Google has a new service on the way: Helpouts, a program that allows users to connect with experts in real-time on a variety of topics. In his article for Inman, Paul Hagey predicts that Helpouts could become an important tool in the fee-for-service real estate model, helping agents deliver their services faster.
So could it be useful took for commercial brokers? Our experts weigh in.
“I could see where technology like this might be useful to landlords and commercial property managers who aren’t part of a big company, because they don’t have experts down the hall to weigh in on matters involving plumbers, landscapers and HVAC equipment,” said Copley Broer, co-founder and CEO of LandlordStation, a company that provides cloud-based software to landlords. “It’s not hard to envision property managers using this to more efficiently get maintenance bids or pinpoint a structural problem.”
He continued, “We deal with a lot of convoluted New York issues, like outdoor signage and advertising laws, and there are very few people who know how to navigate that stuff. I could see a commercial broker using this as an add-on if it might help convince someone to buy a building; maybe they know someone who can tell a potential building owner how to stick an iPad on the side and make $50,000 a month off of advertising.”
Josh Siegelman, a broker at Winick Realty Group, believes that the increased accessibility and real-time linkage offered by Helpouts could create an abundance of additional clientele and an overall higher number of transactions.
“If there is a retailer or restaurant owner, who wants to expand on his existing location, but is unfamiliar with listings and he doesn’t have a referral to a retail broker he can tap into, this could help him find someone,” he said.
Anthony Lolli, CEO of Rapid Realty, feels differently. He believes that, because the buying and selling of commercial real estate is such an intricate affair, most people will be more comfortable working with one trained professional throughout the entire process.
“For buyers and renters, whether you’re talking about starting up a small business or dealing with a large, established company setting up a new location, you’re talking about someone’s livelihood,” said Mr. Lolli. “This isn’t something that you trust to someone on the other end of a three-minute video chat.”
Google has not yet released a launch date for Helpouts, but experts like Hans Peter Bech, CEO and founder of TBK Consult, doesn’t expect much to change when it does, since there’s no real way of knowing how well-informed and credible these “helpers” will be.
“On the Google sign-up page, they’re using a picture of someone helping with the replacement of a bicycle chain,” said Mr. Bach. “The real estate example is just one among thousands.”