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Tech Edition News Roundup 10/16/06

Tech Edition News Roundup 10/16/06

Many commercial landlords aren’t exploiting the Web to help promote their properties.

A recent survey conducted by the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and Realcomm, an industry group that focuses on the latest advancements in real estate technology, finds that many retail and office buildings in the U.S. aren’t being marketed online.

That makes it difficult for prospective tenants and investors to fully research hundreds of thousands of properties via the World Wide Web. The survey, which polled more than 7,000 BOMA members, found that 52% of all respondents work in a building that isn’t actively marketed on a web site.

More than half of the respondents (54%) were building managers, and 38% work for companies that own more than 2 million sq. ft. of space. Another finding: Only 16% of respondents have invested in touch-screen directories in their lobbies, and only 4% have installed digital signage, such as electronic tenant directories, in their properties. The full Realcomm/BOMA technology survey can be found here.

EBay revolutionized the way that buyers connect with sellers via the Internet.

Now a California entrepreneur has introduced an online auction website designed to help residential owners connect with tenants. > is offering would-be tenants the right to competitively bid on rental properties, particularly building complexes that would otherwise go begging. The concept was created by web entrepreneur Bobby Khalili, who believes that the advent of online auctions for rental housing should further trim vacancy rates.

“Landlords sometimes overshoot on rental prices. As a result, properties remain unnecessarily vacant, and thousands of dollars in uncollected rent are lost,” says Khalili, who launched the site in late July. “People buy and sell nearly everything at online auctions, but the phenomenon stops abruptly at rental units.”

It remains to be seen if the online auction model will work for rentals. Buyers routinely bid below the list price on a new home, hoping that a motivated seller will jump at the offer. But apartment landlords aren’t known for entertaining lowball offers from a prospective tenant unless they are desperate to fill the space. Khalili hopes that apartment owners will use the BidRent site to list vacancies free of charge, which could lure prospective tenants to place “rental bids” on their units.

Since late summer, more than 800 landlords have posted properties on the site. The site also boasts roughly 1,100 registered users — bidders seeking rental units. The model could work well in weaker apartment markets where tenants wield the most clout But the national apartment vacancy rate registered a tight 6% at the end of September, according to Reis Inc., which suggests that most apartment owners are asking for, and getting, their desired rents.

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