Technology in Real Estate

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It is difficult to pinpoint what one technological advance made the greatest impact on the good ole, brick-n-mortar and relationship-based real estate industry.

The Internet made access to information easy and universal. As recently as 20 years ago, a handful of commercial firms and a few hundred residential firms controlled 90-plus percent of the real estate sales and rental market in New York. Today, not only do we have Internet advertising available to landlords and any agent, but we have Property Shark, MLS and Google Earth – affordable or free tools that allow many more folks to peek at any neighborhood’s properties without leaving their desk.

I keep hearing stories of fax and paper document exchange limitations of the recent past, where submitting an offer or sharing research between agents and architects, attorneys and tenants took days instead of minutes. Times when driving around the neighborhood block by block (a practice many local tenants continue today) was the only way to see what is available besides hiring a broker.

At a recent real estate conference I attended, a large, international commercial brokerage firm executive spoke about his company’s new way of doing business. A team based approach to servicing nearly every territory and client is necessary, he said, because the amount of information, tools and knowledge demanded by clients is simply impossible for any one broker to deliver at all times. “The old days of lone wolf broker who controlled the whole neighborhood is over” he stated boldly.

Technology and globalization of assets changed the game too much for any one broker to be able to service his clients based on “street cred” and relationships alone. Add mobile computers, cell phones, electronic measuring tools (size, humidity, radioactivity, noise levels, etc.) and ever-more powerful and flexible calculation programs, and figuring out even the most complex lease structures or projecting expenses over 10-year lease has become not only easier, but often expected by landlords and tenants alike. Certain commercial brokerage professional designations, such as SIOR or CCIM, actually demand that the agent be proficient in very complex financial modeling based on Excel, and able to provide detailed research on properties and neighborhoods to clients. Without the tools technology invented only in the past 25 years, the number of real estate professionals able to deliver such high level of service to clients would have been simply impossible. Makes me appreciate those who came before me… How in the world did they ever do this job without GPS, computers and cell phones?