How 5 NYC Commercial Real Estate Pros Use Tech To Get Deals Done
These days, there’s one common thread for getting deals done with technology: learn to do it, or be left behind. Here’s a look at which tech toys an assortment of NYC real estate pros favor.
It’s hard to imagine that a couple of short decades ago, the fax machine was a cutting-edge technology. Eastern Consolidated principal Adelaide Polsinelli remembers those days well.
She described the onerous process of sending out promotional materials to prospective investors by mail, and waiting in long lines at the city records department to find out who owned what—even sending out materials by messenger if it had to be done fast.
She doesn’t miss any of it. Adelaide, who started in the business in 1985, listed three main tech tools she uses. She likes PropertyShark for info on residential buildings and their tenants, mortgage documents, deeds and air rights transfers. The platform also interfaces with the city’s ACRIS database. And for commercial buildings, she likes Reonomy. CoStar is another favorite of hers because it’s a national platform.
“I look at these young kids today,” Adelaide says, reflecting on how things have changed, “and I think: you guys have it handed to you on a silver platter.”
Few know what that platter offers better than Zach Aarons (above in Paris with his son, Wesley), a co-founder of NYC-based real estate tech accelerator MetaProp NYC and a project manager at Millennium Partners, a developer of mixed-use projects in gateway cities.
As an owner leasing mostly to retail tenants, he’s got a different set of needs, but his firm makes use of a wide spectrum of digital tools.
For accounting and property management, Zach says his team favors a platform called Sage 360 over the ever-popular Yardi, in part, he says, because it accounts for ground-up development costs in addition to property management costs.
And for projects in NYC, he’s a fan of the compliance-expediting software SiteCompli, which he says “you’d have to be out of your mind” not to use. It helps owners navigate NYC’s labyrinthian landscape of regulation and makes paying inevitable fines to the city easier.
Zach says in most cases he discourages firms from building their own tech tools when so many are out there, and new ones hit the market often. But there is one in-house platform he says is worth taking note of.
Rudin Management has its own “smart building” property management system that learns from a building’s energy usage as it goes along. Zach says he knows of nothing else like it built in-house by a major landlord.
He tells us Millennium Partners is looking for a more efficient way to do what he calls “lease database management,” to do things like pull up data on all tenants that have expansion rights. He says he and his team are looking into adopting a platform to fill this need.
JLL’s Kiril Avzovtsev is a fan of VTS’s tenant rep platform for canvassing spaces. He likes it because he says it’s easy to use and tailored to commercial real estate. And he tells us he’s been contributing ideas on how to improve the platform.
Several brokers we reached out to mentioned that platforms that aren’t specific to commercial real estate, like LinkedIn and Salesforce, have a place in their toolbelts.
Ariel Property Advisors’ Ivan Petrovic says the team he works on customized its Salesforce account so agents can access real-time property data and visualize that data through reports and maps.
And sometimes, technology will surprise you. Bloom Real Estate Group founder Scott Bloom (above) says he had a building sale hinge on his decision to use Ten-X (formerly Auction.com), to show a seller what buyers were really willing to pay for an asset. Rather than make his role as a broker look obsolete, he says the platform was exactly what he needed to close the deal.
“There are a lot of technologies that have come out in the last five to six years that I haven’t given a lot of credence to,” Scott says. “But this had a tangible effect.”
And even with all the options out there, sometimes the tangible is exactly what people need to return to, Adelaide reminds us.
“At the end of the day, this is still, after all these years, a human business," she says. "You still need that good, old-fashioned handshake when you sit down to close a deal.”