Brokers have always been seen as tech-averse, clinging to their Rolodexes and file cabinets rather than adopting the digital world. This has become far from the case. Brokers now have to be masters a number of disparate databases and software applications just to do your job properly. They have to be able to create marketing material, research and analyze large amounts of data and handle huge volumes of emails. The modern broker is only as good as their tech stack and the best brokers have theirs honed to a razor’s edge.
The good news is, technology is only getting better, eliminating the inefficiencies by centralizing like features in well-designed interfaces. As these platforms evolve, so too will the industry. The number of new firms entering the PropTech space will only add to the already competitive landscape but they often make the choice a lot harder for brokers and landlords trying to understand what works best for their business.
Things have been good for the commercial real estate industry over the last ten years but the time is now to figure out how to increase efficiency with technology. Many economists and commercial real estate pundits have been opining for the last two years on when the next market correction will happen. Given that sales and leasing transactions nationally have been slowing over the last few years and that the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) forecasts a slowdown in GDP in 2020, it’s apparent we are moving down the curve. Waiting any longer to figure out the best processes for a real estate business might be a huge mistake. Rainy days are often not the best time to fix your house.
At Truss, we have created the largest commercial real estate marketplace for small to medium-sized business owners. We have a good vantage point of the way brokers do business as we see many of them use our Truss CRE online marketplace and brokerage tools. Here are a few notable PropTech platforms that stand out as being preferred by either our brokers or other colleagues in the industry. Together they form a starter pack that can be built onto depending on each broker’s needs.
For brokers, the latest intelligence about market fundamentals is extremely valuable. Yardi Matrix contains property-level data for multi-family, industrial, self-storage, and office across the country. Because of its granularity, a broker can do both micro and macro analyses – business owners expect that their brokers be subject matter experts, so this is one service that helps them track changes in the market. It includes a great deal of data including loan information, ownership, property sale and lease information, and supply inventory.
Many CRE firms stopped offering property marketing as a service years ago, it’s labor-intensive and the deliverables can be difficult to assemble. Buildout is a platform that offers a number of services and marketing products such as proposals, brochures, flyers, and offering memorandums. They have in-house designers that help you create unique documents that are branded with your company’s information.
They also provide a Property Inventory Plugin that you can place on your company’s website that displays the property listings you are marketing. Once a listing is in Buildout, the property’s information automatically updates on your website in real-time. The Property Inventory Plugin also directs your clients to individual property websites that highlight listing overviews, documents, photos, and maps. On these sites, clients can access promotional materials through Buildout’s document-sharing feature. Through this, you can attach documents, for example, an electronic confidentiality agreement, and track user activity. Combined this turns your website into an efficient lead-generation tool.
Many property owners in the past knew little about their tenants. Typically, they would react to issues their tenants had and only gather information about them anecdotally. Given that tenants in many markets now have more leasing options, being proactive about their contentment has become very important.
Most property owners want to lengthen tenants’ stay time with the right mix of amenities and space design. It has become very important that their experiences and opinions be known. HqO realized this and created a platform that focuses on tenant experiences and engagement. Their site collects and uses data to understand how tenants are interacting with a property and how to improve their experiences. The site also optimizes communications among property-management team members.
With HqO, you can have an ongoing dialog with your tenants and capture all of the information that will make their day more convenient and productive. Things like transit data, emergency information, local retail deal and on-site amenities can all be seamlessly pushed to the end-users of the building. With this data, you can design an environment that provides all the features and services they expect.
There are several customer service management software offerings, but Apto was developed specifically for commercial real estate brokers. It allows them to maintain their lists of contacts and the information that supports their book of business including sales and lease comparables, property information such as stacking plans, listings, and notes about client and prospect interactions. Apto stores this information in the cloud so you can access it from any device, anywhere.
Decentralized communications can slow decision-making and make keeping in touch difficult. Slack has created a product that allows you to communicate with your colleagues, individuals and teams, in a single place. You can share files and have a permanent record of the conversations and decision making.
In Slack, you work in channels that makes communications across departments easy and fast from any device. Slack eliminates the need for separate communications and file-sharing tools.
Touring a property or building can absorb a lot of time and effort. Matterport offers 3D virtual reality videos that allow you to “tour” spaces from anywhere – you can navigate around the space and “look” in any direction. The imagery is created using special cameras and can be viewed on desktop computers or mobile devices. This technology has a number of uses including construction and marketing a space or property.
These companies represent, in my mind, the very first step to creating a broker tech stack. Every broker has their own preferences on the way they do business. These preferences are reflected in the technology that they adopt. Obviously, no two tech stacks, like no two brokerages, are the same. But these tools represent a baseline that can then be expanded. If you are going to keep up with the technologically advanced competition that is starting to gobble up market share, you need to start somewhere and this is a great place to start.