Technology Solutions

Truly, Madly, Deeply Mobile

New CRE platforms facilitate a truly mobile office.

Newer, powerful technology streamlines processes that used to take hours to collect from multiple sources. Some new products allow commercial real estate professionals to view their client files, property listings, and presentations on their smartphones and tablets anywhere and anytime.

VTS is one platform that is savings users plenty of time. Before VTS, Albert Livingston, CCIM, used Excel spreadsheets to compile biweekly reports on his team's leasing pipeline.

“Now I pull up the VTS program and slice and dice the portfolio by submarket and by city, and all the information is in one place,” says Livingston, national director of asset management and a partner at TerraCap in Tampa, Fla. “In my office, all of the brokers and accounting team update building data into this program. I can see real-time rent rolls, pull up lease abstracts, evaluate the rollover by year, and find out what industries tenants are in, and the strata of deals in our leasing pipeline. The data is all in one format, it's easier to digest, and it saves a ton of time.”

Livingston installed the VTS app on his smartphone, so a text message pops up when one of his team brokers is touring a building with a prospective client. “VTS has improved my interaction with the leasing team by 100 percent,” he says. “The mobile app allows all of us to pull the data in real time.”

Managing 3.5 million square feet of property, Livingston now has instant access to data that he cannot remember off the top of his head.

One-Stop Shopping

Another new platform, Workspace, also helps commercial real estate professionals be more effective in their careers. “Workspace creates collaboration and transparency by serving as one portal for the property management group,” says Shane Froman, vice president of property management at Lincoln Property Co. in Atlanta. “It contains modules for asset management, leasing, accounting, and property valuations all in one system for one-stop shopping.”

Previously, Froman and his team used multiple systems, including VTS for leasing, Angus software for systems, AvidXchange for accounts payable, and MRI for accounting. While his team continues to use MRI, Workspace replaces the other programs.

“The cost is less than paying for multiple systems,” Froman says. “Through its efficiency, the teams can be more customer-oriented.” Also, on his iPad, he can locate and find everything at his fingertips wherever he roams.

On the Move

On the other hand, Nick Miner, CCIM, uses the RealNex system and app for client relationship management. “The new app allows me to access all the data, giving me the ability to be more mobile,” says Miner, senior vice president at Orion Investment Real Estate in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Previously, he had tried Act!, CoStar ARES 2000, and Realhound. Miner made the move to RealNex, which was previously REA, because he thought it was more stable and robust than other CRM programs.

“You have to take the time to learn the system,” Miner says. “And you also have to take a step back and figure out your personal workflow.”

When he travels, Miner can maintain his office on the road with just his iPhone and iPad. “As an investment broker, it's important to have this data at my fingertips,” he says. “I can email and return calls on a property wherever I am.”

As a CCIM senior instructor, Tom Bothen, CCIM, has to be organized when he is on the road teaching. For his business, he uses LoopNet extensively when he is seeking properties for clients to buy or lease. For more research details, Bothen searches CoStar for specific and detailed property information.

For market analysis and creating client presentations, he uses the BAO portion of CCIM's Site To Do Business. For aerial maps to use for market analysis, Bothen turns to Google Earth.

Using Google Earth, he recently looked at all the buildings for sale in Chicago's CBD close to the building his firm was selling. Next door to the building, Bothen saw a computer data storage facility that could be a potential buyer. His call to the company turned into negotiations to buy the building.

“I figured this out in three minutes instead of traveling downtown and walking around,” says Bothen, director of investment analytics at One Chicago Realty in Oak Brook, Ill. “With all these tools, in an hour I can do what used to take days to accomplish. The accuracy of the information is much better.”

Sara S. Patterson

Sara S. Patterson is former executive editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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