In the past few years, as prices for residential real estate surged, more than 1,000 Web logs (better known as blogs) have cropped up, offering advice (expert or not) on all aspects of buying, selling and making money from home sales. They range from Property Malaysia to this sign-of-the-times site: Housing Panic - The Bubble Blog with Attitude.
But when it comes to the commercial real estate, the industry seems to be stuck in the fax age. According to Technorati Inc., a blog-tracking company, more than 50 million blogs are on the Web; less than two dozen are dedicated to commercial real estate, estimates blogger Todd Clarke, CEO of American Apartment Advisors Inc., based in Albuquerque, N.M.
Clarke and other bloggers, however, see great potential for the communications and marketing technology in commercial real estate and predict that more companies will enter the blogosphere. As the market becomes more challenging, investors will turn to blogs to collect additional insight and timely information to help them find lucrative deals, they say.
One new player in the blogging game is former professional football star Roger Staubach, chairman and CEO of Dallas real estate advisory firm The Staubach Co. His “The Monday Morning CEO” blog averages about 7,000 to 8,000 visitors a month, Staubach says. Readers include customers, potential clients and company employees. The blog features news about The Staubach Co., particularly highlights about its brokers’ accomplishments, plus Roger’s take on NASCAR events and, of course, football. The blog, which has been online about six months, is another way to brand the company.
Measuring results is not easy, but Staubach says his blog helped the company regain a former customer, leading to some significant business. The corporate client had lost touch with The Staubach Co. when she switched jobs, but she stumbled upon Roger’s blog and sent an email to the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. As a result of that virtual reintroduction, The Staubach Co. picked up four leasing deals overseas and three in the Chicago area.
Two commercial real estate professionals from California are hoping for similar success with their debut blog. Allen Cymrot, founding principal of Cymrot Realty Advisors Inc., and Robert Mann, vice president of commercial real estate brokerage Mann Financial Corp., introduced NetGainRealEstate.com in July. The business partners based in Mountain View, Calif., aim to provide what they believe is missing on the Internet: solid information and time-tested principles concerning commercial real estate investing, particularly the company’s signature Economic Valuation System. The two men say they’re trying to counteract what they believe is a prevalence of negative, misleading information on the Internet about commercial real estate investing.
Based on their own research and on feedback from Internet observers, they claim their site is the first independent, unbiased real estate investing blog of its kind. Other blogs targeting the commercial real estate industry typically are tied to a product, service or special interest, and mostly act merely as marketing channels, Cymrot and Mann say. But the two entrepreneurs say their blog doesn’t fit into any of those categories.
“A lot of the blogs out there are nothing but plagiarized facts,” Cymrot says. So much content on the Internet “is recycled and requoted and copied and pasted from other sources,” Mann says.
For now, Cymrot and Mann — who are real estate veterans, not journalists — are the only employees of NetGainRealEstate.com, running the new venture while simultaneously holding down their day jobs.
On NetGainRealEstate.com, you’ll find articles written by Cymrot and Mann, reviews and analysis of media reports, commentaries, links to advice blogs, and statistics on publicly traded real estate companies. Through a seven-pronged scoring process, the blog’s proprietary Economic Valuation System helps investors determine the return on investment for the purchase or sale of income-generating property. Based on answers to more than 100 questions, the system analyzes such factors as location, capitalization rate and debt.
Advertising is the sole source of revenue for NetGainRealEstate.com, with the bulk of the ads currently coming through Internet portal Google Inc. It’s still a limited audience of readers, but it’s growing: Mann says the blog attracts more than 100 unique visitors a day. Cymrot says the goal is to boost that figure to at least 2,500 a day by the end of this year.
Another blog related to commercial real estate also premiered in July. Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee, whose products include energy-efficient building materials, kicked off YourEnergyForum.com, which offers information about reducing energy consumption in commercial, industrial, government and residential spaces. Among backers of the blog are the U.S. Green Building Council and the U.S. Department of Energy.
One of the trailblazers in commercial real estate blogging is Peter Pike of Greenbrae, Calif., who publishes the PikeNet Dispatch, a newsletter sent twice a week by email to about 9,000 commercial real estate professionals. Pike established PikeNet in 1996 following a stint as managing principal of Colliers International in San Francisco. Ten years after launching his own site, Pike says the pickings still remain “pretty slim” for commercial real estate blogs.
One reason is the competitive nature of the commercial real estate business. While consumers are more than willing to boast about their smarts and talk up new ideas, savvy commercial investors tend to be reluctant to share information with potential competitors.
As for the increasing value of blogs in his industry, commercial real estate blogger Kevin Kingston of Westchester, N.Y., subscribes to the theory that information is power: “The more information you have and the better informed you are as an investor, the more opportunities will come your way.”