Measuring Your Techno-Prowess

In the constant battle to keep up-to-date with technology, real estate professionals often wonder how they and their companies rate against their peers. A new survey by Price Waterhouse for the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) answers many of those questions.

The 1998 Real Estate Technology survey queried commercial real estate professionals who are members of CRE, Urban Land Institute, Pension Real Estate Association, National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, and International Association of Corporate Real Estate Executives. The survey revealed several trends about real estate-related technologies.

Internet Use. Real estate professionals most often use the Internet to send e-mail, which 88 percent of respondents are doing. But the majority of respondents (78 percent) use the Internet less than five hours a week. They most often are on-line for e-mail (63 percent) and research (61 percent). Just 7 percent use it to buy or sell properties, 16 percent to list properties, and 16 percent to generate leads.

The Internet is making their research easier. Survey respondents reported that they now can find everything from stock quotes to demographic data to mortgage rates on-line.

Hardware. The typical real estate pro uses a desktop computer with a Pentium chip (84 percent), a CD-ROM drive (81 percent), a modem (72 percent), and a color printer (66 percent). However, two-thirds also said they use laptop computers. Nearly 60 percent currently use a scanner, and about another 5 percent plan to purchase one.

Real estate pros are finding that digital cameras make them more efficient. More than 30 percent either currently use one or plan to purchase one in the next 12 months.

Operating Systems. Most survey respondents, 81 percent, use Windows 95 or Office 97 operating systems, while just 33 percent use Windows 3.1, 22 percent use DOS systems, and 6 percent use Mac OS. One-third say they use a combination of PC platforms, with 70 percent of Mac OS users also using a PC platform.

Nearly 35 percent of real estate pros work on a network system. Most of them (19 percent) use Windows NT.

Productivity Tools. Respondents use a variety of software tools to make their jobs easier. Nearly all use or plan to buy word-processing or spreadsheet software. More than 80 percent use or plan to buy presentation graphics software.

With the help of multimedia and desktop publishing, real estate pros are developing more sophisticated reports using geographic information systems (GIS) and statistical analysis tools to supplement their reports with graphics. Most of this software reportedly is purchased off-the-shelf or developed from standard software packages in-house.

Software increasingly is being integrated into computer-purchasing decisions, rather than being made independent of hardware decisions, the report indicates. The ability to download new software fixes, versions, and upgrades over the Internet is making the software update process simpler.

Business Management Tools. The most-used business management software is scheduling/calendar systems (64 percent), with accounts payable/receivable systems following closely behind at 60 percent. More than half of respondents also report using contact management software and nearly 50 percent use billing software.

For more information or to order a copy of the report for $25, contact CRE at (312) 329-8422 or http://www.cre.org/.

Catherine A. Simpson

Catherine A. Simpson is editor and publisher of the Commercial Investment Real Estate Journal.