CHARLOTTE-Commercial real estate professionals are missing a bet, and possibly a few commission dollars, too, by not fully understanding the value of the Internet to themselves and the industry, national online editor John Salustri suggests.

He was the keynote speaker at the fall conference of the local chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.

The industry is slow in taking advantage of the Internet because “much of the data that can be found on its Web sites demands an openness of communication that the industry is not traditionally accustomed to,” Salustri said.

With the vast amount of information available today, “the challenge becomes who can use that knowledge to the best advantage,” he stated. “That’s the real difference between today and yesterday.”

Clients know and understand the value and advantages of the Internet better than most brokers, Salustri noted. “The client base you are dealing with today is very tech savvy, one with unprecedented amounts of information at its fingertips–information that once only the real estate professional had access to.”

Because technology is being embraced by clients, a broker’s duties and responsibilities in the near-future may differ widely from a professional’s workload today.

Salustri said: “To gauge if your career will end up as roadkill on the information highway, ask yourself an old-commerce question: Are you a middleman? Forget the Net. Has your primary function been to bring the players together and process papers?”

Conversely, the editor pointed out, “Are you a consultant, bringing value to the deal in terms of advice and negotitation skills? Are you the first to the table with the most in-depth analyses of a transactions upsides and downsides?”

The answer to those questions will determine a professional’s survival rate. “The Net is not your biggest competitor,” says Salustri. “It’s the broker who already sees the Net, not as a threat, but as a tool.”

The role of the real estate professional is changing rapidly and will become “more streamlined, more professional and more intimate,” the editor said. “The Internet is a threat only if you choose to make it so.”

Citing a recent Bank of America report, Salustri noted e-commerce applications alone could add 15% to 20% to the value of commercial real estate in the United States.

Office and apartment assets should fare best in the virtual world while many industrial sites are now obsolete. Although industrial space will grow due to Internet sales, today’s warehouses will have to perform much differently than traditional products.

Growth in technology will fuel the office sector. US Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that by 2006, tech-related jobs will represent 49% of the nation’s work force.”And they’ve all got to sit some place,” Salustri said.

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