Uber for Commercial Real Estate?

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Not long ago computers were a hindrance, not a help to commercial real estate brokerage. They stopped people from making cold calls and doing deals. Stopped them from doing the things that resulted in relationships, and results for clients.

Many of us late Gen Xers aimed for a Commercial Brokerage that was as heavy on results as the best big brokerages, and more efficient than the most efficient internet companies. I’m proud to say NAI Northern California is today on the cutting edge and extremely unique in categories such as technology, culture and collaboration, training, and efficiency, but we’re still maybe 70% old economy, 30% new economy.

Other commercial agents and brokerages cut out the old economy model of brokerage, relying on social media, landing pages, and email blasts only to sell properties, before confirming if the technology was ready. In general, we have a word for them: poor.

We all know there are robots today that can drive cars better and safer than any of us. Hopefully you’ve come to grips with the fact that Uber only needs humans for the next decade or so until they can cut this most inefficient and expensive part of their service out in favor of a fleet of almost human free robot cars.

Many claim that this same thing is soon to happen to commercial brokerage. That social media, cloud based solutions and automated clearing houses would render commercial brokerages superfluous. Some day they probably will, but it looks to be a very long time from now. One of the closest today might be Real Capital Markets. They seem to have cornered an admirable piece of the $10M sales transaction management market. Similarly, we have Costar for Data, and Loopnet(owned by Costar) for listings. But they’re still tools brokers use, not a completely new and efficient way of doing business.

On the flipside, there are tech companies like CompStak very slowly trying to intrude on Costar’s borderline monopoly, View the Space, and others, but they don’t seem to have any aspirations of actually serving a brokerage function. 42 Floors was the only company interested in straddling both sides of the fence. That just ended.

This admirably forward-looking Real Estate Tech company lays off 14 brokers to abandon the only part of their business that was somewhat conventional and focus on the part of their business that is relatively unadulterated tech/internet.

My guess is that we’re a ways off from even a Redfin for Commercial. Let alone a complete replacement, so hopefully you love you broker. If not, give me a call, and I’ll try to introduce you to an advisor you’ll love.

In the meantime, we’ll have to look for, welcome, and embrace those incremental disruptions that bring increased transparency, efficiency, and value to the services we provide our clients, or face the prospect of being disrupted out of a job by the more forward-thinking next generation advisors.

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