Since the invention of the fixed telephone at the end of the 19th century, it has taken 75 years to reach 15 million users. Mobile phones have taken 12 years to reach the same milestone. And the hugely popular augmented reality mobile game Pokémon Go? 19 days.
Now is an extraordinary time as technological innovation is revolutionizing our personal and professional lives at breakneck speed. The commercial real estate industry’s bad reputation as slow adoption is 100% accurate, and those of us who rely on a handshake and our final deal to build their future business portfolio will be left behind if we don’t move with the technology.
According to the Center for Real Estate Technology & Innovation Technology Real Estate Finance Report, private investment in proptech reached $32 billion in 2021, a 28% increase from the previous year. There are currently 8,000 startups targeting commercial real estate with some level of venture capital funding. Proptech creates more efficiency and greater transparency between a broker and its client, changing the corresponding expectations in service delivery. Instead of feeling like technology is threatening long-standing relationships, CRE brokers need to seize the opportunity to be a better, more informed advisor.
Recently, SIOR Global President Robert Thornburgh, SIOR spoke with a group of SIOR Chicago Chapter members and shared his insights on how brokers can embrace this more digital future. Here are five ways he suggested to get started:
5. Know what is happening. If you are not comfortable with proptech, start by familiarizing yourself with companies like Cherre, Juniper Square and VTS. These powerful digital platforms can do things like manage and centralize rental reports, raise investment capital, automate construction operations, and boost digital marketing efforts. The VTS is particularly well adopted with more than 45,000 CRE users.
4. Subscribe to podcasts, newsletters and blogs. There is no end to our industry’s desire to share opinions and trends related to technology. Take it to your advantage! from MIT CRE technical blog is interesting, digestible and linked to everything we do in CRE. American Commercial Real Estate Show is a weekly podcast designed to inform CRE professionals. Connecting with LinkedIn groups specific to CRE technology will give you a constant flow of information.
3. Seek the opinions of young people. If everyone in your organization, project team, or service line is over 40, and you have no connection to millennials and Gen Z workers, your competitive advantage erodes. They have new ideas, question things, and don’t have long-term baggage. Actively seek their opinions and insights and incorporate these insights into your business.
2. Attend technical conferences. This is a largely overlooked opportunity to not only learn technology, but to be where your customers are. Conferences like MIPIM can totally transform your outlook, and with just three or four key points, you’ll be able to connect with your client on a much higher level.
1. Find time for professional development. We’re all busy and devoured by customer requests, but once you find the resources you find most useful, be sure to set aside time each week to devote to them. Take advantage of these learnings and develop an annual business plan for yourself that includes technology as the North Star.
A piece of technology is not going to replace a broker. However, what is here to stay are the expectations regarding the level of sophistication of a broker and the manner in which services are provided. Knowledge of the local market is essential, but to be competitive your personal story must include technology in a meaningful way. Brokers who view technology as a fundamental threat have the most reason to be concerned.
Sam Badger, SIOR
President, SIOR Chicago Chapter