Tech Changes the Way CRE Does Business

The Newsletter

Tech Continues to Change the Way CRE Does Business
Real estate technology had a bumper year in 2016, when $2.6 billion was invested in tech-based products and solutions for the real estate industry. It doesn’t seem like things are slowing down, either. Here are the types of hot Commercial Real Estate (CRE) tech to keep your eye on this year.

Internet of things (IoT): In the past, you may not have found out about ruptured pipes until the affected tenant called to report it; now you get an instant email from your monitoring device. The IoT is changing the way buildings and infrastructure assets are being managed, with efficient, real-time monitoring that is delivering a proven return on investment. Expect more of the same in 2017.

Online investment: Sophisticated crowdsourcing systems are enabling real estate investment projects. Groups of small investors and developers can now securely access real estate opportunities that were once out of their reach. Also worth watching, according to a recent Forbes article, are “solutions and service providers that serve a rapidly growing yet underserved segment of the market: the entrepreneurial developer.”

Virtual reality: Virtual reality continues to be a big growth area, helping developers and real estate agents communicate their listings in a compelling way. As its price tag continues to drop, expect VR to grow into an essential marketing and sales tool.

Big data: Big data is also gaining traction, and as companies begin to master the data being generated, analytics and data-driven decision-making processes will become an even more embedded element in the sales and underwriting sectors of the real estate industry.

Mentoring Benefits the Mentee, the Mentor, and Their Company

A good mentor can make a difference in the careers – and lives – of their mentees. Call it giving back or preparing for the future: mentoring, when done thoughtfully, with respect and open communication, can be beneficial to both sides.

Here are some best practices for successful mentoring:

  • Seek out opportunities to help your mentee grow and learn.
  • Help him or her navigate the politics of the organization and the industry.
  • Provide constructive criticism.
  • Be a sounding board as he or she thinks through decisions and considers choices.
  • Offer perspectives, options, and alternatives your mentee might not have thought of.

Beyond career guidance, a mentor can also be a source of psychological support. The fact that you believe in your mentee, both personally and professionally, can boost his or her self-confidence and willingness to take risks. Being open-minded and patient shows respect. Be invested in your mentee’s success, but maintain high expectations; you’ll inspire him or her to shoot for the stars.

It is up to the mentor to establish the tone for all interactions and keep the relationship on track, especially when disagreements arise. But beyond this, the best mentorship is a two-way street.

As more millennial employees come on stream, the concept of mentorship, like so many other things in the office environment, will likely change. Millennials bring new approaches to replace the old, but the practice of mentoring may become even more important, albeit in a different way.

Some companies have recently implemented “reverse mentoring” programs, partnering seasoned executives with millennial employees to learn new tech skills and develop an understanding of this digitally savvy, socially connected generation. It’s a relationship that benefits both – and the company they work for.

How to Patent the Next Great Idea – and Retire in the Sun

So you’ve come up with a brilliant idea and are now ready to turn it into a reality. But first, you need to protect your idea with a patent.

Actually, you can’t patent an idea, but you can file a patent application as soon as it’s sufficiently tangible to qualify as an invention.

For this, you’ll need a plan for transforming your idea into an invention. Together, the idea and the development plan form what is known as a “conception.”

How do you find out what kind of patent you should apply for? If you invented a new product or a new way to improve on an existing product, you can apply for a “utility patent.” Most inventions fit into this category.

However, if you’ve developed a new design that will change the appearance (but not the function) of an existing product, you’ll need a “design patent.”

The first step is to conduct a patent search to ensure your invention has not been previously patented.

It’s fairly easy to research a patent online, or you can consult a patent attorney or search expert.

If your idea hasn’t been “taken,” you’re ready to finalize your invention, a phase known as “reduction to practice.”

Now it becomes tangible and identifiable, either through the creation of a prototype or through a detailed description with illustrations, and you can file your application.

One caveat: more than half a million patent applications are filed annually, and few inventions prove successful.

Yours may be one; after all, you deserve your moment in the sun!

Adaptive Reuse: A “Major Force” in the Market
Merriam-Webster defines adaptive reuse as “the renovation and reuse of preexisting structures (such as warehouses) for new purposes.”

And while this is hardly a new idea, a lot has changed since 1967. In that year, the Jefferson Market Library, formerly the Jefferson Market Courthouse, was opened by the New York Public Library system as a branch, becoming one of the first such conversions.

Still in operation, the “old Jeff” led the way for many other adaptive reuse projects across North America – from the conversions of factories and warehouses into lofts to the redevelopment of an indoor mall into “microunits” and an unused rail line into a park. As an article in the Observer notes, “The Jefferson Market Library ultimately set the stage for more creative and unexpected adaptive reuse projects, and adaptive reuse would emerge as a major force in the modern real estate market.”

As a concept, adaptive reuse achieves two key purposes: maintaining the façade of historic buildings while totally revolutionizing their function, and responding to the need for more (and different) types of housing in industrial urban areas. Notes a recent post in Forbes, “As cities evolved, centrally located buildings that once served a nonresidential purpose (e.g., mills, factories, warehouses) are now placed in areas that present attractive residential opportunities.”

Comments Alex Herrera, a director at the New York Landmarks Conservancy, “Adaptive reuse is here to stay. Now, any architect worth his salt has a few of these projects.”

New technology enabled adaptive reuse projects. And, as Herrera points out, so did European immigrants skilled in restoring old buildings, who began arriving in North America in the 1970s.

Nevertheless, challenges abound in rejigging old buildings to conform to current health and safety standards. There are usually unanticipated costs that appear in all stages of a project, and some buildings – churches in particular – can be hard to convert. In some cases, developers must clean up brownfield lands before construction can begin.

The Forbes post lists many adaptive reuse projects, including Southside on Lamar in Dallas, Texas. This former Sears warehouse, built in 1910, had outlived its usefulness and ultimately shut down in the 1990s. It underwent a series of adaptive reuse projects in the early 2000s, eventually becoming a “multifaceted commercial and residential structure that features 455 market-rate apartments,” according to Forbes. Southside has also encouraged a significant revitalization of the area-once well placed for product distribution, it’s now a trendy environment in which to live and shop.

The Arcade Providence in Providence, Rhode Island, repurposed a former indoor shopping mall into microunits. Notes Carl Whitaker, author of the Forbes post, “The property’s exceptionally high occupancy rate suggests these microunits are a hot commodity within the local market.”

Adds Whitaker, “Adaptive reuse can be a great way for developers to leverage extremely valuable but otherwise inaccessible plots of land. If a structure has been designated historically significant and therefore cannot be torn down, [developers can repurpose them] into trendy, ‘hip’ units that renters are willing to pay a premium for.”

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Worth Reading
Don’t Look for a Great Idea. Look for a Good Problem
By Greg Satell

Meaningful innovation comes from a great idea. And the best ideas result from solving a problem. In fact, the most innovative firms are the ones that actively look for problems to solve. And since times are constantly changing, there is a never-ending stream of new problems needing attention. Don’t anticipate the future: “The truth is that it’s more important to explore than to predict.”

Jeff Bezos Explains the Perfect Way to Make Risky Business Decisions
By Julie Bort

Business Insider

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believes in making fast decisions. In a recent letter to stockholders, he explained that waiting for 90% of the information you need means waiting too long. That’s his Day 1 philosophy. But it’s not just about speed; it’s about quality decision making and gaining commitment. Bezos may not agree, but this truly is information worth waiting for.

Fate of Businesses Rests in Their Ability to Evolve
By Paul Parisi

The Globe and Mail

Drawing attention to the dramatic speed of change, Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada, celebrates digital disruption and the creativity of companies providing new goods and services. Remain relevant: accelerate growth and evolve, with strategies listed here.

You and Your Accountant
Most small-business owners start out wearing many hats, but eventually there will be a time when the “accountant” hat no longer fits; you need more sophisticated financial help. Find out when, why, and how below:

Here are 21 ways an accountant can help:
21 Ways Accountant Can Help a Small Business Owner

Accountants aren’t just for tax time. Find out about year-round services:
How Accountants Can Help Small Business Owners

Accounting professionals can save you money in the long run:
How Can an Accountant Help a Small Business?

Adding an accountant to your team? Here’s what to look for when hiring:
Choosing the Right Accountant for Your Business

Handling the books yourself can generate a mistake or five. An accountant can help you avoid these:
Top Five Business Mistakes Your Accountant Can Help You Avoid

This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter.
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