By Erik Dolan-Del Vecchio
No real estate market in the U.S. is more competitive than New York, and no commercial brokers are more tech-enabled than New York real estate pros.
From drones to databases, modern tech tools and information services proliferate in this market. The evidence is everywhere across New York City’s boroughs and into Northern New Jersey and Connecticut.
Interviews with top-performing commercial real estate brokers in the New York area reveal some common threads, starting with the fact that they all use specialized software to manage their customer, prospect and property information, and to varying degrees their transaction pipelines.
Harnessing Database Software to Track People and Properties
Andrew Levine, co-founder of broker-owned Invictus Property Advisors in Manhattan, is an avid user of commercial real estate software Apto. His team’s history of buyers, acquisition criteria and properties is stored in the system, which is a relational database for prospecting, maintaining data and deal management.
Levine particularly appreciates the deal-tracking dashboard in Apto, which has “more of a visual feel to it,” he says. “We can see properties on a map and in relation to people, including what they may own or what neighborhoods or properties they may be interested in.”
The integration of people and property data is key to getting the most out of the software,” Levine says, as is sharing information across teams, which keeps everyone up to date and minimizes duplicative data entry.
Tapping Public and Private Data Sources Levels the Playing Field
Another hallmark of top-performing brokers in the market is the extent to which they leverage information available from public and private sources on buildings, ownership and mortgage debt. Open-source data is easily accessible from many from local governments. Private services that provide information for a fee include Reonomy, Actovia, PropertyShark, CoStar and ThinkEmpire.
The widespread availability of data has been game-changing in the last several years, Levine says. On the one hand, it’s a great equalizer in that virtually everyone can access a high level of data. On the other hand, it pushes brokers to differentiate themselves by having sharper perspectives on the market and elevating their level of service, including the speed and reach with which they execute deals.
Still, other brokers say that there’s no substitute for proprietary data, which they maintain gives them a competitive edge, particularly in niche markets.
Sarah Jones-Maturo, president of RM Friedland based in Westchester County, notes that since her firm was founded in 1970, a key market has been the Bronx, which is “still largely unchartered territory,” she says. “We have 50 years of on the street knowledge of the Bronx and other submarkets, below the radar of institutions. One of our differentiators is our data. But we use third-party software to make our data work even harder for us.”
Maurice Suede, a director in the investment sales group of Cushman & Wakefield, agrees. He relies on a variety of technology to be competitive, including automated marketing, virtual tours and 3-D diagrams, Cushman’s retail database, which he calls “second to none,” and Apto database software in which he maintains client relationship data sorted by interest and geographic location and property data with ownership information. “With a powerful database of investors, owners and properties, we’re able to access more buyers, see the benefits of properties, better understand the market and help clients value properties.”
Automating Offering Memorandums and Other Property Marketing
Top-performing commercial brokers in the New York area also use cutting-edge technology to market property, be it email marketing software services such as Constant Contact that integrate with their customer relationship management software, or Buildout, which creates marketing materials and streamlines the listing process, including the distribution of listing information.
Venice Sacco, marketing manager for Northeast Private Client Group, whose regional office represents sellers in New York and Connecticut, uses LoopNet and CoStar for marketing and prospecting and Buildout to produce marketing proposals and offering memoranda. Data in Buildout can populate those documents, as well as emails for marketing campaigns and the company website.
All this technology and information helps brokers perform at a higher level, but do the brokers’ clients benefit? The answer is yes, and it’s becoming more apparent to clients every day, Levine says. “Anytime a client hires a broker he or she first and foremost wants a certain level of experience. But the client also is aware that to the extent a broker leverages technology, it only helps the sales process. Anything that saves time for broker benefits the client.”
That includes identifying the right buyer or tenant faster, getting to close faster and with fewer bumps, and helping clients make the best pricing and location decisions based on highly accurate comps and superfine demographic data that they can access and sort in an instant.
Photo top by Emir Memedovski