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How Automation is Taking the Pain Out of Commercial Property Leasing

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On its surface, commercial real estate is a simple business. Decide between buying or building a building, then find tenants, sign leases, rinse and repeat. But in reality, there is so much more to it than that. Not only is there a nearly endless list of things that can and will go wrong with a building, leasing a building has its own complications. Marketing a space, meeting with prospects, entering into an agreement, negotiating terms, and executing a contract all have their own pitfalls. To make matters worse, the leasing process has always been a difficult, time-consuming one that requires multiple full-time professionals to accomplish well. But now, landlords and property managers are using technology to find ways to streamline and even automate parts of the leasing process. The investment required to build out the ability to automate leasing can quickly pay off with savings in time and an increase in revenue. 

In the era of fast-paced deal-making, automation is key for capturing opportunities and closing the most advantageous leases. For example, Macerich, (an owner, operator, and developer of retail and mixed-use properties across the U.S.), launched a digital platform that provides tenants with the flexibility to lease short-term spaces, do their research online, and even tour spaces virtually. Quikspace, powered by CommercialEdge Marketing and Deal Manager, is a short-term retail solution that leverages automation to streamline the entire leasing process and simplifies the deal cycle by making it as easy as booking a hotel room.

One thing that complicates the commercial leasing process is the size of the teams needed to accomplish it. Multiple agents are usually working simultaneously on a deal, and often, there is more than one brokerage involved. Connecting these teams is difficult when they are all using different systems. Landlords use lease management software to help create continuity, reduce errors, and speed up the process. Good software should be easy to use and should work on smartphones and tablets since many brokers use those when doing tours and site visits.

The internet has changed the way property is leased forever. In some ways, it has made the process so much easier as it has allowed agents to market to every person with an internet connection. But it also has complicated things in other ways. As more listing sites popped up, agents began to need to log into and navigate multiple portals to list their property. This is being solved by syndication software that automatically pushes information and marketing material to all listing sites simultaneously. These kinds of automations can save time and ensure that leasing teams are casting the widest net possible for their listings.

Leasing is a relationship-based process. Building these relationships takes time and consistent contact. Reaching out and following up with clients is much easier with technology. There are plenty of ways to draft, schedule, and send communications in a way that is both personalized and automated. There is always a limit to how many clients one salesperson can follow up with consistency. Tech-savvy leasing agents are using automation to increase that number and stay top of mind for more prospects more often. 

Brokers are notoriously busy, they only get paid on deals that they close, so they are not always enthusiastic about spending time doing data entry. For leasing software to work best, all of a client’s wants, needs, and interactions need to be recorded. Software that connects email, calendars, phone calls, and meeting notes can go a long way to helping brokers do more with their time. As most leasing teams work on multiple platforms simultaneously, there is also a lot of time that can be saved by using software that syncs all of them automatically. When communicating with landlords, software can also help brokers calculate Net Effective Rent by subtracting any concessions or rent reductions to the lease totals. 

We are still just at the forefront of technology-driven process automation in leasing. There is plenty more that software and hardware can do to make the leasing process less complicated and provide more valuable data for occupiers, brokers, and landlords alike. Keeping up with the innovation happening in leasing means investing in technology. A recent JLL report shows that 59 percent of respondents say they either do not regularly capture/report real estate data or that they do so only intermittently. That number looks likely to change as 45 percent of the people that took the survey aim to accelerate investment in technologies to optimize their workplace. Smart software has been shown to be effective in boosting productivity so it is no surprise that there is a rush to invest in this kind of technology for leasing teams, who often have more leads to chase than time to chase them.

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