Saturday, October 6, 2007

Technology... A Terrible Thing To Waste

Below is my first article for BloodhoundBlog..

Hopefully as a new contributor to the forum I will be able to provide some insight on the commercial side of the business. Without going into the history of the Site To Do Business and its involvement with the CCIM Institute (I’ll save that one for a later date), I wanted to point out that one of the most helpful, most talked about (at least within the inner circles of the Institute) and worth every penny of this designee’s annual dues is the Site To Do Business (“STDBonline”) website.

Simply, STDBonline is an information resource site geared towards the commercial real estate professional with over 20,000 subscribers to date. It is offered as a subscription service for non-CCIM designees, but included as an exclusive membership “perk” once you become a CCIM candidate “on the way to the pin” ( another topic to be discussed later). For those in Silicon Valley and Bellevue pushing the residential side of the real estate technology chase (,,, et al.) in order to attract numerous eye balls searching for homes to justify venture capital dollars looking for advertising payback, the informational aspect of the commercial side of the technology chase is left to a select few (providers, that is). As a CCIM, this invaluable tool continues to add features and data that meet the demands of sophisticated owners, investors and potential clients. For many of my CCIM colleagues, STDBonline is always open in one browser on the taskbar.

For example, the October 2007 news blog on the STDBonline website highlights the following valuable data resources for its subscriber base:

  • Business Lists - Once you establish a project and create a study area, you are able to generate lists of businesses to use for market analysis, competitive analysis, marketing, or prospecting. Business lists are available on study areas using radii, donuts, and hand drawn shapes or a standard geography, which receives the closest 2,000 to your center point. Currently, there are 16,000,000 businesses in this database. After creating/selecting a qualifying study area you want to use to create a business list, go to the deck entitled “Choose Reports and Maps.” Step one asks you to choose a report package from the drop down list of categories. There are two possible choices, the Business Extract or the Business Locator. The Business Extract provides you with an Excel spreadsheet of businesses that you can manipulate, upload onto a map, or use mail merge to create a mailing list. The Business Locator generates the same information but in a PDF;
  • Flood Maps - FloodSource has 100% up-to-date coverage of the entire U.S. and 100,000 plus flood maps online. The data and the maps come directly from the actual up-to-date, official FEMA flood maps. If you’re an appraiser, surveyor, or other real estate professional and you simply need a “snapshot look” at a property’s location relative to the nearest floodplain, FloodScapes are what you need. They are ideal for inserting into reports or as a pictorial tool for illustrating a property’s likelihood of incurring flood damage. The concept is simple: enter any street address or any latitude/longitude in the U.S., and FloodSource automatically creates a custom map report, containing only the portion of the FEMA map you need with the property’s location indicated right on the map. You can save, import, or print your FloodScape report. Enter an address and get an official FEMA map;
  • Environmental Reports - The First American Environmental Risk Determination Report is used for evaluating and completing due diligence on a commercial real estate loan or for a property transaction. The report also provides extremely valuable environmental information for assisting in your financial decisions. It not only provides all governmental listed environmental action sites within a one-mile radii of the subject site, but also ranks the RISK from these sites and provides next step actions; and,
  • Business Information Summary - Now you can determine the number of businesses and employees in your area and compare its daytime population to its residential population. The Business Information Summary identifies the number of businesses and the number of employees by SIC and NAICS classifications in a market. The Business Information Summary also compares daytime population of the area to the residential population. Knowing where people live and work in your market is vital to deciding where to locate businesses and services such as new bank branches, ATMs, restaurants and hotels.

These are just a few of the features incorporated into the website, which has a separate sitemap as a promotions list of the available tools, but here are a couple of my favorites and why:

  • GlobeXplorer – Online aerial mapping site that won’t replace Google Maps, but it will provide the latest aerials in the industry. And the most useful tool (at least with my clients) is a dropdown menu bar to show the previous aerials taken over the property. Need an aerial from 10 years ago to compare the growth patterns for your residential developer clients, you won’t find that information from Google Maps;
  • LenderCheck – Online reports emailed to you for a specific property that will help you stay ahead of many “surprises” on your way down the Closing Checklist. Need to know if the property in escrow will require a Phase II, this tool will help you identify problems before they become surprises weeks before closing (as we all know, any deal has its "problems", but what you try to eliminate are the "surprises" that kill or delay a deal to death);
  • Consumer Expenditures – Online consumer expenditure demographic reports emailed to you based upon radii, donuts, customized grid or drive-time analysis. Here's what I like to do with a drive-time analysis in a cold call example: “I know that the market is slow right now on the other side of town and you may be interested in looking for alternative retail space, I wanted to email you an excel spreadsheet of the business customers within a 20 minute drive time of our center so you can see your potential customer base from our location. Can I get your email address?”Which agent do you think a potential retail client is going to remember after you email him/her a list (in excel format – along with a graphical representation) of all the businesses in a 20 minute drive-time from their potential new retail location? With practice, the report takes less than 5 minutes once you input your location.

Many, if not the majority, of the new clients we pursue in the commercial real estate industry test our “proximity to opportunity” to help them make money. This “proximity to opportunity” might be the first step in the process, but the information, technology and resources (along with the speed in which we provide it) helps solidify a foundation of trust to maintain a lasting relationship with any client. STDBonline is our information staple in the commercial side of the business. Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute to the forum.

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