Changing How CRE Transacts
- Jan 12, 2017
After serving as the head of real estate and asset management at Bill Gates Investments, spending 15 years at Cushman & Wakefield and six years at CBRE, Maureen Waters has seen the commercial real estate business from just about every angle.
In her new role as chief marketing officer for the commercial division of innovative tech start-up Ten-X, she is part of an effort to change it in major ways.
“When I talk to friends who are brokers, we would all like to be part of an industry that truly embraces technology. Ten-X is a technology platform that helps brokers be more productive, and can make deals happen more quickly,” Waters says. “This platform provides a new level of transparency and global distribution that hasn’t been there in the past.”
Ten-X is the well-funded (investors include Capital G—formerly Google Capital—and Stone Point Capital), expertly advised and increasingly successful online platform for buying and selling residential and commercial real estate. To date, Ten-X has sold over $45 billion in transactions.
Waters says helping buyers, sellers, and brokers get comfortable transacting online is one of the major challenges she and her team face as they continue to move the model forward in 2017. The name Ten-X speaks to the firm’s vision to make buying and selling real estate ten times easier for everyone involved.
CPE: How do you explain Ten-X to those who are not familiar with it?
Waters: Ten-X is a transaction platform, a tool for helping to expedite a real estate transaction.
From end to end, we have a platform that allows you to buy or sell real estate entirely online.
CPE: How has Ten-X evolved and grown over time?
Waters: Our traditional auction platform is how Ten-X started in early 2007. As the real estate market started to decline, and there was a need for distressed property sales, the Auction.com platform was created in order to meet that demand. In 2013, we moved into direct real estate transactions on the commercial side. The auction business is still very active today, and we have subsequently launched a residential business.
CPE: What led you to join Ten-X in 2016?
Waters: I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the space. I have been in commercial real estate my entire career, focusing on everything from business development, marketing, strategy, brokerage, to corporate services. But I couldn’t help create transformative change from any of the other roles I had been in. This was an opportunity to innovate in marketing and strategy and real estate transactions. I believe we can provide a new level of transparency and efficiency in the marketplace that hasn’t been there in the past.
CPE: How have brokers reacted to the platform?
Waters: Initially there was fear that we were trying to eliminate brokers. But they soon realized that we wanted to help them become more productive. As we started to build relationships with brokers and taught them how to use the platform, they became more comfortable with it as a tool. We’re now seeing a significant increase in adoption among brokers.
CPE: What other disruptive technologies would you compare this to?
Waters: The most recent one I can think of is the automobile industry. Cars are now purchased online. No one thought that would ever happen, but I think it is just a matter of gaining trust, getting people comfortable with the idea that you can make significant purchases online, and having processes and policies in place that guarantee a successful transaction, or a constructive resolution if there are any issues with the product received.
CPE: Who are your buyers and sellers and how to do you connect the two?
Waters: Our target is high-volume, institutional sellers. We have been extremely successful attracting the right buyers to the platform. We have value add, high net worth, private capital and institutional fund buyers. It is an ecosystem that enables the transaction to occur, making real estate a much more liquid investment vehicle.
We have taken on a very large data initiative to ensure that we understand our buyers’ preferences, and will predictively match those buyers and sellers over time.
CPE: How quickly do you think CRE will move toward this way of transacting sales?
Waters: I do not think it is going to happen overnight. We must build trust, and there is an education and acceptance process that is critical to our success. However, I believe we will see additional traction this year, especially involving the way commercial real estate is marketed. We are going to reinvent marketing, and make it much easier for the buyer, seller, and brokers to transact on the platform with the click of a button.