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Co-Star Loopnet and Commercial MLS Services. What Are The Alternatives? Guest Post: Lowell Peabody.

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In the Technology for Commercial Real Estate Group on LinkedIn I was recently asked what I think  a viable alternative to current property services like Loopnet, Costar, and others might be.

I have not seen one yet I am aware of some “under wraps” that show potential.  I would like to think that an alternative would offer capabilities not seen to this point. Just taking the age old “index card” or spreadsheet and getting it on the internet (which I think in essence most currently do) there should be a new approach. perhaps there could be public commentary on properties; monitored. Ability to add video. Be open to all (as in everyone), with direct connections/links to brokers. Behind the scenes crowd sourced updates on corrected information, recent deals and information, details. Migrate this info to public listing upon verification, otherwise leave in behind the scenes as “rumored”. “Drill down” on property info as well as “climb out” go from property detail/info to overall park/business environment information and on to community information. On the public side encourage participation via commentary/social interaction (not fill in forms) where questions can be asked, opinions entered, additional information requested (probably obvious by comments).

It would not be connected to a proprietary CRM system. In this day and age of widgets and apps there should be easy connection to any/many CRM systems. Asking end users to switch property systems and CRM at the same time is a bit much and seemingly unnecessary. There are already plenty of CRM systems easily configured to a particular brokerage’s needs and ultimately scalable. A relational connection to CRMs is a must. Costs can range from $0 to many $ depending on number of seats and subscription levels, but there are many choices. Connection should be interactive with property information. Ability to look up companies and all contacts with connection to all related properties. (widgets)

I see internal and external needs. Internal needs relate things like CRM. behind the scenes real time info (private to professionals). External allow anyone to see property information as well as real time public commentary on properties. Video’s allow more of an environment to be portrayed than a simple snapshot (God forbid brokers start doing videos on smart phones like they do pictures!!) Perhaps public ratings of properties as well. Why do we try to tell people how a building rates when it is their opinion that matters?

Reports that are web based and combine videos, pictures, community and property information, maps, ratings customizable so one can pick and choose what is included and presented to client, team, anyone. Real time commentary from all recipients.

Just a few thoughts. There are more… and I can dream right? I think a fresh approach is possible which will greatly help acceptance, quickly. I do think it’s coming.

 


Lowell Peabody
lmlpeabody@comcast.net 
(617) 237-0225


Twitter:                   @LowellPeabody 

Flickr:http://www.flickr.com/photos/lmlp9146/ 

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  • spotCRE

    We asked Lowell and he gave as an good insight concerning the needs.
    All can be programmed and much more like he dreamed ;).
    It depends from the acceptance of the users so our way to start small with some features but not all is the best we guess. Brokers, agents and owners have nothing to lose if they list with other commercial listings services like ours.
    Loopnet starts small years ago and we know the history. Our difference: We will be realistic with pricing also over the coming years.

  • RealConnex

    Thanks Lowell for this great article. We at RealConnex are aiming for a seamless user experience and your points about CRM integration are extremely interesting. Out of curiousity, what are the most popular CRMs you have seen in your line of business?

  • Mike Lieberman

    This is not a technology problem/issue. It is an adoption issue. There are many companies and individuals that can create a platform that will do all that LoopNet can do – and for not very much money either. But it took LoopNet 20 years to have the kind of adoption that made it the standard. I have used the current crop of alternatives and after a test run I don’t even check them out for properties for lease or sale. Not because they don’t have a whizzy look or aren’t easy to use, but because they don’t have much – or in most cases – any inventory in my market. Some don’t have anything in California.

    I don’t know anyone in the industry that likes LoopNet’s new model and price structure. But everyone is biting the bullet because there is nothing else. Show me a viable alternative, which I will be happy to pay a reasonable price for, and I will be all over it. It doesn’t even have to have a finished data base if I can see they have a plan and a route toward local, regional and national adoption.

  • Stephen King

    Duke, I am enjoying the program keep up the good work. Check out Begoh in the IOS App store

  • From my humble experience, though similar on the surface, CoStar, LoopNet and Commercial MLS Services are different animals. Simply stated, CoStar was conceived as a proactive RESEARCH service, delivering property-level and space-level details and market data to subscribers that is “not-readily-available-to-the-public”. And they deliver it in a package that allows one to search, filter results and report, like nothing else available to brokers. Early-on, when they entered new marketplaces, CoStar made deals with the large brokerages that had in-house research departments, to take their data, reorganize it, enhance it (more detail, images, maps) and expand the data (add missing properties) and keep it updated (outbound verification). CoStar, love-em or hate-em, has had a monopoly for the type of product/service they provide and is almost a necessity for true commercial brokers who don’t have a in-house research system and staff to keep it updated. On the other hand, LoopNet and “Commercial MLS”-type services have from the beginning, been advertising platforms, relying on listing owners and agents to submit information, with little to no verification and quality control. CoStar bought LoopNet because they were both expanding with the inclusion of the other’s original offering (LoopNet developing a deeper level of property specific detail and market analysis data; CoStar launching and pushing the Showcase advertising program). Speaking only from the perspective of the Greater Boston marketplace (but I suspect most other major metro markets), CoStar’s “Property” product offers subscribers tremendously greater coverage both in terms of current availabilities and overall, the properties that make up the marketplace; while LoopNet contains but a fraction of the availabilities and even less overall market details. As for “Commercial MLS” in Massachusetts, it really doesn’t exist, at least in the way MLS functions for Residential real estate (where the overwhelming majority of property available within the MLS geography is displayed and updated regularly, with rules) and that goes back to the differences between Commercial and Residential real estate practice (a related, but different topic for another time). There is one CIE (Commercial Information Exchange) in Massachusetts, operated by a NAR chartered commercial REALTOR overlay board, but it only covers locations far outside the Boston metro marketplace. Other services are just advertising. As for viable options to the foregoing, I believe only Xceligent is remotely close to providing a product/service that can compete with CoStar. As far as I can tell, they are offering a similar product suite and functionality to CoStar, though apparently with more competitive pricing and a different geography progression to their growth (current Xceligent markets: http://www.xceligent.com/locations.aspx ). On the heels of its 2012 deal with investment partner dmgi, Xceligent announced last year that they would be expanding into the 65 largest markets in the US by 2016, as part of a 100+ market rollout nationally. Unfortunately, I still haven’t heard when they will begin offering service in Boston! But the sooner, the better, because monopoly is not good for consumers.