From start to finish, technology can make financing, marketing, leasing and positioning a property easier than ever, but few in the industry are using technology to its full potential. To combat that, NAIOP is devoting a sizable amount of time and space to the subject at its Annual Conference and Marketplace, which is being held Oct. 23-25 at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto and is being co-sponsored by NREI.
One-stop shopping for financing on the Internet?
David Weissman, founder of REdirect, a web site that offers - free of charge - a database of commercial real estate lenders (and a database of debt and equity sources planned, as well), says that finding financing can be easier than ever before with a visit to the Internet, and he will be speaking on the subject in NAIOP's Technology Park.
"In real estate, as in any business, people trade on two commodities: relationships and information," he says.
"You get business because you know more than your competition," Weissman says, contending that, "if you can make the fight fair," by accumulating as much information as possible, then those who specialize in building relationships will have room to excel.
"I want to put all the information people need in one place," Weissman says. In addition to providing direct links to lenders' web sites or E-mail, if they have them, REdirect also provides links to several industry associations, and he's seeking other business-oriented sites to which he can link.
"I've had people say they found lenders they didn't know about," Weissman says. "My goal was to get the industry educated about the net so people will have more time to do deals," he adds. "Whether you like it or not, it's the way real estate is going. Either get on the bandwagon or be prepared to be blown away."
Once financing is secured for a property, it's time to market it, and that can be accomplished from the comfort of your own PC as well, with the help of a good home page.
A home page is "a window into a site, a first impression," according to Lester Steinfeld, president of WideNet Communications, New York, who will give tips on developing a home page in Technology Park.
Want an opportunity to try out the latest in hardware and software? Come visit "Technology Park," an ongoing technology training lab designed especially for commercial real estate professionals that will be new this year at NAIOP '96 Annual Conference and Marketplace.
The high-tech center, with a dozen computers available for hands-on experience, will be the site of the third of the meeting's three educational tracks: Track 1 being Finance & Development, Track 2 being Marketing & Leasing and Track 3 being Technology.
Sessions planned for Technology Park include:
* "Surfing the NAIOP Home Page,"
* "Using On-Line Technologies to Market Your Properties,"
* "Developing and Launching Your Company Home Page: Tips From a Pro,"
* "Using the Internet to Finance Properties" and
* "Adding Value to Your Property Through Technology." Additional sessions will feature real estate software demonstrations, and there will be free time for attendees to practice what they've learned.
Another feature sure to draw plenty of interest will be the futuristic CyberCafe! coffee kiosk, open all three days at Technology Park. In addition to a cup of coffee and a place to relax, CyberCafe! will provide attendees free E-mail and Internet access.
"The old paradigm isn't going to work anymore," says Torryn Brazell, NAIOP's assistant vice president of education. "This will be a dynamic meeting room. We're trying to make it fun."
"I'm hearing of transactions that are starting on the web," Steinfeld says, "and more and more brokers are putting listings out there." If your competitors are on the web and you aren't, he notes, they'll have a leg up on you, and investors will start asking, "Why aren't you?"
Developing a home page is neither expensive nor difficult, according to Steinfeld. "We can do something pretty nice for under $2,000 per year, including management. Desirable sites are quick to download, colorful and do not have too much verbiage, he says. In addition, the ideal web site has interactive features and is kept up-to-date."
"For some companies, it's a whole new ballpark," Steinfeld says. "They'll create a site and leave it incomplete or change their mind. They would never do that in another medium - like a print ad - it leaves a bad impression."
One solution that Steinfeld advocates is Realty Mall, a virtual mall on the web (http://www.realtymall.com). From this site, users can jump to other commercial real estate-related Internet locations.
Steinfeld offers this observation about the increasing use of the Internet: "When we started about a year ago, we used to get most of our E-mail on weekends. Now it's during the week. It's become less of a gimmick, and it's used more in day-to-day business. The more companies get on it, the more necessary it will be for others."
After their space is leased, landlords must consider how their customers' technology needs can impact the value of their property.
"This is the first time the issue has popped up with landlords," says Ward Bordeaux of Cypress Communications in Atlanta, and another scheduled Technology Park speaker, "but they have not had time to devote to communications and technology issues." In the past, they haven't had to.
"Given the monopolistic environment, it hasn't been an issue," he says, but due to recent deregulation, competing providers want to have availability to access tenants, which has forced landlords to address these issues.
"Landlords typically have been playing defense," Bordeaux says. "Now, some are starting to retain third parties to help devise a strategy, but most have yet to develop a strategy."
Bordeaux points out that landlords can either devise a strategy internally, with existing folks, or use external resources, but he adds that a landlord would almost have to have a full-time staff to sort through the confusing technical issues, so many are outsourcing this job to communications consultants.
What issues will landlords need to address? Bordeaux says that two major questions they will have to face are which service providers will have access to the property, and how much to charge for that access.
"At the end of the day, they will have a lot more responsibility," Bordeaux says, "but they're confused. There's a lot out there to bring to the building, but they don't have time."
He notes that the communications and technology industry is changing fast for Internet access. "There's great technology for high-speed Internet access, but it's in beta."
"Landlords have to understand how important communications and technology are becoming to tenants," Bordeaux says. "A lot of tenants do want an alternative and do want high-speed Internet access. A lot of customers are going to force real estate companies to be on the Internet.
"What I see out there is a lot of confusion," Bordeaux says. "They're worried about obsolescence, and they're waiting for the dust to settle. But if they don't get their arms around it now, they're going to be playing catch up. In a competitive environment, you can't be playing catch up."
Using the next generation of real estate information
Today, anybody can use the Internet to buy flowers, check the score of last night's game or make a hotel reservation. A commercial real estate professional can use the Internet to tap into several valuable resources, all of which are free. To examine a few of these, consider how Gary in Dallas can use the Internet to manage his newest acquisition, an industrial park in Denver.
To locate the property, down to the street, and find out what landmarks are nearby, Gary can point his web browser to Proximus, http://www1.proximus.com, and type in the address. The property will be pinpointed on a map, and the map can be zoomed in and zoomed out as needed.
When Gary wants bids on new roofs, he can look up "Roofers" in one of the many nationwide Yellow Page directories on the Internet. One such directory is Big Book, http://www.bigbook.com. Big Book also adds maps to their listings, so Gary can find all the steak houses in Denver before his next visit and figure out which ones are closest to the property.
When a leasing broker introduces a prospective tenant, Gary can visit the Securities and Exchange Commission's web site, http://www.sec.gov/edgarhp.html, to download a 10K or 10Q on any public company. He can get a current stock quote at http://www.secapl.com/cgi-bin/qs.
Invariably, some government regulation or proposal will adversely impact the property. Since the U.S. government started the Internet, every federal department and agency has a web site. Starting at the top, Gary can visit http://www.whitehouse.gov to complain to President Clinton. Then he can contact Congress at THOMAS, http://www.thomas.loc.gov.
THOMAS also gives the text of current legislation before both house. If Gary needs more information on a particular regulation, the US Business Advisor, http://www.business.gov, provides one-stop access to federal government information.
Gary can keep track of news in Denver and around the world by visiting Crayon, http://crayon.net/using/links.html. This site lists all the news-related Internet sites, from the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald to CNN to the Rocky Mountain News. Crayon includes links to several weather-related sites.
Gary can monitor Colorado's economy with the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, http://www.bls.gov. The BLS computes the Consumer Price Index and the Unemployment Rate, along with several other statistics.
When Gary wants to sell or refinance the property. Bloomberg's site, www.bloomberg.com/cgi-bin/td.sp.sh?markets/c13.html, gives real-time Treasury rates with a yield curve. Gary can find potential lenders and buyers at REdirect, http://www.iuma.com/RDI/redirect, which provides directories of debt and equity sources for commercial real estate. Gary can learn more about the different institutions' parameters, jump to web pages for those institutions that have them and email key contacts. REdirect, which is an information resource for the commercial real estate industry, provides links to all the sites mentioned in this article, along with a link to the NAIOP site, http://www.naiop.org.
One way to get a leg up in the technology race is by registering for the NAIOP '96 Annual Conference and Marketplace. To do so, call (703) 904-7100, ext. 108.