Stephen Rutchik went paperless when he joined Colliers International 1 ½ years ago. That’s big deal for a broker in the commercial real estate field, an industry that has historically lagged behind others on the digital front. Colliers has begun to fill the disconnected line between the commercial real estate industry and technology. The fourth-largest real estate brokerage in the nation joins global companies CBRE Inc., JL.L and Cushman & Wakefield in what agents describe as a speedy digitization of a traditionally old- school industry. Companies large and small are placing a priority on software upgrades.
Rutchik and his South Florida team were early adopters of View the Space, or VTS, a cloud-based leasing and asset management platform. Both property owners and brokers have access to VTS, which allows them to manage property from any device 24 hours a day.
Colliers also uses similar software called Hightower to streamline reporting and communication among its brokers and clients. On Hightower, agency brokers instantly share updates like new lease deals and property tours with clients on the collective platform.
“It’s about getting more time with your clients and spending less time at your desks.” Rutchik said.
Now that information is easily accessible on both platforms, the Miami-based broker said he no longer needs to call his team members every morning and ask, “What happened yesterday?”
Blanca Commercial Real Estate uses Hightower across its entire portfolio,(JLL’s Alan Kleber is amazed at the speed of tech transition in the real estate industry and the focus on innovation. one of the first companies in Miami to do so, said chief marketing officer Diana Pubchara, who advises on the company’s tech initiatives. The company manages over 25 buildings with the software and gives landlords complimentary access. Pubchara applauds the company’s adoption because it has helped boost Blanca’s market intelligence. She said Hightower streamlines communication between brokers and clients, tracks building performance and helps identify trends. If several law firms have signed leases or are touring space in a particular market, the software picks up on that and hands over the data to its users.
Brokers who were at first hesitant quickly embraced Hightower, Pucbchara said.
“They like the comfort of being able to do it from their phone, “she said. “ Aside from logging tours they can share floor plans and spaces with other brokers. It makes the exchanging of information so easy. They get hooked on it once they start using it.”
Leading the commercial real estate realm in high-tech investment are brokerage giants JL.L. and Cushman & Wakefield, which have spent large sums adapting to the newest software and creating proprietary technology
“It is very amazing how quickly the business has transformed and how organization like JL.L are focusing on technology and innovation, ”said Alan Kleber, who became a managing director at J.L.L’s Miami office when the company acquired Cresa South Florida late last year.
Kleber left Cushman & Wakefield to join the smaller Cresa in 2011. The Broker said “his jaw hit the floor” when he joined JL.L. four years later. He Said it’s almost “mind-blogging” how quickly the company is “involving into a tech savvy real estate services organization.”
The industry has realized that different results are achieved when data is leveraged to inform brokers and client, he said. And that data is now available anytime at your fingertips.
“It’s too important to not innovate and evolve. Kleber said.
JL.L launched its own innovation team to sift through the latest and greatest, and began acquiring tech companies, he said. The company recently purchased BRG, which helps companies successfully integrate new technology systems, and Silicon Valley-based Corrigo Inc..,a web-based facility management software.
Both JL.L and Cushman also have invested heavily to develop their own proprietary technology.
Kleber is Most excited about Blackbird, a JL.L-created tool that gives clients a virtual 3-D tour of individual markets while visually integrating relevant data points for prospective buyers, landlords and tenant.
“Think of Google Earth on Steroids with lots of real estate data,” the broker said.
Meanwhile at Cushman & Wakefield, brokers operate on the company’s own web portal coined Fusion. Mark Paterman, a director at the company’s West Palm Beach office, pointed out the new tools are only as good as the data entered by brokers.
“The more we rely on technology, the more accurate data should be,”Paterman said. Paterman predicts mega-partnerships will form between fledgling businesses like Hightower and long-established customer relationship management or CRM, systems like Salesforce.com. Ultimately everything will merge onto one collective CRM platform, he said. If those partnerships crystallize, very broker in the country could one day be looking at same screen.
The vast availability of online data has heightened competition in a notoriously competitive business, especially with the rise of virtual marketplace like LoopNet.
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Which give owners the ability to list properties for sale without broker. LoopNet-like platform are making it easier for building owners to sell directly, said Greg Matus, regional managing partner with Franklin Street. Tamp-based Franklin Street tracks LoopNet listing on a daily basis. Rather than wait for an owner to contact the company, he approaches sellers listing properties on the site, saying, “We’d like to market this property for you, We have a buyer.”
“Because of technology, it’s easier now for investors to cut a broker out of transaction, “Matus said. “ But smart clients understand that a good broker will add value to a transaction. That’s why groups like [Ten-X] don’t market property without a good broker.”
Ten-X is an online marketplace that partners with brokers to market their listing nationwide. Formerly known as Auction.com, the Irvine, California-based company is dominating the online real estate transaction arena.
“We’re positioned between the seller, the brokers and the buyers in the market,” said Justin Latorre, vice president of business development in Florida. When Matus scores a listing, he shares it with Ten-x, which markets the property to its expansive audience. Ten-X does everything a broker would traditionally do to market a property but on wide scale. The company also underwrites the deal and completes an environmental assessment and property condition report and it’s all done online. Matus said connecting with out -of-state buyers interested in his clients’ properties is easier than ever before. At times, the relationship between and online platform like Ten-X and brokerages gets characterized as competitive, but Latorre said that’s not the case. “we’re not replacing brokers. “ he said. “We’re re-enabling more transparency in the market for sellers, buyers and brokers.”
LoopNet-like platforms are making it easier for building owners to sell directly, said Greg Matus, regional managing partner with Franklin Street.
Every piece of real estate is different, so Ten-X highly leverages brokers for their local market knowledge. While brokerages are evloling into data-driven machines to stave off competition, brokers say relationships are still key. Because at end of the day, a client will always look beyond the data for behind- the-curtain information, said Paterman, the Cushman & Wakefield brokers. For example, an investor eyeing an office building will want to know if law firm occupying the top floor will stay or go when the lease expires in five year.
“Technology can’t tell you that, “Paterman said, But an agent who has spoken to the firm’s junior partners can. A mobile app also can’t negotiate lease terms between a landlord and tenant with competing interests. “I get that a broker’s job can become more commoditized,” he said. “But there’s a part of the job that I don’t [think] can be done by software-yet.”
Contact Carla Vianna at email@example.com. On Twitter:@CarlaOVianna