CRE Platform Ten-X Is Banking On Brokers To Propel Its Next Stage Of Growth
Ten-X is on a mission to make itself the go-to execution platform for residential and commercial property sales in the US. Now, after a recent shift in strategy, it's counting on the brokerage community to make that dream a reality.
“We’ve made a very conscious effort over the last year or so to embrace the brokerage community, and communicate to them that we’re an excellent tool that can help them close deals,” says Ten-X managing director Yan Khamish, who is in charge of broker outreach. He's snapped above in the middle, flanked by the CCIM Institute's Steven Moreira on the left and Avison Young's Michael Fay on the right.
Several other up-and-coming commercial real estate tech startups have a similar pitch. Compstak, for example, provides crowdsourced data for comparable transactions, giving brokers better insight into the local market. VTS and Hightower both offer platforms that help landlords and brokers keep track of deals and leases.
All three have seen massive growth, especially in NYC, over the last few years, but what makes Ten-X different is that it essentially functions like a co-brokerage—not just a tool to streamline existing business processes.
“Broker tech is tough, as a general rule, and commercial broker tech is particularly tough,” says Aaron Block, a co-founder and managing director at commercial real estate tech accelerator MetaProp NYC. “Historically there’s been a very sleepy, legacy business process approach to successful brokerage, and because of that you’re starting to see a lot of people interested in disrupting or complementing that business model.”
Ten-X has hitched its fortunes to complementing the brokerage community, with a rebranding back in January that saw the firm officially partner with the CCIM Institute and roll out a new platform aimed at handling commercial transactions.
“We are a platform, and the brokers are market-makers,” Yan says of the firm’s new strategy. “We’re trying to be the Nasdaq or NYSE, the vehicle by which someone makes a transaction, and the brokers are the banks or hedge funds who trade on those platforms.”
It’s a novel approach, partially borne out of Ten-X’s unique history as a platform originally focused on residential properties. “Residential brokerage is usually a few steps ahead in terms of tech adoption, but now you’re seeing a lot of that trickle down to the commercial space as well,” Aaron says.
Ten-X was founded in 2007 as Auction.com, just as the last real estate bubble was starting to pop. The platform was essentially an eBay for distressed residential properties, of which there were plenty to go around.
Typically a deal takes 90 days or so to execute on the platform. The first two weeks are devoted to onboarding and the next 45 days to due diligence and marketing, followed by a 48-hour, eBay-style live bid auction. After that, the buyer puts up the money and most deals close within 30 days or less.
As time went on, the platform began to attract more attention from brokers and sellers listing commercial properties, especially distressed assets.
“It really accelerates the process,” says Jeff Cole, an executive director at Cushman & Wakefield’s Orange County office in California. “It’s very efficient and it’s much more certain for the seller. At the time of the auction they’re 99% sure they have the transaction completed.”
Jeff says that’s because the platform is able to register, provide proof of funds and review due diligence materials at the same time as the marketing process is unfolding.
Jeff has sold six office or flex properties through Ten-X. His biggest deal on the platform came three years ago, when he listed the Savi Tech Center, an office and research campus, on the platform, where it eventually sold for $55M, at the time one of the largest deals ever executed through Auction.com, as it was then known.
Jeff says four of the six sellers in those deals actually mandated the use of the platform, due to the speed and certainty it affords. For the other two deals, Jeff thought it might be a good fit and talked the client into giving it a try.
While sellers like the platform for its speed and security, Jeff says a major draw for brokers is the pool of private, and especially international, capital Ten-X is able to advertise its listings to.
“Their database is different than ours, and they certainly have a superior reach when it comes to private and overseas institutional capital,” Jeff says.
Daniel Beider (above, with his kids), a founding member and chairman of Paramount Lodging Advisors, a brokerage that focuses exclusively on hotels, has had a bit more experience with Ten-X—his firm has used the platform to close nearly 100 deals since it started using Ten-X three years ago.
Like Jeff, Daniel says he first became aware of the platform when a client asked him to list a property on it. Since then, Paramount’s embraced the platform, and Daniel says they’ve also developed close relationships with their counterparts at Ten-X.
“The auction-style approach has definitely changed the industry,” Daniel says. “We’ve gotten so used to getting non-refundable earnest money, which buyers are required to submit as part of the Ten-X bidding process, we’re almost not comfortable now when we don’t get it.”
Daniel and Jeff have only used the original Auction.com platform so far, but as part of its rebranding last January, Ten-X also rolled out a new platform aimed specifically at commercial transactions, as well as one aimed at luxury homes. Both say they're currently working on listing deals with the commercial platform.
That platform allows brokers to make use of the original auction-style bid process, but introduces two new options as well. With "managed bid," sellers put out letters of intent, buyers counter them, and then the buyer pool is pared down to three to seven potential buyers, at which point there’s a private auction.
With "offer select," sellers post a "purchase of sale," potential buyers sign it, and then the platform facilitates the flow of LOI's back and forth between the parties electronically until the seller decides on a buyer.
Yan says those options are intended to give brokers choices that more closely correspond to the traditional process of commercial sales, in an effort to assuage buyers or sellers who aren’t comfortable with the straight-up, eBay-style auction process.
He says those changes, and the rebranding in general, were all borne out of the direction Auction.com began to take organically as a result of the buyers and sellers using it.
When it started in 2007, the vast majority of listings were distressed, but nine years and $39B in deals later, he says 60% of current listings are normal, run-of-the-mill properties.
“I think the fear initially was that we were out to disintermediate brokers—replace them,” Yan says. “What we found instead is that our best executed deals tend to involve an active broker as a local partner.”
In addition to the CCIM partnership, Ten-X has also begun partnering with brokerages like TCN Worldwide, HFF, Colliers and others in recent months. MetaProp’s Aaron (above) says that could be a winning formula, but that strong adoption by sellers will also be essential.
“Can they get to the fragmented, disparate seller community and have those guys mandate their properties be listed on the platform? That’s the multi-billion-dollar question,” he says. “If they’re just going to be reaching out to the brokerage community and trying to get them to adopt it on their own, then the jury is out.”
If Jeff and Daniel’s experiences are any indication, Ten-X has had a bit of success at both ends thus far, and the firm’s investors seem to like its prospects: Ten-X has raised a total of $142M in three rounds of funding according to Crunchbase, and is currently valued at about $1.2B, making it one of the bigger CRE tech firms in the country.
But, as Aaron says, "The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding isn't done yet."