Local commercial real estate brokerages had a boom year in 2016.

The value of Los Angeles County leases and sales among the firms on the Business Journal’s list of the most active brokerages in the region grew by 26.8 percent last year to $94.9 billion from the previous year’s $74.9 billion.

Twenty-five of the 37 companies on this year’s list saw their local deals value grow, while six firms were down for 2016. Two firms made it on to the list for the first time while four had incomplete data for calculating growth and weren’t factored into the cumulative deals value.

Downtown-based CBRE Group Inc., which has consistently topped the list in recent years, again was ranked No. 1 with $13.8 billion in total local deals value in 2016, up 1.7 percent from $13.6 billion in 2015. The company had $7.4 billion in sales and $6.4 billion in leases, with such notable deals as the Warner Music Group lease for the Ford Factory in downtown’s Arts District at $10 million annually over 13 years.

Buyers and investors are optimistic about the value of property in the region, with major development projects in the pipeline, said Lewis Horne, president of the Southern California division of CBRE.

“Look at the expansion of USC and what we’ve seen with investment from George Lucas (for his museum at Exposition Park), and what’s happening with University Park and Inglewood right now,” Horne said. “These are massive projects and are very exciting. … What really drives people to the area is the fact that we’re so rich in talent and we’ve got creative talent in Los Angeles and talented employees.”

CBRE was followed again by Chicago-based Cushman & Wakefield, which the Business Journal estimated had $10.7 billion in deals for 2016, up 5 percent from $10.2 billion in 2015. Executive Managing Director Andrew McDonald said the firm couldn’t provide complete county numbers to the Business Journal because it changed its practices to separate local office accounts from L.A. deals handled by corporate brokers outside of the area after the firm’s merger with Chicago-based DTZ in 2015.

McDonald said Cushman & Wakefield’s local office saw growth last year.

“Our top-line revenue and bottom-line revenues are up by double digits,” he said.

Growth at top

New York-based Newmark Knight Frank followed Cushman & Wakefield with the third-highest deal volume at $9.8 billion, which was up 53 percent from $6.4 billion in 2015.

Phil Brodkin, executive vice president and managing director at NKF, said the firm is going through an expansion period.

“We’ve been growing and recruiting and we’ve increased our producers by 30 percent with capital markets and agency brokers,” Brodkin said. “We brought on some agency teams from different firms and have grown our capital markets team throughout Los Angeles.”

He said over the last 18 months the firm added about 7 million square feet of listings.

“Net absorption was positive,” Brodkin said. “Vacancy was marginally up but still strong and there were a lot of big tenants moving around, but obviously the success of markets like Santa Monica, Playa Vista and downtown saw increasing rental rates even with increased construction throughout the market.”

The county’s fourth-quarter 2016 vacancy rate for commercial properties was 14.6 percent – down from 15.5 percent vacancy at the same time in 2015, according to data from Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.

NKF was followed by New York’s Eastdil Secured, up 18.7 percent with $8.4 billion in total deal value, and Seattle’s Colliers International, up 59 percent with $7.7 billion in total deal value.

Hans Mumper, Colliers’ executive managing director for the greater L.A. region, said the industrial segment has been strong and the office market has been consistent.

“Our goals are to double our business by 2020, and we’re making all the moves to accomplish that by hiring top talent and expanding our office locations in West Los Angeles,” Mumper said. “We want to get more into that area and more into the multifamily business as well.”

Chicago-based JLL, which placed sixth, saw a big jump with nearly 108 percent growth to $6.4 billion in total deal value, rising from $3.1 billion the previous year.

Charlie Smith, chief operating officer for the firm’s L.A. brokerage, said the business was lifted thanks to the continuing success of e-commerce and the marriage of the tech and creative industries. The biggest increases from 2015 to 2016 came from the growth of JLL’s industrial market business, though the firm found great success locating space for creative and tech users in the West L.A. market, where part of Silicon Beach is located.

“We were fortunate to be a part of a lot of transactions that happened down there,” he said.

Declines, debuts

Marcus & Millichap fell three spots to 12th place after reporting the largest decline in deals value on the list, a 20 percent drop to $2.4 billion in 2016 from $3 billion in 2015.

New to the list this year are Dallas-based HFF at No. 11 with $2.6 billion in total deals value and Sawtelle-based Centers Business Management at No. 35 with $125 million.

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