Commercial brokers across the industry are facing a new challenge: remote work.
Coronavirus has caused just about every commercial real estate brokerage to pivot and rethink their strategies. In an already competitive business landscape, brokers now have to get even more creative than they did before —not just to close deals, but to stay in touch with their teams and manage their deal pipelines.
Quarantine or not, the show must go one. Thankfully, there is a growing body of commercial real estate brokerage management software tools that can be utilized by commercial teams looking to establish themselves as market leaders.
Whether it’s visibility to current and potential opportunities, or ensuring productivity in everyday workflows, brokerage management software and property intelligence can help your team stick together (virtually, of course) and muddle through these challenging times.
Brokerage Management Software for Commercial Teams
In this article, we take a look at an array of commercial real estate software programs and how they may be utilized by CRE brokerage teams, in and outside of quarantine.
The categories of software that we’ll look include the following:
- CRM and Lead Management
- Project Management
- Office Management
- Virtual Tours
CRM and Lead Management Software
There are different types of CRE lead management software, but most are considered “CRM” systems of some sort.
CRM, which stands for customer relationship management, systems can significantly boost brokerage team productivity when used consistently. Especially now, when individuals are working remotely and need technology to stay connective, CRMs can optimize workflows for everyone — from lead generation to pipeline management.
Some CRM systems, like Salesforce, are used by companies of all kinds. There’s another category of CRM systems, though, which have been created specifically with commercial real estate teams in mind. These include:
Apto, a web-based software for commercial brokers looking to manage contacts, property information, listings and deals.
Property listings, photos and other information can be integrated with various MLS products and stored in the CRM database.
- Quarantine Tip: A separate “back office” module helps to facilitate paperless closings. It’s a game-changer that serves as a brokerage intranet for team members and helps assure secure transactions.
Many in the commercial real estate world are already familiar with AscendixRE given its robust CRM offerings for CRE brokers.
But many do not realize that AscendixRE has a new product on the market, AscendixRE Land, which is a CRM software application designed specifically for CRE land brokers.
The platform was designed to assist brokers working specifically on farm, ranch, recreational, commercial land and other land transactions.
No other CRM platform exists that is exclusively made for land brokers, with specific data sets and fields integrated that apply to land brokerage.
AscendixRE Land organizes valuable information about landowners, land buyers, vendors, listings, properties, and properties available for lease, redevelopment or sale – all in one central location.
ClientLook, a CRM platform specific to commercial real estate professionals that is widely utilized by national brokerage firms such as Cushman & Wakefield, Colliers, and Newmark Grub Knight Frank.
- Quarantine Tip: ClientLook can be used to track contacts, properties, listings and comps company-wide… talk about staying connected. It also provides a suite of “Concierge Services” to assist with time-consuming commercial real estate brokerage tasks, such as showing coordination, email marketing, and tenant verification, so productivity gets a boost, too.
Reonomy is another way for commercial brokerage teams to prospect for and close new deals, even when working remotely.
Even before the pandemic (remember that?), Reonomy was helping teams stay connected during the prospecting process.
Its powerful property intelligence provides easily searchable, building-level information that can be found by location, asset class, building size, year sold, debt balance, and more. So, while you might not be able to physically travel to say, Austin, Texas, you can still search for properties there.
Reonomy also provides highly valuable owner contact information — an essential for trying to convert a lead into a deal.
That information can then be uploaded into your company’s CRM system. So, your team can streamline its prospecting strategy and close more deals together. Everything lives in one place that’s easily accessed from anywhere, arming you and other brokers to get work done.
CRE Project Management Software
Commercial real estate deals can be highly complicated, involving multiple parties – the buyer, seller, architects, attorneys, appraisers, lenders, brokers and more.
With so many moving parts from a distance, it’s critical to have a strong project management software to keep everyone on the brokerage team on point.
Here are some of the most popular CRE project management software applications:
IC Project is a project management software for CRE brokers that allows users to create a task, determine its deadline, and then assign that task to specific team members.
IC Project then notifies team members accordingly, sorting tasks by due date to create prioritized to-do lists. Deadlines are automatically integrated into a shared calendar so everyone can monitor and stay on top of impending deadlines.
Quarantine Tip: IC Project also has a time tracking tool, which is a helpful way for brokerage teams to track how they’re allocating their time each day. For instance, if a chunk of your day is spent shuffling through stacks of paperwork, perhaps some of the paperwork could be automated, thereby freeing up that valuable time for other responsibilities, such as business development.
ProofHub helps simplify the management of complex tasks.
Users can create custom workflows that breaks tasks into “stages,” and for each stage, you can assign responsibilities for individual team members.
There’s also a proofing tool that makes it easy for project collaborators to mark up and comment on documents; these edits can easily be shared with other team members such as the project architects.
For instance, a commercial broker may be working with a restaurant group to find a new location.
The broker can upload floor plans into ProofHub and the restauranteur can mark up the floor plan indicating what sort of tenant improvements may be needed before committing to a lease.
Quarantine Tip: ProofHub also makes it easy to create Gantt charts, which allows users to set dependencies between tasks. So when working remotely, team members can still collaborate and keep track of project management with ease. All these tasks organized, by dependency, and ProofHub allows users to easily edit those milestones in a way that then adjusts the schedule for follow-on tasks accordingly.
CRE Office Management Software
Commercial real estate is loaded with paperwork, from contracts to reports, appraisals and more.
CRE brokerage teams find it particularly beneficial to use document generation software to organize, save, and file documents in a way where they can be recalled on a moment’s notice.
In other words, no more calling the office manager and asking them to track down a lease agreement from four years ago!
Egnyte is one of the most popular cloud-based tools for document storage and sharing.
Files can be shared amongst all brokerage team members and third parties as needed, when needed, and importantly – stored safely when not needed.
Users can grant access to those who need the documents, and prevent access from those who don’t.
It makes file sharing incredibly easy among large groups, particularly when sharing multiple versions of a document or especially large documents that cannot easily be transferred via email.
DocuSign and dotloop are two of the most commonly used tools for electronic signatures.
While both are relatively similar, there are two key differences: DocuSign signatures are not automatically dated as they are when signed through dotloop, but dotloop does not offer as robust integration with other software programs, like Microsoft Suite, Salesforce, and Dropbox.
However either are excellent options for brokerage teams finding themselves needing to frequently sign (or initial) documents — especially from afar.
CRE Accounting Software
Payroll tools are critically important to commercial real estate brokerage teams. This is because payroll works differently in CRE vs. other industries: CRE brokers are more reliant on commissions, and checks can vary in size and frequency compared to other industries that pay employees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
CommissionTrac is a favorite among brokerage firms. This CRE accounting software makes it easy to manage each agent’s commissions, and can even automate a majority of the firm’s accounting needs.
CRE Conferencing Software
Every industry, not just commercial real estate, has come to love Zoom in quarantine. But Zoom isn’t the only app for hosting virtual meetings (or happy hours). Below are a few alternatives for you to try when getting your brokerage team together, whether it’s for an important client meeting or just after work drinks.
Skype for Business
When it comes to video conferencing, you can’t go wrong with an original: Skype.
Skype for Business, which is part of the Microsoft Teams suite, is more than just a video conferencing app. It’s “a communication tool built for businesses to connect anytime, anywhere” that combines instant messenger, video, calling and team collaboration into one application.
If you’re using Outlook, even better — Skype for Business integrates directly to your Microsoft email platform, so you can have notifications and conversations saved directly to your inbox. It’s really a one-stop-shop for hosting collaborative, enjoyable meetings and keeping the lines of communication between your brokerage team open and efficient.
Another video conferencing app, GoToMeeting is an effective and easy way to host remote meetings with your team.
As with most platforms with unlimited conferencing time and features, it’s not free. But it is affordable — their professional plan starts at $12/month per organizer and includes conferencing for up to 150 participants with private dial-ins, business messaging, and screen sharing.
- Quarantine Tip: Not every meeting has to include video. GoToMeeting has a high-quality conference call platform that makes it easy to conduct business with multiple players over the phone. It will take your phone calls from simple to strategic.
Looking for the most affordable option? Google Hangouts, another video conferencing platform, starts at just $6/month as part of the Basic G-Suite plan.
Google Hangouts is easy to use and offers quality and secure video conferencing for teams of all shapes and sizes. The best part is it launches right from your email, so there’s no plug-ins or downloads for you to toggle between. Everything is handy right from your Gmail inbox, taking efficiency to the next level.
Have a more tech-centric team? Check out more web conferencing apps here.
CRE Virtual Tour Software
Since meeting in person is limited, virtual tours for commercial real estate is more important than ever — potential buyers want to see and feel a space before they make a decision, and traditional 2D photos just won’t cut it.
Enter: virtual tour providers.
During this time, it’s critical to stand out from the competition and show-off your properties as best as you can. Take your potential buyers on a virtual tour of the space with these digital tools and providers.
Invision Studio is a VR studio based in California that serves commercial real estate firms and brokerages across the globe. Their technology captures spaces in 360-degrees, so virtual tours are nothing but premier.
Anyone who works in real estate knows what a low-quality virtual tour looks and feels like, but Invision Studio provides exactly the opposite. Their interface utilizes smooth scrolling, so your buyers can “walk” through a space easily with just a couple of clicks.
Invision Studio tours are also compatible with every device, so you won’t have to worry about whether or not your client is at a desktop. They’ll be able to view the space on their phone or tablet and get the same experience.
You don’t need fancy camera equipment to shoot your own virtual tour. With Matterport, all you need is an iPhone to turn your space into “a stunning and immersive digital twin.”
Matterport is an iPhone application that allows you to scan the room to capture everything in 3D. This gives your prospects a way to do their own walkthroughs to get a sense of the property they’re interested in.
For one user, the app is free. But if you want multiple brokers to have access, the Starter package starts at $9/month. This includes space for up to 5 active users and integrates directly to Realtor.com.
Matterport also allows your team of brokers to easily share tours on social media, like Instagram and Facebook, taking you one step closer to closing that deal.
Stay Connected, No Matter Where You Are
Nowadays, your team needs the tools to stay connected and collaborative more than ever.
Luckily, brokerage management software helps your commercial team at every step of the way. So they can stay productive, work together, and get more done.