Technology comes to real estate, finally

These days it’s hard to miss the dramatic changes taking place in the commercial and residential real estate industries. No, I don't mean the transformation of certain markets, or how one sector is hotter than another, or the type of companies that are making a splash. I mean the single most profound change I have seen in my 25 years of being active in the real estate industry: the proliferation of new technologies specifically focused on the business of real estate. Never before have so many new technology companies targeted and succeeded in changing the way the industry functions from brokerage, marketing, news and information. And, these companies are not just fly-by-night start-ups, they are deeply funded, revenue producing, well-thought-out players in a variety of niches that are strongly positioned to be here for the long-term.

When I first entered the real estate industry having built a public relations firm that specialized in representing clients in the field, I immediately realized I was entering an industry that was, by comparison to many other industries, in the dark ages. It wasn't cool, certainly not sexy, and had very little innovation. To say it was an old boys’ network was an understatement. Fast forward to today and I can't tell you how many people I meet while wearing my new hat as a fledgling tech entrepreneur, and I say I have a site for the real estate industry and they are immediately intrigued and excited to learn more.

Now when I go out to meet with either prospective investors or someone in the tech media, they are actually interested in the commercial and residential real estate industries for the first time. It’s an exciting time to be a tech entrepreneur in the real estate industry. Why? Maybe it’s because it’s one of the last big industries to embrace technology and its time has come. Or, perhaps it’s because the tech community just saw there was little competition but a lot of money to be made? Or, maybe it was just like everything else, a little bit of coincidence, a little bit of timing and a little bit of actual insight.

As someone who follows both technology and real estate, there are so many very cool companies now innovating in this industry that I find some of the newest ideas are not coming from social gaming or social media, or pure technology, but from the real estate industry itself. Companies like CoStar, LoopNet, Real Capital Analytics and REIS have long been established innovators in the space, but now besides the information sector, innovators are showing up in all corners of the industry. A few of the ones that deserve paying attention to include:

  • View the space. A very cool site that takes video production and analytics to a whole new level.
  • 42floors. Takes the brokerage model to an entirely new viewpoint by making it easy to discover and create a dream office.
  • ClickPay. Provides an electronic payment platform to collect rent payments, association fees and dues, and other fees.

I think one of the reasons why the market is so receptive to new ways of doing things is because the market is not as vibrant from a demand and development point of view. When everyone is super busy making deals and money, they tend to look at innovation and shrug "who needs it, everything is great!" So, in times where the market is cooled, and people have a bit more time to focus on how to be better, smarter and more innovative, technology and new ideas finally have a place to breathe. I think we are in one of those cycles. And that’s a good thing for companies like mine and the others I mentioned.

I built my site, The News Funnel, with the knowledge and confidence that the commercial and residential real estate industries are finally ready to embrace new technology and innovations. While it might take a little while, change is now considered a good thing in an industry not known to embrace new ideas. Those days are over, thank goodness for folks like me (and my investors!).

Are you now more open to embracing technology in your work? How are you using technology to grow your business?