For Commercial Real Estate Entrepreneurs, Pandemic Proving To Be The Right Time For Innovation

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The pandemic has left many small businesses battered and bruised. Others were killed off entirely by the impact of the Covid-19 virus. But for many emerging proptech firms in the commercial real estate space, the Covid era has been a boon to business.

So says Daniel Tropp, president and founder of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based AEBOV Industrial Real Estate Brokerage, which handles leasing, investment sales and research, and offers what Tropp terms “the industry’s most innovative real estate valuation process.”

During the course of the pandemic, many in the commercial real estate field have been awakened to emerging technology, Tropp says. That technology, he adds, “presented new ways to reach clients and new platforms to get information to them.”

Pandemic push

Tropp had spent a decade in investment sales in New York City, working for such luminaries as Ariel Property Advisors’ Shimon Shkury, before the emergence of Covid last year. “In March, when the pandemic started, I was part of layoffs and was let go from an international shop,” he recalls. “It was a gut punch that took time to process. But I started brainstorming. In hindsight, had the status quo been maintained, I might not have been forced to make the decision [to launch AEBOV] that I did.”   

 Tropp used the first months of the health and economic crisis to launch his business and examine processes and systems where fresh new efficiencies could be introduced.

Catching his attention was the valuation model used to examine the value of clients’ properties. Tropp decided to make that examination a more interactive process, enabling clients to sit down with AEBOV to view a polished presentation and alter the variables based on updated information.

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In real time with the client, the AEBOV team uses the interactive process to adjust the taxes, rent roll, any ongoing appeals and specific expenses the client might envision. The process results in a more comprehensive understanding of the clients’ properties’ values and potential values. In addition, Tropp says, “It’s a lot more efficient, more engaging and dynamic for the client, and it’s greener because there’s no paper.”

Tropp also took pains to ensure AEBOV’s industrial listings stand out in the marketplace. He did so by incorporating fresh technology and advanced graphic design techniques into AEBOV’s marketing materials. As he has noted, “There has always been a lower standard among brokerages when it comes to marketing industrial property. We are committed to solving that problem.”

Other proptech

In the course of launching his business, Tropp was impressed with other entrepreneurs leveraging proptech to advance their own company fortunes during the pandemic.

Among those that have caught his eye are Development AI, a company founded by Carson Hess that analyzes zoning maps across different markets, using its proprietary software to identify possible underutilized properties.

Another, Basis Software, founded by Casey Panzer, works with Excel models to provide a deeper analysis of investors’ real estate portfolios. And Predictre, founded by Michael Pearce, provides a tool that aggregates and customizes all data real estate teams use to come to their final decisions.

“What ties us together is that over the course of the pandemic, working from home and starting businesses, people in the industry have been awakened to technology,” Tropp says, citing his own experience as an example. “Being in a mid-market shop for a very long time, and then a large shop for a number of years, your role there isn’t to look for new technology to incorporate into the business. It is to do the brokerage groundwork, make calls, generate business, generate and build a revenue stream and close deals.

“For me, once I started doing not just the brokerage work but all the ancillary things that come with building a business, I began looking at suites of software and services that could set my business apart and provide more and better service to clients.”

Like a number of other industries, commercial real estate confronted unprecedented challenges during the past year and a half, Tropp concludes.

But along with those headwinds came significant opportunities. “I believe commercial real estate companies that used that time to assess their business plans and incorporate new technologies are going to have more success in the future,” he says.

“We are already starting to see how new technologies are impacting virtually every area of our business . . . Those investments will continue to pay dividends for innovative companies that are now better positioned to reach potential clients more effectively and offer those clients smarter, more efficient solutions.”