My role within the National Association of REALTORS® enables me to look over the horizon at new technologies that may disrupt or benefit the real estate industry. My colleagues and I see a wide range of tools and automation designed to impact every stage of the commercial sales and leasing timeline. Each year, some of the most promising of these startups become partners in NAR’s REACH® Commercial technology accelerator program.
Tech startups look for pain points and deliver solutions to help facilitate communication, manage processes, automate, and improve efficiencies. Two of the greatest pain points in commercial real estate today are COVID-19 and new accounting rules designed to create greater investor transparency, says Andrew Flint, co-founder of Occupier, a 2020 REACH® Commercial company:
- New accounting rules. By the end of 2021, all companies issuing U.S. GAAP and IASB financial statements must account for their real estate expenses on their balance sheet. This increased transparency into real estate expenses can significantly alter the perception of a business’s financial health, and failing to comply with these new standards can lead to significant fines, loss of investor confidence, and increased auditor expenses.
- The pandemic. With COVID-19 precautions causing shutdowns of office, retail, and industrial space, it’s more important than ever that companies have online tools to execute a real estate strategy. Companies can’t afford to overspend on real estate.
The solution Occupier brought to the market is a transaction and lease management platform that enables tenants and brokers to collaboratively plan and execute on a real estate strategy. Users manage transactions and optimize their portfolio through a centralized real estate management platform. In essence, Occupier has brought what has historically been accomplished through four distinct solutions—lease administration, transaction management, portfolio management, and customer relationship management— together into one consistent tool.
Old habits can be hard to change. Adoption has been the biggest challenges for Dealius, another 2020 REACH® Commercial company, says co-founder Obie Walli. Dealius automates the transaction cycle, providing a solution that includes pipeline management, transaction management, and reporting—something that, until recently, was not offered in a single solution. “The overall process doesn’t change,” Walli says, but users achieve efficiency.
Ten months into the current health crisis, it’s clear that commercial real estate and the practitioners who represent buyers, sellers, owners, and tenants remain in demand. But practitioners who thrive will be those who can use technology to drive efficiency and cost savings. Until recently, many technologies were exclusive to institutional commercial companies. Today, startups are making products accessible to individual practitioners and small to midsized brokerages. These tools are relatively easy to implement and integrate with platforms you may already be using, and, because many of these new tools live in the cloud, barriers to entry are low and ongoing costs are reasonable.