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CRE & Technology: The Impact is Not What You Expected

There is no doubt that digital technology is having a very real impact on the CRE industry but this might be in ways that surprise you. This advancement is creating opportunities and value in new areas for investors and brokers.

Ways Technology is Changing CRE

The impact of technology on real estate is ever changing and in many cases, there are new property types that are created by this evolution. If you look back to the early 1980s, property types like data centers, electric vehicle charging stations, and the smart factories did not exist. We did though have a lot of Blockbuster video stores, Barnes & Nobles bookstores, and RadioShacks covering the map. Human needs change based on what is available and prevalent today and you can’t overlook the real estate component of these changes.

Another example is the rising demand for last-mile logistics and the impact this is having on the industrial sector. The last-mile delivery market is set to grow by 15% through 2027, adding $62.7 billion in value between 2023 and 2027 according to Research and Markets. This growth is taking place along transport hubs and links, and is following the migration of people to secondary and tertiary markets, and even into rural areas. We think there are some great new opportunities in unexpected markets for investors seeking that diamond in the rough property to add to their portfolios. And for sellers in secondary and tertiary markets, there is the chance to reach a new base of buyers, alert to the value to be found off the beaten track. 

A third example comes from the restaurant sector. Consider how quick-serve restaurants (QSR) have changed between 2020 and today. During the pandemic, successful QSR brands adopted third-party delivery app services to reach their customers in a low-touch way. There was also an increase in virtual kitchens – restaurants that only exist to service deliveries and takeaways, and do not cater for seated customers. As the pandemic ended, QSRs started rethinking their digital channels to avoid the high third-party costs, but to continue to offer their customers convenience. New developments included drive-thrus and online ordering kiosks on their premises. Each technological evolution impacts the property layout, and ultimately the brand’s ability to expand and grow. Savvy brands with the flexibility and agility to accommodate these changes have gone from strength to strength and grown their footprint, seeking to acquire new, similar premises from property investors.

It Starts With Data

To advise our investors on trends like these – and any trends and opportunities in CRE – we need access to data, and the ability to quickly transform that data into something meaningful for our clients. Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you need this information fast. This allows you to make the most appropriate decision at that time – whether that is to buy, sell, or hold.

Today, conversations around digital transformation involve concepts such as big data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). But we believe this is only part of the picture, and that today CRE companies should already be using available tools to work better, faster, and be more helpful to their clients. For us, this means collaboration, and the speedy and clear communication of accurate, well-informed insights so that our clients can make the right decisions. This is followed up with the ability to execute decisions quickly and effectively to make the most of the opportunity in days, rather than weeks or months.

The reality is that AI and ML-powered tools are already here. At SIG, we use these tools for everything from capturing call notes and action items to extracting lease data, creating proposals, summarizing legal documents and reporting on complex financials.

Today, anyone has access to the ability to analyze data without being a software engineer. All it takes is a willingness to learn, and an environment and culture conducive to innovation. Companies that have a digital-first approach certainly have an advantage here. In our case, we started SIG as a national triple net lease brokerage firm and because of that it was vital that we could reach investors across the country to find the best deal for our clients and the only way to do that was to be a digital-first company.

Introducing the Robo-Broker?

As much as we are fans of using technology to do things better and faster, we don’t see the robo-broker as the next evolution. It is unlikely that a robot will ever outperform a human broker that is powered by technology. A human’s ability to connect, build relationships and understand nuances is needed to complement and mediate the data delivered by technology to arrive at and execute on the best deal.

“We can all gain efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy by using technology,” says Ryan Passe, SIG Chief Operating Officer. “Overlaying this with people who understand what they are looking at, can harness the information, and do something with it is where value is created. People can understand the human impact, and build the deep, lasting relationships required to navigate the unexpected and work through tough issues. If you pair this with the technological innovations of the world we live in, this is a great recipe for success for our brokers, our clients and our company.” 

Contact SIG today to make your investment goals a reality.

Beyond Business: SIGives Mission to Make a Difference

When we say SIG is a values-driven business, this really comes to life with SIGives, our charitable giving arm. Through donating a combination of our time, energy, and treasures, we acknowledge that beyond the commercial real estate bubble, there are bigger things that require our attention, and that with knowledge comes responsibility.

This idea that SIG is bigger than any individual, and should have a positive impact in the world, but most significantly, within the communities where we work, predates the founding of the company. Back in 2010, when Chris and Liz Sands started SIG in Santa Monica, CA, they infused their own values associated with giving and service into the company’s DNA. They recognized that real estate brokerage can often be very self-focused, overly individualistic, and cut-throat, core traits that they wanted to avoid and why they wanted to do things differently with SIG. This alternative way of looking at the world and doing business has taken hold at SIG and has become such a fundamental pillar in our success, that the quarterly community outreach projects are no longer mandated but rather motivated and self-propelled by each of our current seven offices.  

“SIGives is absolutely the epitome of our culture and values, particularly collaboration, gratitude, and giving back. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard from candidates and new hires that the SIG culture and SIGives sets us apart and is a key reason why people want to work for us,” says Liz Sands, SIG co-founder.

SIGives Today

While we donate our time as part of SIGives, we also know that many of the organizations that we work with need more than just volunteers which is why we give a percentage of our revenue to organizations that are working to improve the communities in which we operate. In 2022, we proudly hit the milestone of $1 million donated in a year. 

When it comes to giving our time, each office location comes together quarterly for a day of giving back where we spend time volunteering with the causes closest to our hearts in our local communities. Recent examples are a local animal shelter in Austin TX and a beach clean up in Charleston, SC.  

Finally, it’s important to us that SIGives extends to our own team members. When someone has a cause that is near and dear to them, they just need to ask and we contribute to any charitable initiative that our team member is involved with in their personal capacities. 

SIGives in 2024

Our recent SIGives office activities included:

  • Cleared invasive plant species from several acres of Valley Forge National Park – Philadelphia, PA
  • Beach clean up on Sullivan’s Island – Charleston, SC 
  • South Florida Broadcaster’s Celebrity Golf tournament in association with the My Family Matters foundation – Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Volunteered at Central Texas Food Bank – Austin, TX

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Events we are involved in this year: 

  • We’re a headline sponsor of the Special Olympics Bocce Bash – Charleston, SC 
  • Habitat For Humanity – Austin, TX
  • CHOP event, Philadelphia, PA

Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics 

Long-standing beneficiaries of SIGives are Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. Working in real estate, our support for Habitat for Humanity is apt. At ribbon-cutting ceremonies for newly built Habitat homes, we have met the new residents of homes we have helped build, which gives us our team a humble reminder of what real estate is really about and continues to fuel our passion for what we do. 

With Chris and Liz’s backgrounds as competitive athletes, the Special Olympics holds a special place in our hearts  – we believe that everyone should have access to the benefits and enjoyment that sports and competing gives you. Our teams have volunteered at games and we’ve sponsored events that have resulted in hundreds of athletes being able to compete at the Special Olympics.

“Donations from companies like Sands Investment Group are the lifeblood of Special Olympics South Carolina. Their loyal support over so many years has made our mission possible, and while they may not know you by name, our athletes carry thanks in their hearts for your contributions.”   

  • Sandye Williams, Director of Development, Special Olympics South Carolina

Our Future Plans for SIGives

Looking ahead, we intend to grow and expand SIGives leaning into our CRE capabilities as strategic advisors and deal makers, all the while maintaining the program’s organic, grassroots ethos, where everyone at SIG feels ownership and has the ability to shape our charitable activities. We are honored to work with the organizations we do and proud of how SIGives continues to bring to life our culture, our values-based approach to CRE brokerage, and the SIGnificant difference you experience when choosing SIG.

 

The New Face of QSR Properties: Adapting to Changing Consumer Behaviors

In the ever-evolving Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) landscape, staying ahead of changing consumer behaviors is not just an advantage—it’s a necessity. Today’s QSR properties are not merely about fast food; they’re about smart, sustainable choices, technological advancements, and a commitment to quality that resonates with a new generation of consumers. It’s also becoming increasingly evident that in this dynamic arena, the role of informed, expert guidance cannot be overstated. This is where our team of product-type specialists come into play, offering expertise and insight into the QSR investment landscape, ensuring our investors are not just keeping pace but actually setting the pace in the industry. Read more

Tons of Value Packed Into Self-Storage Property: What You Need to Know

Opportunities abound for self-storage, making it an asset class that shouldn’t be overlooked. This holds especially true for investors seeking to compound wealth and grow the net worth of their portfolio because of the flexibility and adaptability of the asset. Unlike other, more fixed-use type asset classes, self-storage can take on many different shapes, meaning the property can be quickly and easily adjusted depending on location, local needs, and changing market conditions.   Read more

The SIG Difference

At SIG, we’ve always done things differently and put our values at the heart of everything we do. And, coming out of a tough 2023 and still achieving above-average growth, we know this difference is what creates success for us. Our core values – honesty, integrity, gratitude, giving back, and growth – have allowed us to grow a measurably excellent CRE brokerage service and a best-in-class company. 

Our Values

Our values mean that we are not a group of real estate brokers who look at each deal through a single-minded transactional lens. Instead, we are strategic advisors who build long-lasting partnerships with our clients. These partnerships are based on honesty and integrity – ensuring the best deals are done, with the best outcome for all involved, while still maintaining a premium quality of service.

Our values also mean that we cooperate and collaborate, internally and externally, to add value and drive growth. This drives better deals for our clients, giving them access to wider databases, more choices, and better outcomes. 

Make no mistake though, our brokers are also fiercely competitive. But uniquely, they work hard and compete in an environment where they can show up and be seen as their whole selves and grow as human beings while also being an integral part of growing our business. 

SIGives – Giving Back

One of our core beliefs for the past 14 years is that SIG is bigger than us, and that with success comes responsibility. This is reflected in our values of gratitude and giving back, and in the work we do to contribute to the wider community outside of the real estate bubble through SIGives.

SIGives is a program that donates a percentage of our revenue to organizations that work to improve the lives of others. This means that when you work with us, you’re doing more than just contributing towards our bottom line.

We also donate our time and effort. Every quarter, our team members in each of our offices go out into the community to get involved with causes making a difference. Some of the community projects we support include Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and our local pet shelters.

Why the SIG Difference Matters to You

For real estate investors, wherever you land on the investment spectrum, the SIG difference means we can offer you a full suite of CRE services across industrial, office, medical, multi-family, and shopping centers. We partner with you to understand your investment goals and work across our network to find the right deal for you, with a premium quality service level that delivers results.

Check out our recent listings here

For tenants, our ability to support your business expansion goals extends beyond our net lease specialization to full brokerage services. The quality of service and values-based relationships you already know us for will continue to strengthen this year.

Our team, and CRE professionals who want to work or collaborate with us, can be at the top of their CRE game while cultivating their very best selves, having a voice, and succeeding and growing while staying in alignment with their core values. 

On the topic of our team, we’re growing our office footprint in 2024, so check out our careers page to join SIG. 

So, Why Do We Think This Values-Based Approach to CRE Brokerage Will Work?

Because it already has. We have proven the model over the last 14 years with growth that we are very proud of. Last year we listed and sold almost $4 billion, comprising more than 700  properties – and we plan to continue the growth trajectory in 2024. We have achieved significant traction as we build on our net lease foundation to expand our portfolio of brokerage services: we reached $300 million in industrial deals and $250 million in shopping centers in 2023. We achieved this growth with a small, agile team, and an industry-leading real estate marketing platform. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Inc. Magazine has ranked us in their list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US for four years in a row.

Many in the industry might be facing 2024 with trepidation, given the rough ride we had last year. But we are confident that our values-based approach to commercial real estate and our laser-sharp focus on providing the best quality of service, underpinned by our people and platform, will maintain our growth trajectory this year.

 

A Message From Chris & Liz Sands: SIGives & COVID-19

April 7, 2020:  When we formed SIG over 10 years ago, we knew that we wanted to build a different kind of brokerage company. One founded on collaboration and contribution. SIGives was born from this and because of you, our loyal client base, we’ve had the privilege of being able to donate more than $1.7M to both global and local charities such as Special OlympicsSt. Jude Children’s HospitalInternational Rescue CommitteeCharity:Water and many others. Read more