CRE has a reputation for sticking to existing methods. It’s been referred to as an analog business in a digital world, but the old ways of doing business will soon be left in the dust. It can be hard to know what tools warrant the time and expense of implementation, but many are more than worth it. Exciting developments in a number of areas are giving an edge to firms that take the time to stay informed.
Some of the more significant developments in technology have to do with the way we can share property details with clients. Mobile technology lets us keep our office in our pockets and our listings in front of potential tenants. There is never any reason now to find yourself without details on a given property, no matter where you happen to be.
An interesting mobile app that changes how clients receive information is iBeacon, a feature of IOS 7 from Apple. It sends a Bluetooth signal notifying mobile users who’ve opted in about promotions and inviting them to view property images or a panoramic view of a property. This sort of targeted and timely contact is one beauty of using mobile technology.
The app development industry includes a healthy collection of startups working in the CRE field. This means more relevant and immediately useful tools that are designed to meet our specific needs. Over a 2-year period (2012-14), investors have poured more than $700 million into startups geared toward developing apps for CRE.
New Funding Options
Until recently, the crowdfunding phenomenon didn’t relate to CRE, but that has all changed since the passage of the JOBS Act in 2012. This change to the Securities Act allows companies to use funding portals to sell properties. This allows for a large number of smaller investors to participate. Some active crowdfunding sites to check out are Fundrise, Popularise, ProHatch, and Patch of Land.
CRE firms are making more creative use of video for providing clients with in-depth property information at a distance. This is really being boosted by the rise in the use of drones for photography. Once the stuff of sci-fi stories, these “unmanned aerial vehicles” can be terrifically useful to CRE.
The FAA has predicted that as many as 10,000 commercial drones will be licensed by 2018. They have a lot of value to CRE in regard to site assessment. Drones can be used to provide aerial views of large commercial sites that allow clients to understand the property’s orientation to surrounding buildings and transportation. They can also be sent into tight or toxic spots and provide a complete picture of structural details that would otherwise be inaccessible.
From the “eye in the sky” it’s just a short hop to virtual reality, and this is an area that has tremendous potential to shake up CRE. Firms are beginning to offer “virtual walk-throughs” that give clients the feel of a property at a distance. These often make use of drone videos, providing a perspective that was impossible to get before.
These videos can be paired with computer-generated images to demonstrate development and finishing ideas virtually, in 3D. This technology tears down barriers, and has incredible potential for conducting business more efficiently. Interactive property hunting makes for a better experience on both sides of the deal.
Your office may not be ready to launch its own drone, but whatever the size of your operation, you’d do well to keep an eye on these technology trends. Don’t let technology overload keep you from adopting tools that are relevant to your work and will keep you competitive.