The Evolution Of Commercial Real Estate Technology

Who will be the game changers in the world of commercial real estate?

If you ranked U.S. industries by technological innovation, the commercial real estate industry would have likely shown up dead last a few years ago.

And it’s not only because many commercial real estate agents still use fax machines…

It is reasonable to understand that many real estate agents, both residential and commercial, are not enthusiastic about putting too much information into the hands of consumers. After all, many think that if the general public can find their own properties and set up tours directly, it is conceivable that they would take the next step to negotiate directly with sellers and landlords – a serious threat to the livelihood of real estate people, one may assume.

For the record, the world WILL need real estate sales and leasing professionals; however, that role may very well be quite different from the traditional one performed today.

Like it or not, companies that make their services effortless, intuitive, and accessible to consumers are the companies who thrive and often drive massive growth in their markets.

Commercial real estate über-broker and blogger Duke Long hypothesizes that better technology could do for CRE (short for Commercial Real Estate) what Amazon did for books (and paper towels, dog food and many other things):

“Please, please, please let more people search, digest, analyze, save, comment, transact and buy commercial real estate. The easier and more robust we make the search and transaction the more search and transactions will be created.”

And there are many who agree, but one may be suspect that such is not the case for many real estate sales and leasing people.

Like it or not, it has been the consumer, more so than the commercial real estate brokers themselves who have forced many of the established broker based online industry systems into the 21st century. With the use of public records, a variety of tech-savvy entrepreneurs have literally put new power into the hands of anyone who owns a smart phone or pad.

What do many of the new up-and-coming CRE technology platforms have in common?

  • Free and transparent to brokers and consumers alike;
  • Very visual—beautiful property photos, videos, and maps, and graphics;
  • Mobile technology
  • Targeted directly to the consumer, instead of commercial brokers.

Many of these evolving technologies still do not have all the analytical and verification bells and whistles that come from the heavily priced exclusive commercial broker subscription services like CoStar.com. However, in time entrepreneurial efforts will likely close that gap and make a serious impact on the national, as well as, Frederick’s commercial real estate market.

Here are a few interesting advancements that MacRo, Ltd is keeping its eyes on:

42Floors:  This is an office space listing service in the San Francisco Bay area, with plans to expand into other markets.  It displays listings from brokerages, landlords, and even Craigslist, making it (from the consumer point of view) the most comprehensive database of available commercial office space.  There is no cost to consumers or subscription fees to brokers.  In fact, 42Floors will manually upload broker listings straight from the broker’s email blasts.

Interesting to note that they include Craigslist in the mix.  This could potentially make it very easy for entrepreneurs with a co-working bent to find each other.

OfficeSpace.com:  Another localized office space listing service targeted at the consumer (currently serving several major cities with plans for expansion).

This “app” (slang word for web application) caught our eye because search results show up on a Google-type map, which provides immediate visual feedback on the number and type of available office spaces in a particular business district or city block, far more targeted than using zip codes.

Instant gratification in search results rules!

Commercial Real Estate Augmented Reality Search:  This wins coolest concept as far as we are concerned.  Two creative groups teamed up to develop an augmented reality app for locating commercial office space.  Literally point your cell phone camera lens at any office building or even city block, and available commercial space listings with full offering details overlay the view on your screen.

Talk about instant gratification… it couldn’t be easier.

Augmented reality is an up and coming marketing tool that has been around for a while, where a view of a real-world environment is overlaid or augmented with video, graphics, or GPS data. Yelp uses it for restaurant reviews and Airbnb for noncommercial offerings of short term rentals in personal homes, they both use Google Maps on a smart phone or pad. Another example is the GoRecess app (developed by my nephew Billy Arzt) that assists in locating and ranking workout and fitness classes anywhere, anytime.

Speaking of Google Maps… Google has added a floor plan feature enabling brokers, owners, and landlords to showcase the interior of a building.

Ten Eight: This mobile app was designed for tenants and brokers. It rates office buildings and compares scores side by side based on a client’s weighted preferences. Ten Eight strives to convert subjective opinions about buildings into objective data to assist in commercial real estate decision making.

We like the potential it has for providing the kind of third-party, unbiased feedback that can aid and validate a client’s decision making process; and ultimately bring that decision to a close much sooner.

There is little doubt that commercial real estate technology is evolving — putting more up-front information in the hands of the consumer, making the process of buying and leasing commercial real estate more convenient, and incorporating cutting-edge technology to do both.

( Credit To Duke Long & To Macro, Ltd.)

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