Building Engines announced over the weekend their plans to launch BuildingConnect, an affordable, fully branded, and easy to maintain website solution for commercial property owners and managers. Offering attractive design themes complemented by powerful search, communication and management tools, BuildingConnect will allow individual properties to manage their brand, showcase their amenities and service, and drive tenant engagement.
JLL-backed startup HiRise is set to disrupt the world of CRE leasing. Reminiscent of Airbnb for office space, HiRise is debuting in Washington, D.C. this summer (followed by a national expansion) and will be “the first online transactional marketplace where a tenant can actually search for commercial real estate, as well as complete the entire process all the way from search to occupancy, including signing a lease and paying the rent.”
Why D.C.? JLL reports that the nation’s capital sits on 46 million square feet of empty office space, and HiRise founders Andy O’Brien, David Adams and Alex Lassar believe every foot represents an opportunity to connect landlords and tenants.
“D.C. is the perfect place to launch an innovation like HiRise,” said Adams, who leads JLL’s Investor Services platform in the Mid-Atlantic region. “The vacancy rates for small spaces in D.C. have increased 83 percent since 2009, and HiRise lets landlords monetize that dormant space.”
HiRise is geared towards startups looking for smaller (sub-5,000-square-foot), short-term and more unique workspaces, with expedited leasing processes and flexible terms.
“The commercial real estate industry hasn’t kept up with the changing needs of real estate consumers,” said O’Brien, a Senior Vice President at JLL who specializes in tenant representation. “More than 500,000 tenants in the United States occupy office spaces that are less than 5,000-square feet.”
Today’s tenants, which are largely comprised of Millennials, have been driving change in the workplace. They’re mobile, tech savvy, and demand tools and systems to help them perform better. In addition, these Millennial tenants move quickly and don’t necessarily want to lock themselves into a 5-year-plus lease.
“A lot of times, especially if they’re newer companies, they’re used to getting things done in a different way,” O’Brien told the Washington Business Journal. “It’s like, ‘I just got my Series A [venture capital funding], I need a space, and I need it within a week.'”
Clearly, the buyer is in control, and in order for property owners and managers to remain on top in the competitive CRE market, it is imperative to have a powerful online presence. As it is, 78% of B2B consumers believe that it is very important to look up information about businesses online before deciding to interact with them, according to Intelius. This means potential tenants are gathering their first impressions before ever meeting with a broker or property management.
As a result, branding matters more than ever, and consistent branding and messaging are proven to build the value of an organization and a property. There are three ways property managers and owners can do this successfully:
1. Have a modern property website.
In today’s world, having a corporate site is a given. In a survey of Commercial Real Estate professionals, 91% reported that they have a corporate website, while only 49% claimed to have an individual property website. By implementing a building-level website, you will stand apart from 51% of your competition!
But, having a property website isn’t enough – people need to be able to easily find it. Optimizing your site with local keywords, directions, and contact information will improve your local search engine rankings, making you easier to find. If your website’s URL contains your unique building name (i.e. www.1600mainst.com), you will get more local website traffic.
2. Be active on social media.
Posting photos and videos of your building as well as promoting community events makes it easy for a prospective tenant to learn about your property. It also shows them you’re tech savvy, and provides a forum to ask quick questions and give feedback.
3. Share testimonials.
Nothing promotes your building like a current tenant telling the world how happy they are with your service. Encourage tenants to rate your building on Facebook and LinkedIn (both offer those options), as well as submit comments to your property website. Word of mouth can be an influential tool!
Remember, potential occupants have options when it comes to selecting a new office location. Several buildings may offer the square footage they require and be within their price range. To separate their properties from the competition, CRE owners and managers should focus on promoting the value they provide.