Hurry Up and Wait: The Cost of Time in CRE and What You Can Do About it

In a competitive business landscape, efficiency is everything. Long-term, sustainable growth is often best achieved by refining existing processes and identifying opportunities for improvement. In commercial real estate, lease drafting and negotiation is one process that is ripe for improvement. The challenge is, everything we know about the leasing process is so entrenched, it’s tough to see how to improve it.

Hurry Up and Wait

The commercial lease drafting and revision process is a waiting game. You wait for lawyers to produce a first draft of a lease. Then you wait for the tenant’s lawyers to review and make change requests. Then you wait until everybody in both parties can free up time get on a conference call to negotiate and discuss those changes. Then you wait for the lawyers to make revisions. Rinse and repeat for every round of negotiation.

If the process of moving a lease from LOI to close takes 90 days, what’s the ratio of time spent waiting to time spent actively working on the lease? The answer varies from company to company and from lease to lease, but in general it’s safe to say that while the lease is in negotiation, most of that time is spent waiting. So if we’re trying to identify the low-hanging fruit for efficiency improvements, addressing a lease negotiation’s time spent waiting is a good place to start.

A problem of bandwidth

Call up any commercial real estate attorney and ask for 3 hours of his or her time to draw up or revise a lease. “Sure,” s/he’ll say, “I’ll be able to look at this two weeks from today. Does that work?”

Not really. But do you have a choice? The legal protections provided by a high-quality lease are invaluable. Legal expertise and attention to detail are of the highest importance. They can’t be compromised for the sake of efficiency. While an experienced paralegal or leasing admin could, in many cases, handle the drafting and revision work, the number of dependencies in a typical commercial lease often means that one small change necessitates dozens of other changes elsewhere in the document. The stakes are often too high and the leases too complex to entrust management of the lease document to anyone but a lawyer.

Traditionally, if you wanted to reduce lease drafting and revision cycle times, you only had two choices: (1) hire more lawyers in house, or (2) spend more on outside counsel. Neither of those options is ideal. Either solution would cause a significant increase in overhead. The productivity gains you might achieve are likely to be out of proportion with the overhead you added to achieve them.

Work smarter, not harder

To shorten leasing timeframes by eliminating unnecessary waiting time, it often makes sense to rely on technology. A tech-based solution to the problem of lease-drafting efficiency offers a cost-effective, scalable alternative to throwing more people at the problem. As we’ll see, most commercial real estate leases are structured in a way that makes software-based automation possible. 

Earlier in this article we touched on the concept of dependencies within a lease. Changing the commencement date offers a simple example of a dependency: rent escalation tables need to be updated, renewal dates need to be adjusted, etc.

From this perspective, the difficult part of revising a lease isn’t editing a specific piece of text. The difficult part is knowing everything else in the document — it could be dozens of places — that also need to be updated to reflect the change. Lawyers are good at this because they’ve developed a “map” of the lease in their mind; they’ve learned to think about a lease programatically.

Computers are pretty good at thinking programmatically too. If you were to map out and connect all of a lease’s potential dependencies, you could theoretically have a computer handle the drafting and revision with minimal human input.

That’s exactly what LeasePilot does. We take a property owner’s forms, boilerplate language, and asset information and use it to create a “map” of the potential dependencies and connections within a typical version of that owner’s lease. With this map, the process of drafting and revising a lease becomes infinitely easier. Just select the asset from a database, tick a few checkboxes to select the terms and clauses that should appear, and enter the information unique to each individual lease (tenant name, commencement date, base rent, percentage increase, etc.), and the software automatically generates a lease that’s 100% accurate.

With much of the risk now removed from the drafting process, you no longer have to rely on an experienced lawyer to create a mistake-free lease. In most cases, first drafts and revisions of standard terms can be done by a paralegal or leasing admin, freeing up the lawyers to work on more complex legal issues instead of spending valuable time using the Find and Replace tool in Word.

Tying it all together

The obvious benefit of this is less time spent drafting. In many cases, it’s possible to generate a first draft of a lease in less than 30 minutes. That’s a significant time savings in its own right, but recall that the majority of the time a lease spends in drafting and revision, it’s sitting idle waiting for a lawyer to free up enough time to work on it. So while automation software can significantly reduce the time spent actively working on a lease, does it also reduce the time a lease sits idle?

The answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”

By ‘mapping’ and connecting all potential dependencies in your forms and boilerplate language, LeasePilot ensures that with every edit and revision, all of the affected language elsewhere in the lease is updated accordingly. This predictability and reliability means that in most cases, drafts and revisions can be handled by an experienced leasing admin or paralegal instead of a lawyer. All that time spent waiting for a lawyer to free up time? Gone. An admin can handle it. Now, instead of spending time putting together a lease, lawyers can spend time working on problems that require their expertise.

The benefit isn’t only for in-house legal teams, either. If you’re sending a lot of leasing work to outside counsel, getting them to use LeasePilot can help you negotiate a fixed-fee payment structure. It’s a win for everyone.

Space & Place Pt. 1: Boston Properties’ EVP Bryan Koop on A Bold New Approach to Office Leasing: FLEX by BXP

A few weeks ago, the LeasePilot team moved our operations to Boston Properties’ FLEX space on the 29th floor of the Prudential Tower in Boston. As real estate people, we’re thrilled with the Flex concept and see it as an important new direction for the future of office leasing. In short, FLEX strikes a balance between the high-touch, all-inclusive experience of coworking spaces like WeWork, and the traditional hands-off office lease.

We sat down with Bryan Koop, Boston Properties’ Executive Vice President, to talk about what FLEX is, the market changes that led to the initiative, and why it’s poised to become an important segment of the company’s asset mix.

The interview covers a lot of ground, so we’ve split it into two parts. You can view Pt. 2 here.

Flex by bxp Logo

Q: For the uninitiated, what is FLEX by BXP?

FLEX by BXP is a workspace where the name is a reflection of all the benefits and attributes that we’ve determined that the customer wants. It’s flexible in its term; we’ll do a few months or we’ll do a couple of years. You can configure your space any way you want it. If you want to hang a sign, hang a sign. If you want to hang a giant model airplane from the ceiling, you can hang a giant model airplane from the ceiling. We really believe that our customers should be able to use the space as they see fit.

It’s also flexible in terms of how you can grow as a company. So if you have 2,000 square feet and you need another thousand, we can take down a couple partitions and you can expand the space. Or you can move down the hallway to a larger space without re-negotiating the lease or worrying about sub-leasing your old space. We want to make it as easy as possible for the user, thus the name FLEX.

We found we had an ‘invisible’ client already in our buildings that we were not exposed to.

Q: What kind of company is an “ideal” or archetypical tenant for FLEX?

We’re already finding that FLEX is resonating with the tech community because, as you guys at LeasePilot already know, things move extremely quickly. Companies see explosive growth, they get acquired by larger companies, they merge with other companies, etc. Tech is, by nature, a more nimble industry with growth cycles that are much shorter than what you see in other, more traditional industries.

So that’s what we’re finding: the two zones have been tech, and then existing clients who have short term needs. We’re also seeing our existing customers who have longer-term leases in traditional office space—the “long and strong” sector as we call it—that say to us, “Hey, we’ve got a new project or product line we’re rolling out and we want to keep it separate from the main organization, but close enough that we can work with the team on a daily basis. Can you get us space for six months to a year?”

Q: Where is Flex space available?

Right now the 29th floor of the Prudential Center is the first space we’ve dedicated to FLEX. But we’re already far along in the planning stages for a few other properties in the Boston area, including the planning and design phase of adding FLEX space to The Hub on Causeway, which is the project next to the TD Garden.

In suburban areas, we’re approaching FLEX a little bit differently. We’ve got small spaces in the suburbs—one and two thousand square feet that are between gaps in our suburban buildings—where my team is saying, “Hey, can we do what we’re doing [on the 29th floor of the Pru] in this individual space?” and I say, “Why not?”

Q: How long have FLEX plans been in the works? What factors—market or otherwise—did you consider before making the informed decision to move forward with the idea?

We’ve been looking at it seriously for probably three years. And in the last two years since they’ve zoned it we’ve been able to put a laser focus on planning and designing FLEX space on the 29th floor of the Pru.

Sure, we could throw a party every once in a while, but we decided that’s not a major selling point for a FLEX client. They don’t need us to entertain them, they don’t need us to build their culture. They just need great space and place.

As far as the market research we did, one of the things that we found really intriguing was that in the Boston region—where we have about 14 million square feet of office space—there are over 110 subleases where our existing clients are subleasing space to somebody else. So we took a look at how large those subleases were and what the terms were, and we found some eye-opening data. One of the most important takeaways was that a sizable percentage of those subleases—I think it was actually 37 percent—had terms of less than two years.

The other important takeaway from this research was that most of these subleases were between three and five thousand square feet. So basically we found we had an ‘invisible’ client already in our buildings that we were not exposed to. This gave us the hard data we needed to prove that there was a significant number of this type of client.

Q: Despite the data-backed evidence, FLEX is still a new and unproven direction for Boston Properties. Was there any internal resistance or challenges that had to be overcome to get the green light?

There really wasn’t. Boston Properties has been around for a long time, and one of the reasons for that is our adaptive capacity to change with the market. We’re always asking, “How do we innovate? How do we design space better? How do we stay focused on our customers’ needs?” And as we interviewed more and more of our customers we continued to see this need for flexibility and agility. That feedback combined with the hard data we gathered and our drive to adapt made FLEX an easy sell internally.

Q: What other challenges did you face during the planning phases of FLEX?

The primary challenge was defining the scope of what FLEX should offer. Imagine a linear diagram and at one end you have the ‘long and strong’ leases—200,000 feet with Google, 200,000 feet with Ropes & Gray, 400,000 feet with Bank of America—where the customer plans the build-out, buys the furniture, etc. On the other extreme you have the month-to-month coworking leases that offer what is essentially a turnkey experience that includes not only a furnished work space, but also a built-in workplace culture. Networking opportunities, guest speakers, and other culture-building events are a huge value-add for startups that are too small to develop a culture of their own.

We determined that, as a company we’re not structured to provide the high touch, always-on work space that you’d find at a WeWork or other similar coworking space where you’re throwing wine and cheese parties, planning networking events, and essentially handling the administrative business of your client. We felt like that was a skill set that the coworking industry is doing very well. Leading the way, in fact.

As we interviewed more and more of our customers we continued to see this need for flexibility and agility. That feedback combined with the hard data we gathered and our drive to adapt made FLEX an easy sell internally

We think there’s something in between these extremes, and that’s the zone where a company says, “You know we’re mature enough that we really want our own space. We want to build our own culture. We’re capable of doing our own administrative work. We really want the space to be our space, not the coworking brand and culture.”

We’re highly confident that we can deliver that concept and that type of product because that’s not too far away from what we do every day. We make sure that the building’s operating great. We make sure that everything’s clean. We make sure that it’s the best possible space and place. And then, the add-ons for FLEX are a common area kitchen, conference rooms, and other small, incremental add-ons that we’re highly confident we can provide. Sure, we could throw a party every once in a while, but we decided that’s not a major selling point for a FLEX client. They don’t need us to entertain them, they don’t need us to build their culture. They just need great space and place.

In part 2, we talk about the future of FLEX and what happens when the t-shirts and flip-flops of tech culture collide with the suits and ties of traditional corporate culture. 

Automate Lease Abstracts with LeasePilot and MRI Software

To Err is Human

During a relatively routine test of the state’s emergency missile warning system, a technician at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency opened a drop-down menu and was presented with two choices: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” On January 13th, 2018 at 8:07 AM, he accidentally selected the wrong option, initiating a full-on missile alert sent to every cell phone in the state. In an instant, one small human error launched the entire Hawaiian archipelago into a state of chaos and hysterics.

Thankfully, most human mistakes don’t cause statewide panic. But nonetheless, mistakes—especially ones in business—can lead to some serious problems.

In leasing, information gets re-keyed all the time (CRM → lease; lease → abstract; abstract → financial software; etc.), and each time it gets re-keyed, the error risk is compounded. The solution, of course, is to minimize redundant data-entry procedures through the use of software.

For a highly impactful example of how software eliminates risks and drives efficiency in the real estate world, look to the lease abstract.

Lease Abstracts: An Essential Headache

As a centralized hub of information, lease abstracts are a connecting point for nearly everyone in a commercial real estate organization. Without an abstract, the pace of daily operations in legal, accounting, and asset management would slow considerably.

Unfortunately, extracting the essential information from a 60+ page commercial lease and formatting it into an abstract is a tedious, time-consuming job that nobody is eager to do. And that’s putting it politely. There have been attempts to make the process easier through the use of AI and machine learning, but even with these solutions the underlying problem remains: leases are fundamentally unstructured documents. In simple terms, that means that every letter, number, and symbol in the document is treated equally by a computer.

An Ideal World

In a better world, leases would have an underlying logical data structure. Building information, commencement dates, rent tables, and other important information would be indexed and the relationships between these variables would be defined. By adding a data structure to the document, generating an abstract would be trivial. Just tick a few checkboxes to indicate the information you’d like to appear in the abstract, click a button, and in a few seconds your abstract is generated.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what LeasePilot was built to do. It’s a data-first solution to document automation. That’s a strong value proposition in its own right, but it’s made even more powerful by the fact that LeasePilot is an open-ended platform.

If you’ve used MRI or similar software, you’re probably well aware of the headache caused by re-keying data from an abstract into a new account record. In most cases it takes several hours, and like abstract creation, it’s a job that nobody does voluntarily. But with structured data, it’s a job that doesn’t have to be done at all. Data that would otherwise need to be pulled from an abstract can be sent directly from LeasePilot into MRI, bypassing the need for an abstract altogether.

How it Works

Leasing is, by and large, an analog process with a number of digital band-aids slapped on top to ease the pain. Digital documents, for example, have made file creation, editing, and organization easier, but the information contained in each MS Word document is isolated from the larger business ecosystem in which it exists. For all practical intents and purposes, this means the data is still analog. That is, in order for it to be useful in other contexts like accounting and finance, a human must act as a bridge, manually transcribing information from a Word document to wherever else it is needed.

A truly digital workflow eliminates this need entirely. Instead of information existing in isolated, unstructured silos (Word documents), it exists in an indexed, structured database and comes together when and where it’s needed.

Integration with MRI

Software like MRI makes the ongoing management of lease agreements a breeze. What isn’t a breeze, however, is the process of manually entering deal terms into MRI.

Enter: MRI integration with LeasePilot. By tying the two platforms together, data can be passed seamlessly from one platform to another.

New Leases: If you’ve just executed a lease, all of the deal data contained in the lease is passed over to MRI, pre-populating all relevant fields.

Renewals and Amendments: If you’re renewing a lease or adding an amendment, the document can be automatically generated in LeasePilot. Just input the updated deal terms into MRI and send the data over to LeasePilot. It really is that simple.

Movin’ on Up!

July 1st marked a major milestone for the LeasePilot crew: after 14 months based in WeWork @ St. James, we’ve got new digs! Our new home is on the 29th floor of the Prudential Tower, one of the most iconic buildings in Boston. We’re still settling in and setting up, but we’ve finally got some room to stretch our legs and grow.

We’re real estate people aiming to change our industry, so naturally when we went hunting for office space, we hoped to find a landlord that shared our values. Enter: Boston Properties & their Flex initiative. Flex fills a much-needed gap for established startups and fast-growing companies looking for something more permanent than WeWork and other co-working spaces, but still need the flexibility to be able to change and expand their space as they grow.

Still lots of setting up to do, but we’re up and running in the Pru!

For us, it’s perfect: Standing desks and chairs are provided, internet is included, and the walls are whiteboards (literally—every interior wall is fitted with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards). We have room to grow and one hell of a view. 

Oh, and the most important part of the whole deal: all-you-can drink nitro cold brew. There’s regular cold brew and iced tea as well, but it’s the nitro brew that has us enraptured (and caffeinated).

Nope, not Guiness. It’s coffee.

The verdict 

We love it here. Kudos to Boston Properties for a great idea and an exemplary execution. The Flex concept blazes a new trail in office real estate, and we’re thrilled to be part of it.

The Call Center Model: How to Minimize Change Requests, Keep Tenants Happy, and Protect Your Bottom Line

The call center model has a singular purpose: to incentivize customers to stick to a set of standardized options.

By framing a change request in this way, the tenant takes ownership of the delays rather than the landlord.

The relationship between tenant and landlord is a tenuous one. Both parties seek to minimize liability, which frequently leads to conflict. And conflict, as we all know, leads to unhappy customers. While it may not be feasible to avoid conflict altogether, there is one relatively simple step landlords can take during the lease negotiation process: adopt the Call Center Model.

In the lending world, Principal Financial offers an ideal example of how the Call Center Model should work in practice: they have standardized “gives” that their business units can easily offer to borrowers. But when a customer makes a request that deviates from the standardized set of terms that Principal Financial offers, the customer is informed that their request needs to be escalated and undergo a lengthy legal review, adding an additional 2-4 weeks to the lending process.

This delay forces the borrower to step back and ask, “Is my request really worth the delay it will cause?” More often than not, the borrower concludes that cost of holding out for a relatively minor change isn’t worth the delay it causes. In other words, it forces the customer to do a cost/benefit analysis about whether or not their request makes a material difference in the long run. And in most cases, the cost of the delay far outweighs the benefit.

In the leasing world, tenants typically aren’t faced with the same cost/benefit analysis. It’s relatively common for a tenant’s attorney to mark up a document until their pen runs out of ink. From their perspective, the worst-case scenario is that the landlord’s attorney rejects the edits and both parties continue to negotiate. The hard work of wading through countless proposed modifications to determine what is and is not reasonable falls squarely on the landlord’s legal team.

By applying a Call Center Model to the commercial leasing process, the landlord is able to effectively tell the customer, “I’d be happy to make that change, but since it is a deviation from our standard terms I need to submit your request to our legal team for review. That process takes an additional X weeks. Is that OK?”

By framing a change request in this way, the tenant takes ownership of the delays rather than the landlord.

This may not work for every lease—sometimes the property owners don’t have enough leverage—but for smaller, cookie-cutter deals where the real estate company has significant leverage it’s very effective. Bottom line: encouraging tenants to accept standard terms has the potential to eliminate much of the back and forth during negotiations, resulting in a significant reduction in the time it takes to go from LOI to close.

BONUS: because the Call Center Model shifts the cost/benefit analysis to the tenant, it offers landlords a friendlier way to say ‘no’ without actually saying it; boosting customer satisfaction and starting the relationship off on the right foot.

Call Center Model + Lease Automation = A Perfect Match

An automated lease-drafting solution like LeasePilot dovetails seamlessly with the adoption of a Call Center Model for negotiation. Leasing reps and other non-lawyers can generate lease drafts using their company’s own boilerplate language in minutes instead of hours.

To show what this means in practice, consider a TI Allowance. Adding a TI Allowance is as simple as clicking a button, entering the amount of the allowance, and selecting how it gets paid. The lease draft automatically updates in multiple places simultaneously and with the correct language updates, calculations, and formatting applied. Pretty neat stuff.

Now, imagine using this kind of automation on all of the 100+ lease concepts and alternatives that a real estate company uses for first and subsequent drafts. The advantage is monumental.

6 Productivity Apps that Every CRE Professional Needs to Know About

Every day it seems there’s a new app on the market that promises to boost work and/or life productivity. While having so many options at your fingertips might initially seem like a good thing, the irony is that the process of vetting all these productivity apps can cause your own productivity to take a nosedive.

To save you some time, we’ve put together a list of the productivity tools that we believe should be in every CRE professional’s toolkit:


Asana screenshot

When it comes to project management, keeping track of the many moving parts is always a challenge. Asana is a planning and project management tool that can tame even the most unruly projects by monitoring every deadline, assignment, tasks and subtasks, dependencies, and so forth. It’s a to-do list, a calendar, a reminder app, and a notes app all wrapped up in one.

Key features include:

Assigning Responsibilities

As you create lists, Asana lets you assign each task to a member of your team. This ensures accountability and avoiding the classic “I thought he was supposed to do it”.

The Gantt Chart

Asana recently added a “timeline” feature to their system (basically a Gantt chart). It’s a lifesaver. This feature lets you view every aspect of your project on an interactive calendar. The user sees the path to attaining a goal as a series of interconnected tasks along with their deadlines, responsibilities, and dependencies. Not to mention, as you edit the timeline, tasks, and dates update across the app accordingly.

Honorable mentions: Trello, Airtable, Basecamp


Slack interface screenshot

You may have heard of Slack, you may already be on it. If so, you probably understand why it is the best communication “de-clutterer”.  Here at Leasepilot, we use Slack as an alternative to email – it allows for easy company-wide communication, simple document sharing, and accessible updates from social media or incoming leads.  Slack is THE communication system for the business world, their motto “where work happens” is right on target.

How Slack does it all:

Compartmentalize to organize

Slack allows you to create communication “channels”, different chats that are each relevant to a different topic or team. By compartmentalizing conversations, you can end your days of searching through group messages or email threads.

Updates always!

Slack integrates with all your favorite tools. It can notify you about changes in google drive, a new lead on HubSpot, updates on Salesforce, and much more.

Honorable mentions: Skype for business, Discord, Stride


Airmail screenshot

Though we would love to use Slack for all our communication – email isn’t going anywhere. With that in mind, Airmail is a great option for simplifying and organizing your inbox. This client provides a ton of life-hacking features such as the “send later” option or customizable folders like “to do,” “done” or “memos.” To put it bluntly, Outlook and Apple Mail look like a cluttered file cabinet next to Airmail – so save yourself from headaches and try it out!

How Airmail organizes the inbox:

The Snooze Feature

Using the “snooze feature” you can delay the receival of an email until the proper time. Say you get an email about tickets to a show, but don’t go on sale until next month. Airmail lets you snooze the email so that it arrives back in your Inbox on the sale date.

Smarter Notifications

We all know that email notifications are as annoying as the clutter in your inbox. Through customizable notifications, Airmail make sure you are only updated when the important messages come in.

Honorable mentions: Google Inbox, Boomerang


Hubstaff is a time tracking tool that accurately tracks the time you spend on different projects and clients. It removes several admin tasks from your plate so you can focus on finishing work instead of tracking it. Hubstaff has a simple interface that lets you easily switch between your tasks, so no second of work is unaccounted for.

How Hubstaff helps you save time:

No more manual timesheets

Hubstaff automatically generates online timesheets from the time that you track. This means that you won’t need to worry about inaccurate entries on your timesheet or completely forgetting to log the work you did.

Streamlined payroll

Aside from time tracking and timesheets, Hubstaff is also capable of sending payments automatically to team members. Hubstaff will automatically calculate payment amounts based on their hourly rates and the total time they have worked. You can schedule the app to send on a weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly basis.


Grammarly screenshopt

Grammarly is the “spell check” for when you are not using Word. Grammarly helps you fix the grammar, spelling, word usage, even the quality of your adjectives when you are writing on the web. From an email to your boss to blog posts on Facebook, Grammarly gives you polish when it matters most.

Why Grammarly is great:

Have confidence in complexity

Unlike many grammar tools, Grammarly gives you accurate and context-dependent solutions. From repetitive words to comma usage, this tool will give you confidence that the wrong “there/their/they’re” will never
again slip into an email.

Teach a man to fish

Teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime. Grammarly wants to help you improve your overall writing ability while correcting it. Grammarly gives you detailed explanations with the solutions to your mistakes and progress reports to help you track your improvements.

Honorable mentions: ProWritingAid and GrammarLookup


Docusign in desktop and mobile

DocuSign is one of those tools that make us exclaim “how did no one think of this sooner?” This product answers the call for a better system than printing a document, sending it, signing it, sending it back (the classic way – with stamps), then scanning it on to a computer and filling it away in that giant cabinet. Instead, as their name implies, DocuSign lets you email the contracts in order to obtain secure electronic signatures and Voilà! Deal closed.  

Why we love it:

Signatures everywhere

DocuSign lets you affirm a document from anywhere in the world. Totally legal and totally life-changing. Jim may be in Argentina for a month, but he can still sign that lease!

It’s Green!

By sending your contract electronically, you can avoid printing out that hefty 70-page contract. And if there is a typo? No need to recycle, just email another version.


LeasePilot screenshot

It wouldn’t be a top 6 list without some shameless self-promotion, now would it?  Still, when it comes to leasing, we think LeasePilot could save you some serious time and money. LeasePilot uses simple forms and your boilerplate language so that anyone can write a quality lease without a law degree. The business team can use document automation tools to create even the most complex contract, while lawyers can customize through the use of word processing tools.

Why it’s a game changer:

Never not data

By using interconnected forms, every piece of data in a lease is recognized as such, so it doesn’t need to be extracted later. This means LeasePilot can automatically generate abstracts or collect data for ERPs. How simple!

Fewer lawyers

Why are you paying a legal team to spend hours interpreting an LOI for negotiation they weren’t involved in? With LeasePilot business representatives can draft the first versions of the lease themselves, without sacrificing quality.

Easy Updating

Say you update the price of rent on line six, boom! Every calculation or reference to that number updates throughout the document. Consider it the superior alternative to “find and replace” and a calculator.

There you have it, our top picks in productivity tools for CRE. Let us know if you think we missed any, and thanks for reading!

“Open” vs. “Closed” Software Ecosystems: A Primer

With the relatively recent explosion of industry-specific software solutions for commercial real estate companies, the task of comparing and evaluating various software platforms is becoming increasingly difficult. If you’ve spent any time researching CRE software, you’ve no-doubt come across the “open ecosystem” buzzword. But what does “open ecosystem” mean, exactly? And why should you care? Read on.

Ecosystems and Integrations

In biology, the term “ecosystem” describes the complex interactions and mutual dependencies between organisms that, collectively, enable the system to function. In software, the idea is more or less the same: the “ecosystem” label necessarily implies that individual software applications are interconnected in some way.

Your smartphone is an excellent example of a software ecosystem on a small scale: your Contacts app is connected to your Mail app, which is connected to your Calendar app, which is connected to your Reminders app, which is connected to your Maps app, and so on. Sure, all of these applications can work independently from one another, but they work so much more efficiently when they’re connected, communicating, and reacting to changes within the ecosystem.

There are two primary approaches to creating software ecosystems: an ‘open’ approach and a ‘closed’ approach. A comparison between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android offers a relatively clear (if imperfect) illustration of open vs. closed ecosystems. Apple’s iPhone/iOS platform is generally classified as a closed ecosystem because Apple has complete control over both the software (the operating system and apps that can be installed) and the hardware (the phone itself). In contrast, the Android operating system is freely available to anyone, can run on just about any mobile hardware, and has no restrictions on the applications the user can install.

Neither approach is the “correct” one. Both options have unique advantages and disadvantages and excel at different things. Ultimately, making a choice between the platforms comes down to assessing which option is a better fit for your needs. The important takeaway here is that, in either case, applications exist within a larger ecosystem and are interconnected.

Software Ecosystems in CRE: Open vs. Closed

With that explanation out of the way, let’s get to the important stuff: Why does this matter for CRE? Because much like the consumer software ecosystem, the options available to enterprise fall into similar “open” or “closed” categories. Most software solutions that embrace the open ecosystem approach are built to address a specific, specialized need; usually at the department level.

In contrast, closed-ecosystem options, because of their proprietary nature, are generally designed as a “suite” of different applications all under the same umbrella and developed by the same company. The software applications in a closed system are designed to communicate, but typically cannot communicate with other applications outside the system.

We won’t dance around the question and pretend to be neutral: open ecosystems are the way to go for most enterprise applications. Closed ecosystems, while great for the consumer market where convenience and ease-of-use are often the top concerns, have three primary downsides in the enterprise market, explained in the accompanying graphic.

By choosing to use software that embraces an open ecosystem, these issues are minimized or eliminated entirely. You’re able to choose application-specific, à la carte software that meets the specific needs of each department. And in the future, if one software application needs to change, it won’t significantly disrupt the operations of other departments. If the brokers need to change their CRM software, the accountants don’t need to change their accounting software.

A Tangible Example

To put it in more tangible terms, let’s look at how a hypothetical CRE company, Prestige Worldwide, can choose different software providers without sacrificing the ability for one platform to talk to another.

Prestige uses VTS to manage its sales process, LeasePilot to manage lease negotiation, and MRI to handle property management and accounting. Each of these software solutions delivers significant value on its own, but if none of these platforms embraced the open ecosystem, there’d be a major inefficiency: at each step in the leasing lifecycle, key data would need to be manually migrated from one platform to the other. Thankfully for Prestige Worldwide, VTS, LeasePilot, and MRI have all embraced the open ecosystem.

Data collected and stored in VTS during the sales process gets automatically passed over to LeasePilot after the LOI is signed, and the first draft of the leaser is pre-populated with all the relevant information that was collected during the sales process. After the tenant signs, data is passed over to MRI for continued management of the lease.

The value proposition that this kind of data continuity provides is twofold. First, it eliminates the time-consuming, tedious process of manual data entry. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it completely eliminates the inherent risk of manual data entry errors. If VTS, LeasePilot, and MRI are the meat and potatoes of your workflow, data integration between platforms is the secret sauce that separates you from the rest of the pack.

How to get your outside counsel on flat fees (and have them love it).

Most CRE companies using outside counsel would jump at the chance to pay their lawyers a flat fee for every deal. Law firms, however, aren’t typically so enthusiastic about the idea. So how can you get your outside counsel on board with flat fees? One of our customers came up with a pretty clever solution:

They looked at their total spending on outside counsel in a 12-month period and divided it by the number of lease deals they closed in that time. To keep the math simple, let’s say they did 50 deals in a year and spent $500,000 on outside counsel, an average of $10,000 per deal.

Next, they calculated the projected efficiency gains LeasePilot would bring to the outside counsel’s workflow, which amounted to about 35%, or $3,500 per deal. With these numbers in hand, they approached outside law firms with a proposal: the company would provide law firms with the LeasePilot software and pay a fixed fee of $8,250 per deal, which amounts to splitting the $3,500 savings between both parties.

The switch to a fixed fee structure was a no-brainer for all involved. The lawyers would be making more money by spending less time on each lease, and the company would save money on every deal (and get it done faster). The entire process was more predictable and everybody came out ahead. Who doesn’t love that?

Smart Contracts vs. Traditional Contracts: Can We Bridge the Gap?

By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the meteoritic rise (and fall) of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. If you’re following the crypto market closely, you’ve probably also heard about blockchain, the underlying tech behind cryptocurrencies. But cryptocurrencies are just one application of blockchain technologies, and we’re just now beginning to think about the myriad applications blockchain has in everyday life. One application which is of great interest to us at LeasePilot is contract security and enforcement, the product of which is known as a ‘Smart Contract’.

So what is a Smart Contract? It starts with the Blockchain, which is a technology of continuously growing records, enabling verification of transactions that are trackable and irreversible. The blockchain is capable of incorporating computerized sets of rules and mechanisms which are collectively referred to as a Smart Contract. Smart contracts are, in essence, computer programs that automate the enforcement of terms. Traditional Contracts, on the other hand, are sets of agreed-upon terms which are enforceable by law and are described in a natural, human language.

Will Smart Contracts replace Traditional Contracts? I’m inclined to say that they won’t. Not entirely, anyway. A Smart Contract works well when terms and conditions are straightforward, objective, and quantifiable. But when it comes to subjective T’s and C’s, the binary nature of a Smart Contract falls short. It’s also important to point out that ultimately, contracts represent an agreement between humans, not machines. Since most of us mortals aren’t capable of easily abstracting the kind of mathematical, deterministic language used by Smart Contracts, the Traditional contract is here to stay.

So what, if anything, connects the two? And what are some potential implementations of combining the two approaches? There are in fact multiple clear similarities between the two. At a high level, they both describe a series of situations and responses. One possible application would be using a Traditional Contract during the negotiation phase that, once signed, would be translated into a Smart Contract which would handle validation and enforcement.

But is this even possible? Will standard agreements and contracts self-execute sometime in the future? The feasibility of bridging the gap still remains to be proven. We’re experimenting with a few exciting technologies to see if that gap can in fact be bridged. Our first step is exploring ways to build standard agreements and contracts from structured data as a way to facilitate a safe transition from the Traditional Contract to a rule-based computer program.

3 Things that Need to Change in Commercial Real Estate

Recently, we published a brief QA with our Director of Customer Success, Nadine Ezzie. Having spent several years as the GC of a commercial real estate company she’s seen the best and worst the industry has to offer, so we asked her to identify three things she’d like to see changed. Her answers deserve some elaboration:

1. Embrace Emerging Tech to Drive Efficiencies

It’s no secret that the CRE industry is behind the times when it comes to adopting emerging technologies in the workplace. But as a former GC, I’m sympathetic to the reasons why the industry has been slow to change. Consistency and reliability are hugely important to the business—real estate is the backbone of the economy, and changing the way things are done is a risky proposition. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the old saying goes.

But the argument to adopt a more modern approach to doing business is a strong one that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore: embracing technology and automation tools leads directly to gains in efficiency and productivity. We’re not talking minor gains and small steps forward here, either. These are giant leaps forward, and it doesn’t take an MBA to figure out that these leaps in efficiency and productivity are directly related to a better bottom line for those willing to embrace these changes.

So for the risk-averse, there are strong incentives to resist change. For the risk-takers, the incentives are inverted. The sweet spot, as always, is somewhere in the middle. As a lawyer, I’m generally risk-averse and lean towards proven processes. Lease agreements protect both the landlord and the tenant, so priority #1 is ensuring the lease is done right the first time, every time.

LeasePilot won me over. Literally. I left a well-respected position coveted by many to help build something I knew was going to change the industry. The software hits that sweet spot where it introduces automation and document management into the leasing workflow without fundamentally altering the process.

2. Increased deal transparency

Thought exercise: name an industry that plays a role in every sector of the world economy; an industry which nearly every business in existence relies upon. While I’m sure a few examples exist, the only industry I can think of that matches the above criteria is commercial real estate. But despite its overarching reach and enormous influence on the world economy, CRE remains a tight-knit, niche industry.

In every real estate market, the overwhelming majority of transactions run through a small handful of top players. These big players have near-total omniscience in their markets. These major players know about every deal in town, and in most cases, they know the details of those deals.

While this level of market intel is a boon for the established CRE companies, it puts everyone else at a disadvantage: the lack of available data on past deals makes it very difficult for tenants and buyers to negotiate deal terms effectively, and for new entrants in the market, it serves as an enormous barrier to entry.

Public access to anonymized leasing data would certainly help level the playing field and increase competition in the market. In the long run, that’s good for everyone—even the big guys.


3. More women and minorities in leadership positions

Opinions on this can get political real quick, so I’ll let the data speak for itself:

CRE demographics