Research and consultation teams at an international property adviser like Debenham Tie Leung (DTZ) are regarded as the forerunners who take the lead in scrutinising markets and exploring business opportunities to advise clients on every stage of the property development process.
To successfully fill this important role, such teams are always looking for people who have good logical thought processes plus organisational skills, in-depth understanding of local and global real estate markets, and are good in mathematics and languages.
Alva To, director of consulting & research, North Asia at DTZ, says being a researcher or consultant at DTZ is a tough and challenging job that requires strong commitment and total dedication to accomplish each project within a tight work schedule. However, he points out, in return the rewards are substantial particularly in terms of career growth.
DTZ is a global real estate advisory company that provides services to investors, occupiers and clients across all sectors of the international property market. It began operations on the mainland in 1993, and its fully licensed office network now covers Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Wuhan and Xian, making it the largest and longest-established real estate advisory firm in China.
The company's current China research and consulting team is a "combined" unit embracing a strong pool of diversified professionals such as surveyors, economists, town planners, architects and registered China land and real estate appraisers, with each member serving a specific and clear role.
The research team mainly provides consultancy services across a wide range of areas such as retail, commercial, residential, industrial, hotel and hi-tech premises; plus development and strategic planning as well as forecasting service. More specifically, it is tasked with issuing publications, compiling databases and providing internal support like issuing documents covering current affairs, investment guides and city profiles.
Mr To says that of these services, strategic planning is easily the most popular among multinational corporations looking to make multi-million dollar investments in development projects on the mainland. The forecasting service is shared with the research team in Singapore.
DTZ's findings help clients accurately assess the future development prospects of a city's property market such as its rents, yields, capital values and total returns for local markets, and individual assets across the main property market sectors.
Most multinational corporations use DTZ's services as part of the process of getting a foothold in the surging mainland retail market. However, Mr To finds they have limited understanding of the true market situation. As a result, his team utilises its expertise to advise them about the appropriate locations for their new establishments, taking into account their brand value, target segments and market positioning. They also help clients study their selected cities' urban development, the necessary demographic structure and other aspects, including consolidated retail strategies and detailed sales and marketing forecasts.
Development consultancy is a service for clients wishing to learn about a city's socio-economic issues, its city planning and infrastructure development, development density, land use plans and cash flow analysis, before they take the plunge and launch their property development projects.
Mr To points out that since Hong Kong's real estate market has reached a mature stage, its market information is more transparent than that of mainland cities. Also, most local developers have their own research teams. This means that their Hong Kong office is now gradually switching its focus to providing consultancy services to clients and ensuring quality control of other offices across China.
The bigger development opportunities are now to be found in mainland cities, which are continuing to expand upward and outward in the ongoing economic boom.
In particular, he describes Guangzhou and Shanghai as "first-tier" cities where town planning is in good shape. DTZ has its largest China staff in these two cities, where they are kept busy helping clients explore market opportunities. Meanwhile, he rates Hangzhou and Chongqing as "second-tier" locations where the real estate markets are still in their infancy, and it is problematic to try to unravel market potentials.
The working environment for research and consulting teams is very dynamic, Mr To points out. Frequently staff members have to travel overseas to explore and study the markets and gain exposure in an area that is new to them. However, such experiences are highly beneficial to a researcher's personal development and career growth.
Apart from those large scale projects such as CBD relocation which involved an area of over 10km square, one of Mr To's current projects is to assist a client determine an appropriate location for a new diving centre on the mainland. He and his team, though lacking experience in the sport, have had to take an active participatory interest in diving to familiarise themselves with this unusual market environment. "It's been a fun experience," he says.
In line with the company's future development and to ensure quality of service, a tighter recruitment policy is being introduced. Candidates wishing to join the consulting team will only be considered if they have several years' work experience in real estate. Even more suitable would be an applicant with a degree in surveying or as a chartered financial analyst (CFA), plus some relevant business background. However, fresh graduates will be considered for the research team provided they have very good language skills, are capable in analytical and logical thinking, and have a degree in research, economics or real estate.