Contact Us

Weekend Interview: Valcre CEO Lucas Rotter

This series gets into the heads of the decision-makers of CRE, the people shaping the industry by setting investment strategy, workplace design, diversity initiatives and more.

Lucas Rotter has a plea for commercial real estate: Please stop taking for granted — or worse, villainizing — appraisers.

Rotter began his CRE career in appraisals in 2007 and began working on the technology side of appraisals in 2010, when he helped build Colliers’ International Valuation and Advisory Services team from the ground up. He co-founded Valcre, an appraisal software platform for commercial real estate, in 2016.

He said appraisers are often treated as roadblocks, but he said they are there to help improve fairness and accuracy in the real estate industry.

“The appraisal process shouldn’t be viewed as a hurdle to get over, but rather a critical step that involves an objective third party upholding public trust and advocating for the health of the market,” Rotter said.

The following has been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Valcre co-founders Lucas Rotter (kneeling), Kris Owens and Grant Norling with other Valcre team members

Bisnow: Tell us about your leadership philosophy and what experiences, words of advice or mentors shaped it along the way. 

Rotter: In the business world, leaders often adopt a “winner take all'' mentality driven by selfishness and greed. I run Valcre with the opposite objective. My leadership philosophy is centered around creating an inclusive and equitable environment for my team built on trust, integrity and transparency. While I’m at times known for my very direct, “no BS” personality, my leadership style is altruistic in nature. While my ambitions are grand, I plan on taking my team members with me by focusing on inclusivity and individual growth across the company. I started Valcre with the mission to make appraisers’ lives easier with our technology, and that has definitely molded how I lead — taking care of people and meeting their needs will always come first for me. I work for the benefit of others and my own personal gain is seldom top-of-mind when making decisions. I genuinely believe we can all win together if we lift each other up and invest in all of our futures to make a positive impact on the world.

Bisnow: How has the role of CEO/business leader changed over time — especially when considering the early days of your career to now? 

Rotter: Building a business starts with the foundation, and I started Valcre based on my experience in product development and my deep knowledge of the appraisal market. This was the impetus for the development of our tech, which we knew was capable of precisely and artfully meeting the needs of the appraisal industry. As the company grew, I made a conscious decision to be a product-led CEO, versus a marketing or sales-led CEO. Leading with the Valcre product has been massively successful for us — our software actually resolves appraisers' pain points, our customers are very pleased with the product, and we continue to experience monumental growth year after year.  

My main priority when starting out was to reimagine the appraisal experience by modernizing the tools valuers rely on. Once I achieved that through our product, my role as CEO evolved to keep up with our growth. As the Valcre team grew, my thinking shifted from problem-solving in the market to planning how we would continue our positive trajectory — and the answer to that lies in the brilliant people brought on to contribute to our strong company culture and future success. Now I am leading with big-picture business decisions as we move up the value chain to create more efficiencies in the appraisal industry and the larger commercial real estate industry.

Bisnow: What will the role of CEO look like in 10 years?

Rotter: Being a CEO is more about asking what tools people need to build and reach our goals, rather than micromanaging and aggressively inserting your own opinions and views into the process. Ultimately, CEOs should be working with their employees on their vision for the future, in order to provide them with the tools they need so they can each be successful in their own right. Giving your people the opportunity to excel will lead to more diverse skill sets, productivity and higher returns down the line. In my opinion, the determining factor for a successful CEO is hiring the right people and investing in their development, allowing them to make decisions without your input or influence — freeing up your time and focus for big-picture progression.

Bisnow: Was leading a company always a goal for you? If so, why?

Rotter: When I was younger, it definitely wasn’t on my mind. Leading a company was a concept very far away from the environment I was raised in. My parents both had blue-collar jobs and worked extremely hard, so a strong work ethic was something that was always instilled in me. When I began my own professional career, I discovered that companies that treated their employees well were few and far between. As I mastered my own craft in the appraisal industry, I figured if there weren’t any companies meeting my expectations, why wouldn’t I take a chance at building something better myself?

In my past roles, we would consider how to improve the business and bring in consultants to reimagine processes and make systems more efficient, and a seed began to form in my mind. I was capable of the same things — I wanted to grow a business that was optimized, efficient and a great place to work. I believe that the grit instilled in me in my childhood gave me the drive to make Valcre a reality.

Valcre CEO Lucas Rotter

Bisnow: What has been your biggest mistake as a leader?

Rotter: Looking back, my biggest mistake was not founding Valcre sooner. I felt that I needed to wait a certain amount of time and gain more experience before diving in, but in reality, I should have made that leap three to five years earlier because starting a business presents a huge challenge regardless of how many years are behind your belt. Whether you’re 21 years old or 50 years old, you’ll be grinding, struggling and learning every single day. There is no particular path that guarantees success — it’s completely up to you to figure out what works for your business. If I had started Valcre a few years earlier, we would be further along with a larger footprint in the appraisal industry, making a bigger impact for appraisers. Even with that realization, we’re continuing to pursue and achieve major growth objectives, and I know the Valcre team will continue to take us to even higher levels of success.

Bisnow: Has your thinking changed about the workplace between 2019 and today? How? What will your office strategy be moving forward?

Rotter: Valcre has never had a centralized office — we have been operating remotely since starting out in 2016. Prior to the pandemic, people would always ask me how we did it without any issues. Now that the entire world has adopted some variation of the same work model, we consider ourselves far ahead of the curve. The Great Resignation is a warning for any company that does not offer remote or flex options to employees, as the workforce has a plethora of options and will absolutely be able to find more freedom in their work elsewhere.

Bisnow: There is a massive conversation underway regarding advancing more people of color and women into the C-suite. What are you doing to address those voices and that movement within your own organization?

Rotter: Diversity and inclusion are huge factors in how we conduct business at Valcre. There is no seat at the table for bigotry, racism or narrow-mindedness — we are consistently looking for new ways to bring people of different backgrounds, diversity of thought and new ideas into the company, as we believe that holds the key to our evolution and success. 

Bisnow: What do you think about the recent focus on sustainability and climate change? Is it overblown? Insufficient? Is your company tackling climate change in any way or taking it under consideration in your planning?

Rotter: The recent focus on sustainability and climate change is not overblown in the slightest, and it will take effort from every company to come together and make a difference. There needs to be a greater focus on large corporations to take on the burden of reversing climate change, as just 90 companies are to blame for over 63% of carbon emissions since 1751. As a part of the commercial real estate industry, I think it is incredibly important to dedicate time, energy and money to initiatives that will cut down on the carbon emissions that result from large-scale developments and construction. This is especially important since the built world is responsible for as much as 30-40% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Bisnow: What is something CRE gets wrong in your eyes?

Rotter: Appraisers are often villainized in the commercial real estate industry, being labeled as roadblocks holding up deals or planning for a project. They are often taken for granted for the work that they do on behalf of the public and the CRE market. The appraisal process shouldn’t be viewed as a hurdle to get over, but rather a critical step that involves an objective third party upholding public trust and advocating for the health of the market. Appraisers aren’t playing for one side or the other, they are there to help all parties close a fair and accurate deal.

Lucas Rotter and his wife, Marie, at Machu Picchu

Bisnow: What asset class or location will perform best over the next five years? Why?

Rotter: Self-storage has been performing at a consistently high level over the past several years and I believe that will continue to prove true, as this sector performs best — even over multifamily. In terms of location, the migration of homebuyers away from big cities to tertiary is definitely going to keep up for the foreseeable future, and those real estate markets are set to increase considerably in size and value.

Bisnow: What book, article or TedTalk meant the most to you? Why?

Rotter: One of my favorite books is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It really delves deep to expose the root behind leaders’ actions, and gets to the bottom of “the why” behind the businesses we create. I think this concept is intrinsic to not only building a successful company, but finding meaning in our work and building a motivated, connected work-life environment. When I can apply this directly to my work at Valcre, I’m always encouraged by the reminder of why I’m doing this — to address the struggles that I saw firsthand as an appraiser and help them save valuable time and resources. Taking the philosophy and lessons from this book and applying them to my life and work has definitely helped inspire me and the Valcre team to build a better future and business.

Bisnow: What is your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Rotter: Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of watching TV shows! I much prefer sitting down and watching a movie with my wife versus watching one episode at a time or binge-watching a season. I find it hard to commit to a series at a time and enjoy the versatility of picking out a movie to relax and watch for a few hours.

Bisnow: How do you spend your Saturdays?

Rotter: I really try my best to unplug on the weekends, get away from my desk and spend quality time with my wife, daughter and friends. Socializing and connecting with people outside of work is so important to having a work-life balance and being present. With that in mind, I shut down my computer, go out to eat, or go golfing — I just try to get out and do something fun.