Almost a decade ago a CRE tech panel was discussing client portals which, at the time, were the “must have” app for cutting edge brokerages. So they were clunky and no one really liked or used them. The important thing was that CRE owned them. As one of the panelists warned, if the industry doesn’t take control of the transaction process, then the owners will.
I thought that would be great since I’d already had some experience with assignments where the client company dictated the transaction process. Even though we had a spiffy transaction portal at the time they wanted things done their way. Like the GIANT “status update” spreadsheet we had to put online for one multiple property assignment. At the time, that wasn’t so easy but we worked out a hack.
Yes, I’d be glad see clients conform to what the brokerage offered. No more customization or crude hacks. But as the years went by, few clients used the portal and even fewer had a portal or process of their own. The emailed attachments, phone calls – everyone seemed perfectly happy with that.
But things are starting to change. Commercial real estate transaction apps old and new are being marketed to owners. And this time, some owners are actually biting. That means more and more owners will be asking agents and brokerages to use their systems for transaction management.
These new platforms are more than just a message board, file storage and a project timeline, though. They include property and tenant data, listings, lease and income analysis, stack plans – all sorts of useful stuff in a slick package. And much of it the same data that brokerages want in their own systems.
Unfortunately, few integrate with brokerage transaction/accounting systems or existing property management software – and certainly not with the spreadsheets that so many brokerages use for transaction management. So it means agents will be entering the same data in brokerage systems and client apps.
If you think the answer is for the brokerage to own the app, think again. Owners will catch on pretty quickly that if they leave the brokerage they also leave all that data you have about their property. So they’re going to want to own the app. At best, both the brokerage and client have the app installed and each one can “talk” to the other. But so far all I’ve seen is an export (to Excel, of course) feature which means CRE is stuck in the “sneaker-net” loop.
Remember those OSCRE data standards that were supposed to keep the CRE industry from getting into messes like this? I guess app developers aren’t listening. Maybe someone can develop “intermediary” software that maps and moves data from one system to another. Someone probably already has – just not for CRE systems.
All this innovation is great but so short-sighted. Why wouldn’t developers think of this data problem? I don’t know if it’s because they’re thinking too one-sided towards the agent or owners or they don’t truly understand that islands of data are not good in the age of big data. When the auto industry implemented electronic transactions, they created software for themselves and all their vendors with two way data transmission. Then again, the auto industry is considered a technology leader –not a laggard like CRE. With apps like these, it looks like CRE will be keeping that title for a while.