TECHNOLOGY & MULTIFAMILY BROKERAGE: CONVERSATION WITH PETER VON DER AHE

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Peter Von Der Ahe is the top-producing multifamily agent in the Manhattan Marcus & Millichap office. He is Team Lead for New York Multifamily, which specializes in NYC mid-market multifamily real estate. His monthly podcast, Behind the Bricks, offers entertaining, behind the scenes insight into NYC apartment investing from some of the industry’s biggest players.

DealStat sat down with Peter recently to hear his perspective on how technology is influencing real estate investing, how it has affected his team, and what he sees on the horizon for prop-tech.

DEALSTAT: How has your business changed as a result of technology since you started your career in multifamily brokerage?

PETER: Technology has made a huge impact on our business. The ways are numerous: from how our team communicates, to our systems and processes, how we market our team capabilities and properties, utilize market data, and create our own proprietary research. The list could go on and on. In the end, it has allowed us to track and uncover new buyers and sellers, which is ultimately a big benefit for the clients we represent.

The interesting thing about "real estate technology" is that most of it happens below the surface - meaning out of sight of the public - so many are not aware how much of an impact it is making on our industry. It has made it a very exciting time to be involved in the business.

You mentioned market data. How have investor interactions and expectations changed as a result of more widespread data availability?

The widespread availability of data has changed the business significantly. A "good" broker 20 years ago had significant market knowledge and that was his primary currency, because most other market participants were at an informational disadvantage. Today, brokers still have a head start on information, however that’s temporary, because data is everywhere. So to a certain extent, the data itself has become less valuable. I always say the world needs less data and more insight.

I believe this has opened up an opportunity and advantage for well-rounded brokers who blend other skills into their practice (besides just information sharing), which ultimately serves the clients even better. This has changed the playing field in the brokerage industry as clients expect more.

How else do you see the brokerage profession evolving over time as a result of technological innovations?

When I entered the business it was very typical to see one or two superstar brokers working together, and the impact of teams was minimal. Today it’s the opposite. Now it’s unusual to see one or two brokers only working together without a large team behind them. Technology has allowed for a massive amount of teamwork, which combines the skills of different team members, expanding the benefits for their clients. We can be so much more productive and effective working in a group than we can on our own today. I think this trend will continue as teams will further dominate the industry. When you think about it, technology is based on networks, and a good team is a good network of skills. We have an internal funny name for this where we refer to ourselves as the “networked brain.”

Ultimately I think technology over the next 10 years will thin out the number of brokers needed in any market. The simple math is that, with technology, you can do more with less time, and do it better. As a result, the market will become more efficient allowing for an easier exchange of capital, which is good for business.

What are the other upcoming trends or companies (aside from DealStat) that you’re watching in property technology?

There are many, but for now let’s mention three categories: crowdfunding, data aggregators, and virtual/augmented reality.

I am very interested in crowdfunding platforms on both the debt and equity sides of transactions. I believe this trend of giving the public access to real estate deals that they have otherwise been cut off from is going to grow, and over the next 10 years will have an impact on our industry in ways we can’t predict. How much easier to raise money on your phone instead of the country club?

From the brokerage side, I am looking at the technology that eventually becomes the market leader for aggregating for sale market data. There will be a place on the web where you can see everything that’s for sale in a market. For any buyer to have to call multiple brokers is too inefficient. However, the companies focusing on this data aggregation and disrupting the brokerage industry as well are on the wrong track. Sure maybe I am biased, but there will always be a personal advisor needed for large financial choices. People need help thinking through things. That said, I do see a need to make market data more efficient, and the brokerage industry will use this tool, and this will partly contribute to why there will be fewer brokers needed.

Finally, when the virtual/augmented reality capabilities catch up with reality they are going to be game changers and surprise everyone. Who knows where that goes but it looks like it will be a wild ride…


Peter Von Der Ahe is a Senior Managing Director at Marcus & Millichap in New York and Team Lead at newyorkmultifamily.com.