New Technologies Hit the Real Estate Industry

Technology is transforming industries of all types, even those not typically viewed as high-tech

Look at commercial real estate. An old saying about the industry goes, “A broker sitting in the office isn’t making any money,” notes Blake George, principal at Lee & Associates.

Blake GeorgeBrokers earned money driving around looking at properties and showing them to clients. But now CoStar Group, an international provider of information and analytics to the commercial real estate industry, has launched an iPad app, CoStarGo. The app puts detailed information on properties, from square footage to vacancy rates, at CoStar members’ fingertips. Members can download the free app from the iTunes store.  

“It’s made my business very portable. It changes the way we do things,” says George. “I can, in essence, sit with a client in a café and show properties. I have my calendar and email on my iPad, and now the whole Dane County database. I can plug in parameters and ask for a list of properties within five miles of the Capital of a certain square footage, and continue to narrow the criteria until I have a list of five or six. Then I generate a report and email it to the client.

“It creates a national platform for commercial real estate,” he continues. “It’s equivalent to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) used in residential real estate.”  

CoStarGo includes digital pictures of almost every building in the greater Madison area. “You can click on an area and see aerial views, like in Google Earth,” George says. “It’s the biggest technological innovation in my twenty years in commercial real estate.”

CoStar’s product launch was pretty innovative, too. The company invited top brokers from various areas to conferences nationwide, all on the same day. Company representatives gave presentations on the new app, served lunch and drinks, and gave attendees free iPads so they can use CoStarGo.   

George attended a conference in Milwaukee. “It was a pretty neat way to do things, with a great takeaway,” he says. “It was like guerilla marketing; they got a lot of buzz.”

The product helps CoStar stand out from competitors as the first industry data provider to offer an iPad app. George believes an Android version is next. “Customer loyalty increased tremendously when they put this tool in our hands and they’ll gain new
members, too,” he says.  

Four of seven brokers at Lee & Associates have iPads and use CoStarGo. “One missed the conference, and two of our seasoned
brokers aren’t yet comfortable with the technology,” George explains. 

He foresees his industry and others continuing to become more portable. “That’s the way education will go, too,” he says. “Kids won’t carry books; they’ll use Kindles or other e-readers and download books. The e-books are searchable and you can embed links, and you can include as many digital images as you want.”  

George recalls Apple providing schools with computer labs. He believes they’ll launch a stripped-down, inexpensive iPad for educational purposes, —an ePad, if you will, —and give it to schools. “I hate to be so Apple-oriented, but I believe things like this change our social structure,” he says.

“When I took typing in 1988, the teacher said, with the rise of voice recognition, we might be the last class to take typing,” says George. “Who would have imagined email and texting would make you want to be a good typist again?”

In his industry, George observes how his behavior changes as technology evolves.

“It shapes my behavior,” he says. “Obviously, we’re in an extremely fast-moving time with technology—whether it’s smart phones, tablets or home computers—and that’s scary for some people. But many people are realizing technology is cool, and it gives us more mobility.”

—Judy Dahl

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