Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why Listing Information Is Critical

Every day one of our Member Services people gets asked “Why are there so many fields? Do I have to fill them all out?”

The obvious answer, of course, is “no”. We’re not the Board of Realtors; we don’t require every last detail. The honest answer would be “If you want to be seen by the most searches possible, you should enter every detail you have”.

There is a reason why all those fields are there. I’ve had people call and ask me why when he searches for kitchens, only a couple of things show up. Well, a lot of it can be attributed to the fact that not everyone mentions kitchens in their descriptions. So imagine that being the deal breaker for someone, and because your listing didn’t include it (even though it had one), your listing didn’t come up. And your listing was perfect for his client...

Please take a moment to fill out more than the address and attach a PDF (with the information that brokers need rendered completely unsearchable). In this economy, we all need to do everything we can to succeed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

PL Mental Health Break: YouTube Turns 6

I could remember the time when this fledgeling site called YouTube would only contain mostly home-made videos. Fast-forward to today and it's the de facto place for anything video. The site has empowered billions of people in sharing videos with the push of a button. We at Property Line use YouTube to host several of our video tutorials, and it goes without saying that the site also offers a venue for companies to tap into its broad audience reach. Today, the video media sharing giant turns six, and the stats are pretty amazing:

"The other great birthday present? Your views. We’re amazed that over this last weekend, you drove YouTube past the 3 billion views a day mark, a 50% increase over last year. That’s the equivalent of nearly half the world’s population watching a YouTube video each day, or every U.S. resident watching at least nine videos a day."

Read more here. (via SlashGear)
3 billion page views per day with 48-hours of videos uploaded each day on average! Wow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Excessive Automation

It becomes the sensible software architect to attempt to automate each intricacy of his business as quickly as possible, as soon as he becomes aware of the essentials of any set of related tasks. This sort of philosophy is seductive on the surface, but quickly begets such tatterdemalion progeny as software bloat and overcomplicated interfaces (usually the bizarre offspring of some functionally deprived fever dream). Imbued with an inflated sense of power, a programmer quickly sets about overstepping his boundaries, offering the lure of a sufficiently polished button in return for the soul of one's life work.

Certainly, machine intelligence should be wielded with draconian authority in many cases, especially where legacy practices have led to arcane bottlenecks that halt productivity. Any worker who performs the same task over and over again should be able to ask his technically associates with impunity exactly why such things must be so; and a capable developer should be able to pinpoint the cause for inefficiency and suggest at least a rudimentary means of procedure.

There are several cases, however, which at some point deal with matters of judgment or complex pattern recognition; these situations are the ones that give coders nightmares and lead to badly written software and permanent indigestion. Just because almost everything can be reduced to a function does not necessarily mean that it must. A machine might be able to badly emulate a human at decision-making processes. A software solution will not stand the test of time if it must deal with a rapidly changing set of provisions that result from a business attempting to adjust to market situations. In some cases, higher levels of abstraction will ultimately yield incredible rewards (especially with newer development platforms, what your college graduates refer to as paradigms). In other cases, you can end up with projects that never quite meet their mark.

There are no hard and fast rules that can be used in all situations without repercussion. There is no substitute for wisdom and experience. The simplest proviso one might agree to in any project of sufficient size is not to attempt to solve a problem whose steps are not immediately obvious.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hiring the Right People

One of the more frustrating aspects for anyone in a management position has got to be hiring new people. So many questions arise...
Is this person going to grow our business?
How do I know which candidate is best?
Should I go with experience or a desire to learn?
The fact of the matter is you can’t know with any degree of certainty that the person you select is going to pan out, but you can make every effort to be as up front and honest about the position (and thereby eliminating people who don’t think the job is for them) in an effort to save interviewing time.

We’ve implemented some serious changes to how we hire people. Firstly, instead of putting an ad out with the standard jargon: “team player”, “organized”, “able to learn quickly”, etc., we’re going to list every last thing the job will entail. This way candidates can tell whether or not they want to apply, and neither the interviewer nor the applicant are wasting each other’s time.

Secondly, once someone decides they would like to apply, we have changed our interviewing techniques. Rather than asking the mundane questions such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, or “List your five strengths and weaknesses.”, PL is going to take a rather unorthodox approach.

Below you’ll find the first step to our interviewing process:

It begins with a written questionnaire:
Dear Applicant,

Working for PL is an adventure every day. We want like-minded geniuses to join us on our quest to conquer Earth.

Below are some questions that will help us get to know you. PLEASE NOTE: there are no right or wrong answers.

If this isn’t your kind of deal, you may stop at anytime and leave. We won’t judge you.

The choice, of course, is yours.

We hope you choose to stay for the interview.

On the next page, there are questions to help us determine if the candidate is compatible with our group.

We have a core group here that are amazing. It took us the better part of five years to get this team and I will do everything to keep them here. So if someone isn’t a good fit, we need to know ASAP.

Here’s a sample of the kinds of questions we ask:

If you could have one song as your entrance music every time you went somewhere, what would it be and why?

Multiple Choice:

My favorite Stooge is__________.
1. Larry
2. Moe
3. Shemp
4. Curly
5. Curly Joe
6. Joe

This or That:

Star Trek or Star Wars?
Mountain Dew or Coke/Pepsi?

True or False:

[T][F] - I have worn a costume in public on a day that wasn’t Halloween.

[T][F] - I have written or read fan fiction.

Tell us your hobbies:

And so on. Basically, we’re making ever attempt to weed out the people who won’t gel with our core team.

After that, comes the face to face interview (provided they haven’t already decided we’re not for them and left). And the interview entails giving us actual demonstrations of their skill sets. We need to know they can do what we told them we needed in our want ad.

If that goes well, the last step is references. If those check out, we may have our team member.

So we’ll see how the changes work in getting us the right staff faster.

Are we missing anything? Do you have tricks you could share? Tweet them or comment here. We’d love any other help we can get!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hydraulic Fracturing and Commercial Real Estate

Fracking and commercial real estate — where does commercial real estate fit in this story?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Free Data Versus Subscriptions. What to do?

Straight from our director's desk:
As the person in charge of making sure all the really smart people working here can continue to be geniuses and get paid for it, it’s something I struggle with every day.

My gut tells me “Pssst, you’re here to make money and be successful.”

My conscience tells me “Hey! Data should be free and accessible.

What’s a Director to do?

Try to offer our clients the best of both worlds. Unlimited searching and listing with no “levels” to subscribe to is a good start, we believe. Offering real people to walk you through any problems at no charge is another good business move. Listening to our clients and implementing changes based on their needs and not ours is another.

But let’s face it, we’re all here to make money. So PL decided long ago rather than gouging our clients with rising subscription prices (at least) every year and strong-arm tactics, we’ll create neat-o tools that clients can purchase if they want to purchase them.

We think that’s fair.

We also believe that clients know what’s best for clients.

PL wants to know what you are looking for in terms of service, tools, apps, or anything you see as a glaring omission to our brand. To win commercial brokers over to PL is an uphill battle, sure, we admit it. We’ll win the war, but only with your help. Talk to us. Tell others about us (and get free stuff for doing it!). Be vocal. You deserve to be heard by someone, and not just sitting in your office thinking it’s standard operating procedure (S.O.P.) to use the big guys because it’s what you’ve always done.

Take the trip with us. Years from now, when the economy is back to where it should be and we’re all making lots of money, you can tell the noobs, “I was there when PL took over and we stopped paying for things like looking at listings. You kids today have it so easy...”

I can’t wait to give that lecture to someone; I’ve certainly heard it a lot in my youth!

Have an awesome week everybody.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Commercial Real Estate & Real Estate

Commercial Real Estate and residential real estate has one thing in common, they both are pertaining to properties. But that's where the similarities end in so far as dealing with the nature of the business, how the property is sold/bought, and how the property is marketed or listed.

When we were approaching the redesign of the Property Line website back in 2007 (launched 2008), the design team had to quickly familiarize itself with the nuances of the CRE world, doing so would help us create a user interface (UI) that could effectively assist and make the lives of our user base more productive and eschew the 'just another pretty-faced' website route. We wanted a tool—a useful one first and foremost—then the eye candy as icing. We have been able to achieve that lofty goal at the time of its release, but like everything else, things change, technologies improve and open up new avenues that were not available beforehand. With that said, as we move forward, the tech team—comprised of designers and programmers—is always gearing up for a revamp, but a revamp takes time and careful planning and that's where the feedback from our members come in. Recently we've made a few adjustments to address a suggestion we received via Twitter (yes, we actually reply and interact with our followers!): We now have included the property name in the subject line in addition to the listing ID for every email notification that sends out to an agent. Commercial real estate agents/brokers can now quickly glance through their email inboxes and know what the inquiry is about in reference to their listing.

We love it when we can address simple solutions that has an immediate impact in the way the website and its tools are used. And with Commercial Real Estate, the quest for effective UI design and feature sets is a never-ending task. Allow me end this post with a snippet from an interesting article:
The difference between commercial real estate and residential are found in the types of properties being purchased. Commercial refers to land or buildings, while residential refers to homes. Also a significant difference is commercial properties are ones that earn income. The types of property for purchase can be divided into four divisions; retail, office, industrial, and multifamily. (Continue reading "An Overview Of Buying Commercial Real Estate" via BusinessNews Express)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CRE Loans Held by Banks Growing?

In real estate news and analysis from The Wall Street Journal ("Commercial Real Estate Loans Tick Up" by Eliot Brown):
"For the first time in more than a year, the amount of commercial real estate loans held by banks grew at the end of April, showing a one-week reversal of a long, consistent decline.

In the week ending April 20, according to data from the Federal Reserve, banks showed a seasonally adjusted increase of $979 million in commercial real estate loans on their books, to $1.458 trillion.

So has the long-wounded banking system finally hit bottom on its commercial real estate debt?"

Continue reading entire article here.

Movers & Shakers

Each month we feature a PL Member as our Mover & Shaker in our newsletter. Here's an excerpt from our April 2011 Newsletter featuring Edward Hanley (President of Hanley Investment Group Real Estate Advisors):
"Mr. Hanley is an expert in the sale of retail properties and has achieved an impressive sales record by delivering top prices in today’s real estate market for stabilized and value-add properties. Mr. Hanley advises his clients on acquisition and disposition strategies and provides advisory services as to how to market and reposition his clients’ assets to maximize their cash flow and disposition value."
Click here to continue reading.

What Tenants Want

When we find a good read, we always love to share it with our peers through Twitter, Facebook, and now here at our blog page. Below is a snippet from the article "What do tenants want?" by Shelly Owens:
"The commercial real estate market is all about supply and demand. The now-past building boom caused a lot of developers to build new commercial space while the building bust took away their tenants.

With the economy eating away at tenant profits, they do what they can to survive, including taking advantage of the oversupply of space. Real estate experts say, in this economy, tenants have plenty of room to bargain."
Click here to read the entire article.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Welcome to PL Blog!

We're excited to start blogging about our dynamic industry in Commercial Real Estate listing and marketing, but most importantly, we'd like to use this medium to communicate to our users the latest happenings in Property Line alongside any announcements we have about PLD that could affect how you use any of our services.

But all work and no play is boring, so with that said, we'll also include postings from our PL Mental Health Break right here. If you have suggestions of what you'd like to see here, be sure to drop us a note!