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Instant Messaging Gives Brokers An Edge

Instant Messaging Gives Brokers An Edge

Forget those up-to-the-minute football scores or text messages from your brother. A growing number of brokers working in the New York metropolitan offices of CB Richard Ellis are using their mobile wireless devices to retrieve up-to-the-minute market data that could mean the difference between winning and losing a deal.

The commercial brokerage company’s proprietary data system automatically generates e-mail alerts for several hundred brokers in the tri-state area, says Jeff Hipschman, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis’ Manhattan office. Alerts — as many as 200 a day — are sent as market data is updated in CB Richard Ellis’ system.

The alerts are generated automatically based on criteria set by the brokers. For instance, a broker might request that news about a major corporate client be sent to his BlackBerry, PDA or cell phone. Another might ask to be notified immediately about new commercial real estate listings in the Park Avenue submarket. When a deal is under way, all participating brokers receive updates on the status of the transaction.

Before the wireless system went live in 2004 in New York, CB Richard Ellis brokers in New York had to log on through PCs or laptops, then submit data queries to the firm’s PropertyView database, or call associates, clients and others to obtain information. Now, brokers “will not miss any market data because they were away from the office,” Hipschman says. And, he says, they will have “instant knowledge” of market changes, even as they rove throughout the market, calling on clients and pursuing deals. CBRE’s information technology team in New York manages the database, including the e-mail alerts. News is made available from sources such as Yahoo, and market data are compiled by CBRE researchers.

The system has proven so useful in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area, Hipschman says, that the company plans to eventually make it available across its network offices across the country. CB Richard Ellis brokers aren’t the only ones using mobile devices to help drive deals, however. In September, AIR Commercial Real Estate Association of Los Angeles (a network of industrial and commercial brokers) and marketing firm Cellit LLC unveiled plans to offer mobile access to property data on roughly 8,000 industrial properties in the network’s multiple listing system. A prospective tenant or buyer of property simply can send a text message to a five-digit phone number listed on the property’s for-sale/for-rent sign. In seconds, the caller will receive a menu of details about the property such as electrical capacity, square footage on a floor-by-floor basis and other key data. There’s even a prospecting side to the technology: The listing broker on the property automatically receives the prospect’s phone number after the call has been made.

Tim Hayes, executive director of AIR in Los Angeles, says the agreement with Cellit will help his members serve clients better. He’s also confident that would-be tenants and buyers will embrace the technology: More than 8 billion text messages were sent in the U.S. last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Hayes says he hopes to expand the suite of property-specific data in coming months and the overall database of tagged properties.

One goal for AIR is to begin using more unique data and metrics generated by brokers. The idea is to supplement outside data with on-the-ground reporting from the brokers who know the market and each individual asset.

Hipschman of CB Richard Ellis says that what sets his company’s wireless-network alert system apart is the proprietary data the giant brokerage’s researchers produce and the ability to tap into news sources. For example, Roshan Shah, a senior associate in New York, pounced in early October when his BlackBerry beeped, notifying him about a deal between a large international investment bank and a multibillion-dollar hedge fund. Shah says he promptly called the CEO of the acquiring company and offered CB Richard Ellis’ services. Within 72 hours, the firm had an exclusive agreement to represent the acquirer on a 30,000 sq. ft. consolidation of its two U.S. offices, he says.

On many occasions, Shah has gotten alerts from the firm’s PropertyView database, which features an array of details about properties, concerning space that has just been listed. Twice, he has been able to capitalize on that knowledge by placing clients in space that was at the top of their lists — before those properties were made available to competing brokers.

“In a business where information is time-sensitive, the combination of CBRE’s advanced tracking systems and my BlackBerry has given me a competitive advantage and resulted in a winning situation for my clients, the landlords and me,” Shah says. Overall, he says, the system has increased efficiency and productivity “and, ultimately, my revenue generation.”

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