Commercial real estate is a local business and has been for a very long time. Now, all of a sudden, technological revolutions and innovations have catapulted it into the 21st century almost overnight, or so it seems. It’s a fact that commercial real estate did not embrace technology until very recently, years behind our residential brethren. But, this is probably not new news to any of you reading this.

Over fifteen years ago I attended a commercial real estate conference. Prior to the commencement address, I wandered through the convention marketplace. Never one to turn a blind eye to shopping, there were eye popping gadgets everywhere that totally captivated me. Suddenly I was on a technology shopping spree and left the conference with: my first palm pilot (Tech Revolution #1); ACT contact management software (Tech Revolution #2); a wireless printer; and my first laptop (Tech Revolution #3).

The palm pilot became my new best friend! It afforded me the luxury of taking notes electronically (a plus for those of us with handwriting so bad that we can’t even read our own), keeping a calendar that synched with my computer, and then synching my contact information as well… all taking place in the palm of my hand. It was wonderful! The palm pilot, combined with the laptop which held virtually all the same information, allowed me to leave the office and remain essentially connected no matter where I was.

Then came email on smart phones. Now, one never really needed to GO to an office to transact business. We/I became wildly efficient and very responsive to our/my clients. Add to this the ability to store critical documents in a CLOUD-like (Tech Revolution #4) environment that enables all parties in a transaction to view the same document via a password, and you can just feel the efficiency of technology making our work far more productive.

Now in 2012, I purchased an iPad (Tech Revolution #5) a device that has revolutionized commercial real estate in much the same way that net books – lighter weight laptops – have revolutionized work for the traveling professional. We are like turtles, carrying all of our work life with us, wherever we go.

My investment has paid off with big dividends, especially when I added an application to the pad, called COSTAR Go. Costar has been a commercial real estate website that featured specific building information, tenant information as well as a compilation of past sales transactions. Costar does this best for office properties, and reasonably well for industrial and retail specialties. The program is downright amazing for researching sales by product type, size, location and any combination of the above.

For example, if we were sitting together, I could pull up all of the sales that have occurred in the last 12 months of all office buildings in Hillsborough County between 5,000 and 50,000 SF.  I could generate a map, a summary of the sales down to the PER SQUARE FOOT price, and look at the deed as well. All from the iPad in my hand!

This tool, beyond any others that I have embraced, gives me the precise, true and timely information I need to serve my Sellers and Buyers. I can suggest a pricing strategy and an offering strategy in real time. My research is at my finger tips to use immediately.

What about landlord/tenant information? Recent lease transactions are also available to provide a framework for proposals; this data is not as comprehensive but provides good benchmarks.

I am also using this application to anticipate DEMAND in a market area that would have taken days and weeks to compile. Could there be a niche to fill in office building demand or even medical office building demand in a particular submarket? Is new construction only months away?

Commercial real estate is still a very local business, but you can view the marketplace in real time (think Google Maps and Aerials, too)  with real data thanks to technology and new applications written for this industry. Nothing replaces going out on tour to see properties. Technology has only enhanced that experience by allowing us to SHOP in the luxury of our office prior to getting on the road. “Efficient” is the new word I use to describe my approach to buying/selling/leasing commercial properties in 2012.

Nancy Phaneuf, CCIM, is the President of Nancy Phaneuf Commercial Realty & Development. She has over 22 years of commercial office and industrial brokerage experience combined with 12 years of ground up development.  Feel free to contact her at nancyp@npcrd.com.