Some commercial real estate brokers consider technology a necessary evil or, worse, an impediment to productivity.
Not Steven Buss. He’s head of the capital markets group for JLL in Minneapolis, where he and his team facilitate all manner of office and multifamily investment sales and acquisitions.
Buss, formerly with CBRE, makes technology work for him. In fact, he makes it work hard.
He uses Apto, the commercial real estate broker software, to manage his pipeline of clients, prospects, properties and deal information.
“Your pipeline is your life,” Buss says. “With Apto, I connect things together — people and properties, owners and properties, buyers and listings. That’s the foundational part of doing business. I can look at conversations and information and see my history with people, including what they’ve invested in, and what they liked and didn’t like about different opportunities we presented to them.”
From all this information, Buss nets out “higher probability prospects,” those investors most likely to be interested in a deal or, in the case of a prospective seller, who he should be contacting because he’s identified the decisionmaker connected to the property.
One of the reasons Buss chose Apto to manage people and property information is because the software integrates with Real Capital Markets, an online platform that aggregates institutional-quality listed properties and document management for the marketing period and sale of investment real estate.
“Real Capital Markets Virtual Deal Rooms make life easier for the people you’re doing business with… buyers of clients’ properties,” Buss says.
“Reducing friction in their life frees up time for them, and for you to talk to clients about markets and deals.”
Buss uploads prospect lists from Apto to RCM and uses RCM for broad electronic distribution of documents. Records update in Apto to reflect who opened a property email, signed a confidentiality agreement and reviewed an offering memorandum or other deal documentation.
Buss notes that JLL is now implementing a proprietary system for managing and maintaining pipeline information.
A faster “on-ramp” to expose properties in the market and share information with buyers
Cameron Peterson, a senior advisor at SVN l Northco Real Estate Services in Minneapolis, also uses technology, including online information services, to propel his practice forward.
Peterson’s firm leads the national golf and resort properties group for SVN in the United States.
For property marketing, his team creates and updates marketing brochures using Buildout, which generates a website and offering packages for every property, and provides a forum to share information electronically with confidentiality. “The on-ramp to get people documents and get sign-offs is really fast now,” Peterson says.
With Buildout, Peterson’s team can syndicate listings to multiple platforms in real time, exposing properties widely in short order. He cites CREXi, the relatively new online marketplace for sale and lease properties, as a notable source of leads for his practice.
SVN l Northco also provides CoStar with updated property availability information on a regular basis. CoStar is the most widely used real estate information service in the United States.
Technology as the “great equalizer” between large and small firms
Standard Commercial is a boutique investment sales and tenant rep brokerage in the Twin Cities, handing assignments for corporate office and industrial users and sales that are mostly under $20 million.
Harrison Wagenseil, principal, says, “Technology has been the great equalizer. It allows us to compete for more business and leverage resources but be more nimble than larger firms.”
On a daily basis, Wagenseil uses CoStar, REDIComps and various marketing platforms, including LoopNet, RCM, CREXi and Brevitas. For marketing materials, his firm often turns to Buildout to create more standardized collateral, and partners with local advertising and digital design companies to produce custom marketing with a variety of aesthetics suited to individual property marketing needs.
With technology, including new online tools and information services, Wagenseil says, his firm can “cast a wider net and tell a more accurate story to a more targeted audience.”
“At the end of the day, technology helps, but fundamentally the broker’s value proposition is still the same: to create a market for an asset.”