Tech: You May Not Embrace It, But Don’t Ignore It

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“When you repeat a mistake it is not a mistake anymore: it is a decision.” – Paulo Coelho



Do you need to be an expert in technology? No. But you need to know enough.”

NEW YORK CITY—Quick! Who invests in Hightower? How about VTS? Don’t know? You might be cruisin’ for a technological bruisin’. That’s the warning coming from NAI Global CEO Jay Olshonsky (without the cool ’50s homage).

Olshonsky, one of the speakers at CCIM’s upcoming CCIM Thrive conference in Atlanta, says that brokers today need not necessarily be linked in to every software program on the market—the cost, in fact, to do so would be prohibitive.

But, “You can’t ignore it,” he says. “You have to be curious. At some level, if you don’t understand technology, you don’t understand the need for such applications as data centers that support the cloud.”

So what of VTS (View the Space), the growing cloud-based leasing and management site? The answer to the above questions is…Blackstone. And if you knew it, it’s a no-brainer. If you don’t, well, listen to Olshonsky: “If you go to talk to Blackstone about handling one of their properties, and you don’t present correctly to them, you’ve hurt your reputation.” And presenting well in this case means not bragging about your proficiency with VTS-competitor Hightower.

Both disintermediation sites are of relatively new origin, but even older sites, such as online data providers CoStarXceligent and LoopNet are redefining themselves and are improving their service offerings. Olshonsky tells of a recent demo he saw from one of the above in which he saw the potential—in just one new application—to put some of the newer emerging firms (Read: up-and-coming competition) out of business.

For that reason, Olshonsky sees a nearly 2001-era shakeup in the tech sector, as newer firms continue to get gobbled up by bigger companies with deeper pockets. “I’ve had brokers ask me why we use CoStar. Well, Costar is worth $7 billion. Maybe that’s one reason we use them. Plus, they are in virtually every city where there is a CCIM or an SIOR.”

Brokers need to know this, even if they pass on signing up. “Do you need to be an expert in technology?” the NAI leader asks. “No. But you need to know enough.”

Olshonsky, of course, adds NAI’s own online platform for investment sales, Real Capital Markets, to the above list. With good reason. “We feel that if you’re a broker and you don’t put a transaction over $10 million on our site, there are owners who might turn to you and say you’re not qualified because RCM has 50% of all properties sold above $10 million in the US.”

So if you as a broker don’t need to sign up for them all, what do you need? Whatever the client wants.

“When an owner says, ‘How are you going to account for my property?’ The answer is, ‘What accounting system would you like me to put it on?’ If he says ‘Yardi,’ you say, ‘OK.’ If he says, ‘MRI,’ you go, ‘No problem.’ And if he says he has a proprietary system that they will teach you to use, your answer is, ‘Bring  it on.’ ”

John Salustri ›

John Salustri has covered the commercial real estate industry for nearly 25 years. He was the founding editor of, and is a four-time recipient of the Excellence in Journalism award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.




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