We talk about CRE tech all the time. It’s what we do. We want you to be informed whether or not you use Apto.
Our customers often ask us what the core pieces of commercial real estate technology really are. There’s so much out there, and it can get overwhelming very quickly. Even tech-savvy brokers have trouble wading through their options, or they just don’t have time to explore dozens of new products.
So let’s keep it simple. Here are the five core areas you need technology for if you want to be a better, more efficient broker.
1. A customer relationship management (CRM) system or software
This can be a series of Excel spreadsheets (not recommended), a folder in your Outlook inbox (even worse!), or separate software dedicated to that task. Whatever the method, you need a way to organize contacts and properties. This is the broker’s bread and butter, and it’s what every other piece of technology either informs or flows from. There are many reasons we think you should have a relational database, but everyone has their own organizational system. Make sure it’s the best and most efficient it can be.
2. Data sources and research methods
Technology gives you new sources to pull information from, and this should populate your CRM. There are the basics: Xceligent, Costar, Realquest. Then there’s a ton of other sourcing and research-oriented technology, both old and new: LandVision, a mapping tool and property data aggregator that can hone in on retail, office, industrial, and multifamily info; Real Capital Markets for investor data; Revista for healthcare property data; Buxton for analytics and site selection tools; OfficeSpace for, well, office space; and Reonomy for property (and contact) data. The list goes on. That’s not even counting ownership research tools, including LexisNexis and TLO.
Dedicate a little time to finding your favorites or the ones you need for your specialty, and then stick to those in populating your CRM and supplementing your own data.
3. A marketing platform
You should work your deals by starting with a list of qualified buyers, but there are plenty of other marketing tasks you’ll need to do after that. A website, email blasts, flyers, brochures, virtual tours, etc—the list goes on. Find your go-to tools for the main tasks; there are lots of options that integrate with CRMs, and many platforms let you accomplish many tasks in one place. Real Capital Markets, Buildout and Sharplaunch are good places to start. Flyer and Mailchimp are also helpful for marketing materials and emails, respectively.
4. Document management
Even with all the new technology coming out these days, there’s a ton of paperwork involved in any given deal. You need tools to reach clients far away, whether they’re across the city or across the globe. Dropbox or Google Drive can help you manage and share files with clients, while Docusign is the go-to for getting your signatures taken care of online. There are also virtual deal rooms that offer higher levels of security and compliance.
5. Invoices, commission and accounting systems
And finally, you need to get paid. This might not be the most fun technology you use, but it’s crucial to keeping your finances organized and getting your money in a timely manner. Quickbooks is the standard here, though there’s also Microsoft Dynamics GP. Some CRM technology also has accounting functionality built in—an added bonus that allows you to keep everything in one place.