Open the Wednesday real estate section of The Wall Street Journal or an email communication from one of the major real estate business journals and you can’t miss seeing that dozens of commercial real estate auctions occurring weekly throughout the United States.

Commercial real estate buyers and agents have told me that they find it difficult to gather information on property sales at auction, the types of properties selling and whether sales prices are going up.

CoStar Group (CoStar) is a leading provider of information, marketing and analytic services to commercial real estate professionals and one of the few sources that provides data on industrial, office, retail and multi-family auction sales. Thanks to our friends at CoStar, I am able to provide some insight into how auction sales have fared in each of these sectors. The research provided to me by CoStar reflects sales through June 30, 2010 of only those properties listed with CoStar.

Multi-family properties sold at auction showed a slight increase year-to-date over the 2009 data and nearly a 50% increase from the same time period last year. The average asking price in June exceeded any one month average recorded since February 2009. From February 2009 to June 2010, 102 multi-family properties were sold at auction and the variance between asking and selling price was 90%.

Looking at office property auction sales, only a small gap between average asking price and average selling price was seen since February 2009. The CoStar data does indicate a sharp drop in properties going to sale at auction in 2010 when compared to 2009. During the same 16 month period tracked, 108 office properties sold at auction and the variance between asking and selling price was 75%.

Year-to-date, industrial/flex property auction sales remained stable when comparing number of auction sales in 2009 for this property type. Of interest is that asking prices and selling prices are beginning to closely align as asking prices have dropped from a June 2009 peak. Comparing year-to-date 2010 to the same period one year ago, we find a 10% increase in number of transactions brought to market. During a 17 month period, 132 industrial/flex properties sold at auction and average asking price to average sales price was 65%. Year-to-date, the data shows a slight increase in the variance between asking and selling price, or 67%.

Retail properties being offered for auction dropped by more than 40% during the first half of 2010 as compared to the last six months of 2009 and were 20% less than the first half of 2009.  During a 17-month period, 341 retail properties sold at auction and the variance between asking and selling price was 70%. However, for the first six months of 2010, the variance between asking and selling price was dropped to 60%.

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-Patricia Faulkner

Patricia Faulkner is Senior Vice President of Client Development at NAI Global and an auction specialist on NAI Global’s Special Asset Solutions team.