Friday, October 18, 2019

Should Commercial Real Estate Be More Like Amazon Prime?

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Aha, got ya! Catchy titles can do that, huh? If you doubt it for a moment, raise your hand if you checked out "Bruce Jenner's love child with Natalie Gulbis" in the latest Enquirer? I thought so! 

So, a bit of context. I was shopping with my bride of 40 years this week - actually, she was shopping, I was there for support. She wanted to buy a postage scale. We went to our local Office Superstore/Max/Depot and to our delight, there were five choices - all in stock and ready to follow us home. The problem was, the price. Ever the thrifty (which is one of the reasons I love her), she whipped out her faithful iPhone, scanned the bar code, and immediately discovered the scale could be purchased through Amazon Prime for HALF the price - with one day FREE shipping! OK, now she had my attention! But how were we supposed to have instant gratification, bag the bear, and take it back to our cave - today? The solution was to ask for a "price match" from the cashier. I should mention that I have socks older than the cashier - but I digress. Apparently, this merchant only matches cheaper prices on THEIR website - not from Amazon Prime. Guess what, the scale is still on the Superstore/Max/Depot shelf and not in our garage. The one in our garage was delivered by a friendly man in a brown truck yesterday. 

Should commercial real estate deals be more like Amazon Prime? Should some tech guru create an app that allows you to check the deal you're about to ink vs other owner motivation in the market? What if you were at the closing table and your client asked for a moment to check his phone. Oops, need a few more days to see this other property that just hit the market. Never happen, you say? The business is too complex, there are too many variables, no two spaces or owners are identical - etc, etc, etc. 
OK, I get it. All I know is that our friendly Superstore/Max/Depot lost a sale because THEY were shortsighted.

Are we shortsighted as well? Look. Commercial real estate deals - akin to fire - need three things to burn - an owner, an occupant, and a property. We layer in a few more variables as practitioners - what’s transacted, what’s available and price trajectory. Plus, our licensing allows us to bring the elements together, help the parties agree, and document the transaction.

Could a site eliminate the role of a broker? Potentially. Here’s how. An occupant can view available inventory through Loopnet. Maybe not as accurate as other walled gardens of inventory - but passable? For every Loopnet Listing - an owner awaits a bite from a prospective tenant or buyer. So you have the three elements - owner, occupant, and property. What’s missing? The platform from which to transact. Are there on-line portals for deals currently? Yessir! Ten-X. So would a marriage of these two spell the demise of our profession? I’ll leave that to Inquiring minds.

Allen C. Buchanan, SIOR, is a principal with Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Services in Orange. He can be reached at or 714.564.7104. His website is

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