including websites like ProductHunt and the number of industry-specific tech news aggregators (like this one!).

But, being a thought leader is only part the battle. The other part is communicating it to those that matter most. In real estate that is the customer. The rest of us in the industry might follow you on Twitter or know that you have had speaking engagements at conferences, but your client doesn’t. They see data as a commodity that everyone has equal access to. Simply telling a new client that, “We have the best data” is about as good as telling them that you have flat screen monitors at the office. They just assume that this would be the case.

A better strategy might be to educate the end consumer on why your data is so great. Give them a breakdown of how much of the market you have a pulse on and remind them that not every broker is equal when it comes to a pipeline of data. Also, help them understand the data better than just dumping some average numbers on them (price/sq ft, vacancy rates, etc).

Nowadays we have to be able to use data to create visualizations that can tell help tell a story. Apto, a CRM for commercial brokers, shared this great blog post about mapping tools to turn data into great visualizations. For creating non-CRE specific data visualizations I really like Tableau Public. For a view on how it can be done at its best check out Real Capital Analytics, as they are one of the best at making CRE data really tell a story.

Let’s take a look at a few visualizations done right.

Here is a beautiful one I pulled from this article in Metrocosm about residential affordability in the New York Metro area.
NYC-Housing-AffordabilityI like this because it is really informative, but it is also beautiful and fun to look at. It uses colors to keep thing compartmentalized (although I think they should have used colors that are slightly more distinct from each other) and it doesn’t overwhelm with too much raw information.

Here is another one I like from Alex Bresler from ASBC. He uses taucharts to make his javascript visualizations look like this:

cre data vis

I like the way it is organized and how he uses subtle lines to signify a possible trend instead of trying to cram it down the reader’s throat.

Another important thing to bring into your data are trends happening outside of real estate. Our industry does not exist in a bubble and changes that happen in other areas can decide the future of our property. This is a great example of a heat map of the tech scene in the DC area created by JLL for this Biznow article.

DC data vis

Rather than talking exclusively about real estate data, which is reactionary in nature, show your client that you are thinking about the future with some insight into what the future holds. The heat on this map represents the tech hubs located throughout the city. This is much more actionable than just saying how many new companies have signed leases in the “downtown” DC area.

Statistical analyses gets a bad rap. It is generally seen as the realm of data scientists; too boring for the general population. Only now are we learning how to really get numbers to tell their story. In the end, data is only as good as the package that is wrapped in. We have more tools than ever to be able to communicate the meaning behind raw numbers. Going forward we will only see this trend increase. Videos will be better than showing changes over time than pictures. The ability to harness VR from any smartphone makes the idea of 3D visualizations seem not too distant. Being a thought leader increasingly be an important distinction as the pace of innovation inevitably increases. But, being perceived as a thought leader by those unfamiliar with the intricacies of an industry will take some great data, creative analysis, and thoughtful storytelling.

Franco Faraudo

Franco FaraudoFranco Faraudo has an MBA in entrepreneurship and works as a real estate agent and property manager. He has been involved in both commercial and residential real estate as an agent and investor. He writes about start-ups and their role in modern cultural and societal trends. He is the editor of’s exclusive Insider channel.