Property management firms use technology to cope with faster-paced nature of the business.
Due to the ever-increasing availability of technology, commercial property management has entered a whole different realm. It’s not just about collecting rent; property management firms must provide a myriad of services to keep tenants and clients happy, and themselves one step ahead of the competition. Firms need to look at an entire property for a client and make recommendations, and remain as active as the client requires in terms of refinancing, repositioning a property or providing financial forecasts. The way to success is to know not only the market and upcoming trends, but to know how to exploit and utilize the latest technology.
Commercial real estate companies are constantly vying for positions to retain and attract clients with new services. For example, CB Richard Ellis offers the Service Direct Advantage, an e-commerce program designed to save tenants time and money on the business products and services they use most. NAI Americana Commercial provides REALTrac and SightRight; the former constitutes an online transaction management system to constantly track the progress of each real estate contract, and the latter is a demographic and business information database combined with site-modeling and mapping applications. Commnercial real estate firms have to be one-stop-shopping sites for their clients. Clients don’t have the time to use different firms for appraisals, architectural and interior design, development and construction, legal services, zoning services, mortgage banking, property sales and global research and consulting and investment management.
At the heart of it, it’s all about time. Not only do services have to be current and upto- date to acquire and use the latest information as quickly as possible, but new services have to be constantly created and reinvented to stay ahead of the competition. “When it comes to technology, there will be two types of commercial real estate brokers in the future,” says Ron McMenemy, broker/manager, NAI Americana, “those who use technology and those who don’t. The measure of success for sales executives will not only be whether they can sell, sell, sell, but how well they adapt and utilize new technologies that come online.”
McMenemy continues, “In conjunction with technology, customer service is key. Our sales executives need to utilize databases and computer programs. They also need to understand the latest technology to have better access to our clients, to track communications better and to follow up on a more timely basis in this ever-increasing, fast-paced market,” he says.
It is not only about attaining the newest in technology, but how you use it, Vicky Lehr, CPM, director, CB Richard Ellis, points out. “‘Technology and customer service go hand-in-hand,” Lehr says. “CB Richard Ellis [CBRE] is working on a lot of different programs, always looking for new ways to implement technology.”
Currently, CBRE is offering owners and tenants, through a partnership with inBuilding Systems Corp., high-speed Internet access touch-screen lobby portals. These Web-enabled portals are not just tenant directories, they’re interactive Internet directories that list site-specific information about tenants and prospective tenants, such as possible vacancies, as well as real-time news, weather, sports scores – anything you would want to put in.
inBuilding Systems, a San Diego-based firm, is a leading provider of broadband Internet services to small and medium-sized businesses in multi-tenant commercial office buildings.
“The four-color graphics and easy-to-use touch-screen portal displays are state-of-the- art,” Lehr says. “By prominently displaying technology on the site, or building, CB Richard Ellis’ comfort with technology speaks for itself. The portals are a tremendous benefit for both building owners and tenants. We have to keep at the forefront of technology because the global real estate market is extremely competitive and becoming more so.” Another asset inBuilding Systems brings to the alliance with CBRE is the Internet access program, which allocates installation and service costs across multiple users, providing commercial tenants with access up to 30 times faster than typical dial-up connections. Advanced high-speed communications hardware is installed in the building at a central point that every tenant can access.
Another way property management companies stay competitive is through forming alliances and providing clients with highly sought-after services only their firm can provide. “CB Richard Ellis teamed with G.E. Capital to provide a global purchasing program that offers owners and tenants superior products at competitive prices,” Lehr says. “These are just some of the programs and services CBRE has developed to distinguish ourselves from the competition,” Lehr adds.
CBRE also offers a master insurance program through JH Marsh McClennen that is only offered to CB Richard Ellis clients. Clients reportedly can save from up to 20 percent to 80 percent on insurance premiums with the same or better coverage they received under previous insurance plans.
CBRE just hosted its 10th annual World Conference. last September. More than 2,000 brokers, managers, directors and clients of CB Richard Ellis attended this year’s event. “The conference is a great networking opportunity to exchange the latest ideas, n says Lehr. “To continue to compete in a global market, we have to continually seek new ways to redefine ourselves.”
To be able to see clearly with so many products coming online, as well as to serve clients in every facet of business, commercial property and asset management, firms must have tremendous financial backing. Competitive firms need sophisticated research and development and a presence in almost every market in the United States, if not the world. To develop reach in every market, firms are building alliances, larger firms are acquiring companies in smaller markets and mega-real estate brokers are being created.
“The future of commercial property management heavily depends on the capability of a firm to do business not only on a local, but a global, basis,” says Christopher McGarey, asset manager for NAI Americana Commercial. “Technology is quickly making the marketplace a global one. The trend for the future is that larger firms will handle a client’s needs in several markets. To be competitive,” McGarey adds, “it was imperative that Americana Commercial become a part of the New America International [NAI) network.”
“The bigger commercial real estate companies will be able to service their clients in all their needs, in several different markets at once,” McGarey predicted. “Another trend is for smaller companies to compete by finding a niche, a highly specialized way of servicing their clients whether it’s in finite, specific, small markets or in a specific service,” McGarey added.
To show just how big both these firms are, CBRE has approximately 10,000 employees worldwide with nearly 250 principal offices in 35 countries. On the other hand, NAI Americana Commercial is a member of New America International, the largest real estate organization in the world. Through its affiliation with NAI, Americana works in conjunction with more than 3,100 real estate agents in more than 300 markets worldwide.
Of course there will be specialists who know the nuances and network of a specific location and only work within the bounds of that location. Others will handle one element of the industry very well. But as the market progresses, property management firms and their clients alike will need to expand and take advantage of growth. Las Vegas, like any other market, is not only unto itself but reacts to the swirl of outside forces and trends. The environment is constantly changing and firms are looking for new and faster ways to service and satisfy their clients.
“I believe NAI Americana Commercial is at the pinnacle of technology,” McGarey says, “because our clients demand it, or they’d go somewhere else. In the past few years the demographics and needs of our clients have changed greatly. Nowadays, most insist on e-mail correspondence on a daily basis, Excel spreadsheets and the like. The pace is much faster and clients need information as quickly as possible.”
Whether in challenging economic conditions or in a time of continuous growth like that currently in the United States, the climate is always complex. Competition always makes the market more difficult, but it also heightens the level of service and quality. Even in such great economic times, conglomerations such as CBRE and NAI Americana Commercial must constantly develop ways to please clients and tenants.
The latest trend is to save time, be everything to everybody, if possible, and still do a better job than you did yesterday.