Commercial real estate has changed a lot in recent years, according to David Horowitz, commercial real estate adviser at Avison Young in Cleveland; Kevin Moss, senior associate at CBRE in Cleveland; and Alec Pacella, president of NAI Pleasant Valley in Beachwood.
“Probably like most industries, technology has impacted a lot of change and commercial real estate is among them,” Pacella said. “There is probably a third fewer agents now as there was 25 years ago, but probably more transactions, because you’re able to cover more ground now.”
Moss said commercial real estate has “drastically evolved in many ways over the years” but as a young professional, he’s only been exposed to the “new era” of commercial real estate.
“Technology and the advent of smartphones have made brokerage more efficient and streamlined to provide information for our clients and win business,” he stated. “The pre-technology way of sourcing site information and pitching sites is now considered archaic. The old way of phone books, fax machines and mailers have gone by the wayside.”
Moss said professionals no longer have to wait until they return to the office to answer questions. With access to email and telephones, professionals are more efficient but demand is higher, he added.
Horowitz said, “The biggest change to the industry in the last 30 years has to be how information is accessed. Most property and space availability information can be accessed online these days, whereas 20-plus years ago, you had to know someone in the business to give you that information.”
The professionals said it’s important for brokers to adapt to the changes.
“There is so much information out there, but you need to be aware not only personally but professionally about these changes,” Pacella said. “You need to have your antenna up at all times when it comes to this. It becomes absolutely critical. We tell our agents, if you’re treading water, you’re falling behind. Keeping pace doesn’t cut it anymore, you have to continually try to move forward.”
Moss added, “It’s important for commercial real estate experts to be aware of these changes because technology is the present, and the industry will only further evolve as technology advances.”
Though many transactions take place online now, Horowitz said professionals should keep an eye out for “off-market” opportunities.
“For example, I speak with many property owners who are interested to sell, but for a variety of reasons, don’t want to officially market their property for sale,” he explained. “Also, being in the business, you become aware of companies potentially moving many months in advance. Knowledge of these off-market opportunities can help clients identify suitable investments and relocation options that they otherwise would not know about.”
As for the future of the business, changes will continue to arise. The professionals point to technology being a driving force.
“A future trend may be the use of virtual reality, reducing the need to physically see properties,” Moss stated. “Personally, I think this is years away, but the idea of Google Earth seemed futuristic 10-plus years ago.”
Pacella added, “Technology will continue to change, so, I’m sure that will impact us in some way. But, the biggest thing we’re watching is the cycle we’re in. It’s going to happen – so when will the next downturn be? The light has been green for a while, so we’re interested how long will it stay green.”