An evolution is taking commercial real estate industry. Or is it a revolution? Revolutionizing the ways in which con properties are bought, sold, leased and managed is difficult enough fortraditional industry players such as developers, lenders, institutional investors and. But over the past decade, one group of non-traditional players - the computer software firms - might be seen as changing the way real estate firms keep track of their businesses.
Lease by Lease and Argus Version 4 for
Windows By Argus Financial Software
Used by thousands of industry professionals for cash flow analysis in the valuation, asset management, acquisition, budgeting, development and underwriting of commercial and residential properties, ARGUS Financial Software has become a very popular name in real estate software.
"ARGUS saves time and money in the creation and review of cash flow projections," says Christopher J. Gongolas, principal with the Houston-based company. To meet the increasing demand for more rigid professional standards, institutional uniformity and regulatory compliance, ARGUS offers comprehensive programs, like Lease by Lease, that handle the complexities of analysis in national real estate markets.
"We offer a widely accepted array of industry standard programs whose trademark qualities combine field-proven ease of use, time-tested calculations and understandable reports in a sophisticated and flexible format," Gongolas says.
According to Gongolas, ARGUS increases productivity through a shorter learning curve. "ARGUS logically guides the user through the input of key assumptions and property information using easily understood menu choices and well-explained data entry areas," he says.
Lease by Lease is the ideal software for commercial properties such as office buildings, retail centers, industrial parks, apartment complexes, hotels and motels, mixed-use facilities and income properties of all types and sizes, says Gongolas. "The core strength of Lease by Lease is its simple and straightforward approach to clearly separating known facts from future assumptions," he says. "This intuitive style, coupled with the overall ease of operation, greatly enhances your sensitivity analysis and allows the analyst as well as the reviewer to more easily interpret the end results."
The most exciting development from ARGUS Financial Software this year has been the release of ARGUS Version 4 for Windows. "We are pleased that ARGUS kept its promise to deliver a quality product that adheres to the same Windows standards we are already used to," says Gongolas. While other software developers are trying to break into the lease analysis market, and still others have attempted to update their packages to Windows, ARGUS succeeded in 1994. With over 6,000 DOS copies sold since 1988, ARGUS estimates that about 90 percent of its customers will make the switch to Windows over time, with several thousand expected to update during 1995.
"There is an incredible demand for ARGUS Version 4 for Windows because many companies want to eliminate the use of any DOS applications altogether," says Gongolas. This rapid shift to the Windows platform by large and small companies has caught most software developers by surprise. "We met that challenge," says Gongolas, "by increasing the size of our development and quality assurance staff in order to hit a self-imposed deadline of December 31, 1994, for the Windows release."
Attack Real Estate
By ASI International
By utilizing the powerful features of Lotus Notes, the ATTACK Real Estate Management System is uniquely capable of addressing the many challenging issues encountered within the real estate industry. Developed over a three-year period by real estate practitioners at ASI International, San Francisco, and Lotus programmers, this state-of-the-art, user-friendly, Windows-based solution allows for simple, rapid consolidation, organization, analysis and automation of real estate-related data.
According to Lisa Levine, marketing manager for ASI, ATTACK allows real estate professionals to take proactive control of their real estate and enhance overall business processes by providing immediate, multi-user access to all relevant data needed to effectively manage and market critical real estate information.
"Through its ability to track more than 2000 fields of data per asset and access more than 80 forms and 85 reports, ATTACK allows the non-technical user to reap immediate benefits without painful learning curves," Levine explains. "By providing users instantaneous access to critical real estate information, consensus is reached easily, work processes operate smoothly and the right decisions are made rapidly." These features have allowed clients to streamline their work flow, improve productivity, reduce time and cost requirements by as much as 50 percent and, in turn, boost profits beyond their previous means, she says.
In their research of the real estate industry, the consultants and developers at ASI discovered that many organizations rely on an array of programs to manage their real estate information. To address this requirement of information integration for the majority of the marketplace, Levine says that ASI developed REM-Link, a tool which facilitates the automatic updating of ATTACK data elements from multiple database formats.
"By integrating various real estate-related information, the user is made aware of the pertinent issues involving properties; the company's exposure to document misplacement, damage or loss is reduced; and information is distributed on a `need to know basis,'" Levine says. "Thereby, users are able to protect the integrity of the company's data." These powerful capabilities help organizations save both human and financial resources, which may then be redirected to customer and revenue related activities, the ultimate focus of a business.
By Real Pro-jections Inc.
Designed to help commercial property professionals to "see" property activity, WinStack from Real Pro-Jections Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., is a Windows program designed to produce lease stacking plans quickly and easily. "This type of visual representation of commercial property allows you to see, at a glance, numerous factors related to tenant activity," says Ted Stearns Jr., president. "Activities such as lease expirations, rents and tenant expenses, first rights of refusal on additional space, vacancies and more can be easily visualized through this software program."
Stearns says WinStack is easy to use and operates quickly. This intuitive program allows commercial brokers, property managers, institutional investors and asset managers to utilize data from popular lease-by-lease analysis systems (such as Pro-Ject+[TM], ARGUS[TM], DYNALEASE[TM], Office/2, Center[TM] and different property management systems in a new and constructive way. "As good as reports and spreadsheets are, they don't come close to providing the perspective of graphics that this software does," Stearns says. "With WinStack's graphic representation of commercial property, seeing is believing. "
According to Stearns, the advantages garnered with usage of WinStack include the following: the ability to highlight the impact of lease expirations within a building; better managing of space allocation to maximize profits; ability to report leasing/management activity and plans of property owners more professionally; and the ability to show the risks and opportunities to potential investors more professionally.
How does it work? WinStack graphically represents tenants of multi-storied commercial buildings as boxes "stacked" on top of one another in layers, with the layers representing floors in the building. The size of the tenant boxes present the suite/tenant square footage relative to the square footage of the entire floor. Depending on the nature of the query, the appropriate tenant boxes will be color-coded for quick identification. In addition, WinStackcan be printed out for use in lease analysis reports.
"The beauty of WinStack is in its simplicity to display and print a stacking plan quickly," Stearns continues. "At the same time, the program has sufficient flexibility to customize a chart to suit your particular needs."
Five steps bring the user to new heights in commercial real estate: entering the data, assigning floor numbers defining the building, setting query parameters and reviewing and printing the chart. "Whether you want to see lease expirations for 1996 or current vacancies, this is the software that brings it to life on the screen," Stearns says.
DYNALEASE, DYNAMIS and
DYNABase BY DYNA Software
& Consulting Inc.
DYNA Software & Consulting Inc., must be doing something right, based on the fact that it has achieved tremendous growth during the last several years, and its future looks even brighter. This success is directly attributable to the continued refinement of DYNA's real estate analysis products to meet the increasingly complex demands of the real estate industry.
DYNA's products generally are considered the most comprehensive and sophisticated analytical tools on the market. DYNA's tools accommodate any type of real estate, at any stage in its life cycle, under any debt or equity structure. DYNA products also can prepare projections using cash, tax and GAAP basis presentations. Additionally, portfolio analysis capabilities include sensitivity analysis and the ability to aggregate partially or wholly owned assets. No other real estate forecasting software on the market matches DYNA's fully integrated approach to portfolio analysis.
The Clearwater, Fla.-based company counts as clients Prudential, Wells Fargo, Olympia & York, Citicorp Real Estate, USAA, First Interstate Bank and other familiar names in real estate. DYNA products also are used widely by entrepreneurs, appraisers, REITs, financial advisors, pension advisors and "big six" consultants.
"Many of DYNA's customers are amazed at the level of sophistication they can achieve and still maintain a high level of ease of use," says DYNA vice president Jeff Wells. "Projects can be modeled from the simplistic level to a detailed level depending upon the needs of the individual user."
DYNABase is DYNA's newest product and the company's first true Windows application. DYNABASE allows users to link to their existing DYNA data and perform unlimited query operations to quickly create useful reports and graphs on a portfolio or property level. User response to DYNABase has been favorable; many real executives are using it to strategically analyze their portfolios and properties.
DYNA's Windows version of DYNALEASE and DYNAMIS will operate from an open database (ODBC) environment. The system will conform fully to Microsoft's standards for object linking and embedding (OLE). In other words, DYNA's data can be easily shared with and imported to or from other real estate systems the user may already have in place, and every DYNA product will have all Windows features available.
The Windows Graphical User Interface (GUI) will make it even easier to work with the information in DYNA's advanced analytical software applications.
DYNA Software is more excited than ever about new opportunities to utilize its real estate experience and advanced technology. to meet the market's increasing demands.
Asset & Portfolio Management
System By Minicom Data Corp.
Based on extensive market research over a three-year period, Minicom Data Corp., Markham, Ontario, Canada, has brought to market a state-of-the-art Asset & Portfolio Management System. It is client/server-based, utilizes Sybase as its relational database and can run optionally in either character or full Windows graphical mode.
According to Howard Honickman, founder of the company, the system is predicated on the concept of being a data warehouse. "It was not built to replace property management systems nor have we used a property management system, even in a crippled form," he says. "Instead, it has been designed from the ground up utilizing the latest in information technology to meet the very specific needs of asset managers."
The data warehouse, or central repository, incorporates a full-featured and comprehensive financial general ledger that stores an unlimited amount of historical and/or future budget and actual information in both money and units for any number of ledgers, explains Honickman. Superimposed on that data is a complete investor/ownership segmentation system, unlimited budgeting/projections capability and full returns/performance analysis.
A second repository is maintained for property tenant information, including data on properties, tenants, leases, occupancies, options, demographics, legalities, markets, environmental-life-safety, encumbrances, taxes, appraisals, contingencies and growth/projections. Both repositories are highly user configurable and customizable, Honickman says. In fact, the user can easily add any additional new data elements desired. All data is maintained on a date-sensitive basis allowing the user to recreate scenarios at any point in time.
"The system has been designed to accept data from any disparate source, utilizing our proprietary Universal Import Processor middleware package," Honickman continues. "Using a fully controlled, edited and audited approach the data would be loaded with appropriate transformations and equalizations. For example, data could come from a third-party property management system, a corporate debt servicing system, a spreadsheet, a word processor or a valuation package,' he says.
All data in the system, including the user-defined data, is accessible through reports or inquiries, too. It can be used for filtering and selection purposes, for sorting and summarization or performing unlimited hierarchical analysis. "The ability to add unlimited categorizations to the underlying data, together with the very robust core repository, permits the asset manager to transverse through the data any way he wishes to provide the desired analysis," Honickman says.
"We have researched the software market and incorporated a number of `best of breed' third-party products within the system," he says. "These products are tightly integrated and provide a wealth of added functionality and reporting capabilities, including unlimited multidimensional analysis."
Lastly, to meet the data integrity, data reliability and audit requirements of asset managers, Minicom has built in the highest degree of security, audit and control. The system provides different sign-on codes, access rights to entities, properties, ledgers, functional access and passwords as preventive measures.
Furthermore, from a detective standpoint, the detail of every single transaction or change to the data is logged and audited by the system, tracking who did the work, when it was done, what was done, and, if there were changes, what the data looked like before.
RealWorks By First Realty
First Realty Advisors offers in its RealWorks Database System a needed tool for institutions, appraisal firms and other professionals to manage, query and analyze subject and comparable sale and lease information as well as the ability to organize their appraisal assignments.
Efficiency through system integration also has been a primary emphasis of the RealWorks products and services, says John K. Wood III president of the Westwood, Kan.-based company. According to Wood, the RealWorks Valuation and Document Preparation System interfaces with the database system and word processing systems to maximize efficiency. Data that is entered in the database system is available to the valuation system and in turn flows through to the final valuation document in the word processing system. "Software system integration has allowed our RealWorks users to become more efficient, productive and competitive," Wood says.
"The commercial real estate industry has lagged behind many other industries, including the residential real estate industry, in the ease with which current market data can be accessed and electronically shared and transmitted," Wood continues. "However, the commercial real estate industry is now rapidly moving forward and is facing `platform standards' issues." Each data provider utilizes its own distinct data platform an format, he says.
According to Wood, the primary goal for the RealWorks database Was to create a system in which appraisal data would be input once and be readily available to all staff. "Keeping in mind that today's appraisal was tomorrow's comparable, we developed an initial system that exceeded our goal," he says. "Expense statements, land sales, comparables and improved sales were immediately at our fingertips."
"The commercial real estate business has become an information business, Wood says. "The ability to locate, maintain and analyze current market data efficiently is critically important to the success of today's real estate professional," he says. Organizations have found that a disproportionate amount of time has been spent gathering data rather than analyzing the data too, he says. "Many times, usable data has been forgotten because it was buried in a file cabinet, an associate's desk or in an old appraisal on the shelf. Many forward-thinking organizations are recognizing that automation of their business is the answer."
Real Reports For Windows
By Real Reports
The typical day for any real estate professional might begin like so: ... down to the wire ... just finished the latest ARGUS revisions ... still need to update my spreadsheet models before I'll be ready for my presentation ...
For real estate professionals who have ever been in this situation or wanted to create a report not provided for in ARGUS Financial Software, Real Reports for Windows is designed just for them. Real Reports is a Microsoft Excel Add-in which integrates ARGUS with a' spreadsheet in a way never before possible. Stuart Smith, a principal with Houston-based Real Reports, says "As a real estate professional, I can't count the times I have had to create a spreadsheet model to accommodate situations which were beyond the scope of ARGUS' analysis capabilities. For example, there have been times I simply wanted to create an executive summary report, add some charts or create my own debt and equity analysis based on an ARGUS proforma. Naturally I would do this in a spreadsheet; however, the process of transferring the ARGUS data to the spreadsheet was laborious and there was always the possibility for making errors." Now, Smith says Real Reports makes this process simple, fast and reliable. "When I change an ARGUS run, I just click the Real Reports Refresh button in Excel and my whole spreadsheet is updated."
With Real Reports, anyone can arrange, combine and/or consolidate ARGUS data into meaningful and personalized reports. "It's easy to use and there is virtually no learning curve," Smith says. From within a spreadsheet, the user simply places the cursor on the cell where the ARGUS data is to be displayed, clicks the Real Reports Report Designer button, selects the ARGUS data, clicks the OK button, and it is in the spreadsheet. The user continues this process until all of the ARGUS data is in the spreadsheet, then builds the remainder of the model as usual. "You can even include multiple ARGUS assets in the same spreadsheet," Smith says. And, because the user is creating his analysis in Microsoft Excel, he has access to all of Excel's formatting and charting capabilities and worksheet functions.
When it comes time to update the spreadsheet with revised ARGUS data, the user clicks the Real Reports Refresh button and Real Reports automatically updates the ARGUS portion of the spreadsheet, Smith explains. Real Reports will maintain all cell reference integrity to any dependent calculations created, as well as all formatting. Real Reports is designed so the user can even reuse the same spreadsheet on different ARGUS assets.
Additionally, as Real Reports stores all of the underlying ARGUS data in a Microsoft Access database, application developers will appreciate that any Open Systems Application or database report writer can access the Real Reports ARGUS data. This means that with Real Reports, ARGUS data can now be incorporated into asset management or property management systems.