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Where Commercial Real Estate Brokerages Earn Their Revenue

When the topic of commercial real estate brokerages come up, images of “for lease” and “for sale” signs come to mind. Large brokerages like CBRE, JLL, and Cushman & Wakefield (who have market capitalization of $24 billion, $6.9 billion, and $1.8 billion, respectively as of May 2023) act as the backbone of the commercial real estate industry. 

But despite being known as firms that facilitate the sale and leasing of commercial spaces, these companies perform a host of tasks. Besides representing clients in sales and leasing transactions, they help orchestrate financing for investors, manage properties for owners and occupiers, and provide a number of other consulting services. These services firms earn revenue in fees, and each one has its own diverse lineup of fee-based offerings.


CBRE did something right in the first quarter of 2023, as it was the only one of the big three to record a year-over-year increase in revenue, which totaled $7.4 billion. The firm breaks down its business into three segments. Through its Advisory Services segment, CBRE provides property leasing services, capital markets advisory, and other business offerings, including loan servicing, property management and valuation. CBRE’s Global Workplace Solutions business provides corporate real estate clients with facilities management and project management services, as well as a top-to-bottom system of solutions for improving occupancy, reducing costs, facilitating decarbonization and improving employee engagement all with the goal of creating value across a portfolio.

CBRE’s Real Estate Investments business renders the company unique among most commercial real estate services firms in that the segment gives CBRE a presence in real estate development through its wholly owned and independently operated subsidiary Trammell Crow Co. The company also provides investment management through this business.  

CBREQ1 2023Q1 2022
GLOBAL WORKPLACE SOLUTIONS$5.3 billion $4.8 billion
ADVISORY SERVICES$1.8 billion$2.2 billion
REAL ESTATE INVESTMENTS$224 million$284 million


In 2022, JLL revealed a revamped organizational structure that divides its operations into five global business segments, including Markets Advisory and Capital Markets. However, it is the firm’s Work Dynamics business that accounts for the majority of its revenue, specifically 69 percent of the company’s $4.7 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2023. The Work Dynamics segment involves workplace management services, which JLL has designed as a cohesive service-delivery team that focuses on data-driven decision-making and digital transformation, providing enhanced productivity and financial performance, and attracting and retaining top talent by providing an enriched office experience.

JLL’s fourth business segment, JLL Technologies, comprises just 1 percent of the company’s revenue, but it is a growing business that has been recording consistently positive numbers. In the first quarter of 2023, JLL Technologies, which offers a comprehensive technology solutions portfolio for maximizing clients’ real estate experience, saw its revenue grow approximately 24 percent year-over-year. And LaSalle, a real estate investment management firm, completes JLL’s five-segment revenue source, and it accounted for 2 percent of the firm’s revenue in the first quarter.                                                                                                                           

JLLQ1 2023Q1 2022
WORK DYNAMICS$3.2 billion$3 billion
MARKETS ADVISORY$906.4 million$999.5 million
CAPITAL MARKETS$357.1 milllion $600.6 million
LASALLE$114.4 million$119.3 million
JLL TECHNOLOGIES$61.4 million$49.4 million

Cushman & Wakefield

Cushman & Wakefield earns its revenue predominantly through fees from its four lines of service, the most lucrative of which is its Property, Facilities, and Project Management business. Leasing is Cushman & Wakefield’s second-largest revenue generating line, followed by the Capital Markets line through which the firm represents clients in property acquisition and sales, and arranges financing. Through Cushman & Wakefield’s fourth service line, Valuation and Other, the firm provides valuations and advice on debt and equity decisions, offering services ranging from appraisal and investment management, to valuation and diligence advisory, to litigation support and financial reporting. In addition to its service lines, Cushman & Wakefield also rakes in revenue through Gross Contract Reimbursables, which consists of revenue from clients which have substantially no margin. Combining fees from the company’s four service lines with its Gross Contract Reimbursements, Cushman & Wakefield recorded total revenue of $2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2023.

Cushman & WakefieldQ1 2023Q1 2022
GROSS CONTRACT REIMBURSEMENTS$745.3 million$626.2 million
LEASING$362.5 milion$454.7 million
CAPITAL MARKETS$142.8 million$288.9 million
VALUATION AND OTHER$101.9 million$120.3 million
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