Covering New Ground

Kansas City Business Journal - Original Article
July 6, 2012

The Land Source LLC was an anomaly among local real estate firms even before Kevin Tubbesing became a partner.

Now, it's operating on the fringe of real estate brokerages in Kansas City, veering almost into being a technology business.

A complicated marriage of businesses brought Tubbesing, an erstwhile owner of a tech company and more recently of real estate development firm Stag Commercial, into the partnership at The Land Source in 2010.

Ever since, The Land Source has turned the sleepy practice of marketing and selling undeveloped ground throughout Kansas City - there's plenty available - and enlivened it with a technological bent that Tubbesing said gives the firm a leg up on the competition.

The combination of Tubbesing, a technophile, and The Land Source founder Pat Daniels, a longtime and well-respected real estate figure, helped move the brokerage out of the recession doldrums.

"There's no doubt we do things more efficiently and track down more product than any other firm in town," Tubbesing said.

That's a lofty claim - one other real estate experts don't have trouble believing.

R. Lee Harris worked with Daniels at Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services years ago. Harris, the current CEO of Cohen-Esrey, remembers Daniels’ wealth of real estate knowledge and has gone back to Daniels since he started The Land Source in 2001 to scout out property for residential developments.

“We called him the Dirt Guy,” Harris said. “He knew more than anybody in town about what different parcels are worth and how they are utilized.”

With The Land Source, Daniels dedicated himself to a real estate practice that few in town do. It’s a difficult business, one that requires patience. Undeveloped land can remain that way for years, even decades. But The Land Source has amassed enough parcels that buyers and sellers have many options, enough to keep the brokerage busy.

“The only parcels we pass on are the ones where the seller is demanding a selling price we don’t think is saleable,” Tubbesing said. “For us, it’s all about commercial development. If land is in the path of commercial development, it could mean it’s 10 years away. Our goal is to be the source of land in the Kansas City metropolitan area.”

Lately, Daniels said, “the intensity of the activity has increased remarkably.” The Land Source already has met last year’s total sales and net lease volume.

Still, it’s a sector of real estate that few devote themselves to.

“It takes a special knowledge to be effective selling land, and Pat has a long, long history in the Kansas City real estate market,” Harris said.

Where Daniels supplied knowledge, Tubbesing brought speed and efficiency.

When Tubbesing arrived in 2010, he found a need for a new data structure, a way to electronically catalog what Daniels knew about land, plus information they could research to fill out the rest.

Tubbesing told Daniels on a Friday after observing the company for about a month that he would have something new to show him the next week.

Tubbesing spent a weekend without much sleep, assembling data from various spreadsheets and systems to consolidate it all in one central source.

What resulted was a database that tracked 4,532 real estate properties in Kansas City — some listed by The Land Source, others not — with many entries containing general information, such as location and listing price, plus painstaking detail about the property, from utility information to tax records.

Daniels said that although he’s getting used to the new technology, the approach has been a good one.

“We do operate in different ways ... but we are very compatible, and the combination of those is potent for the marketplace,” he said.

The upside to the database is that it allowed the smaller, 11-broker firm to operate with speed when prospective clients called looking to buy or sell land.

A request for information often requires a broker’s reliance on CoStar or similar listing companies and shoeleather research to fill in gaps, a process that can take a couple of days to turn around.

Tubbesing’s database allows The Land Source’s brokers to send detailed property reports in minutes.

And whereas many real estate brokerages work as loose confederations of agents working for the same company, The Land Source and its data-sharing promotes collaboration and teamwork.
“We’re a completely open-source, open-database company,” Tubbesing said. “We encourage collaboration and co-listings in the firm.”

Where speed can’t give The Land Source an advantage, money can. The Land Source pays real estate listing services a premium to get its listings up high on search results.

Despite their work, land brokerage remains a difficult business, particularly in the aftermath of the recession, which diminished wealth, and thus the investment and development that fuels land sales drives on a half-empty tank.

Plus, property often can stay on the market for two years.

“There’s no doubt much of the work we do at The Land Source is a waiting game,” Tubbesing said.

That’s why the company created Evergreen Real Estate Services LLC after Tubbesing joined. It markets mostly industrial buildings to diversify the portfolio.

Evergreen has been active marketing industrial and office properties in the East Bottoms and West Bottoms, as well as the Crossroads Arts District.

Kevin Tubbesing, CCIMKevin Tubbesing, CCIM, is a Principal with Kansas City, Missouri-based real estate brokerage The Land Source. He can be reached at 913-562-5608 or [email protected].

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