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SAN FRANCISCO-Buyers of single-family homes have had it good for a long time when it comes to web sites devoted to helping them find the right home. Not so much the case when it comes to the commercial real estate equivalent, apartment buildings. That changed a couple of weeks ago for the Bay Area.

Wheelhouse Investment Real Estate Brokerage, founded two years ago by former Arroyo & Coates broker Michael Thomas and his techie partner Justin Shreve, has launched a fully searchable MLS database exclusively for multifamily apartment buildings in the Bay Area. Accessible through the company’s website, it allows investors to all Bay Area apartment buildings listed for sale, regardless of who has the disposition assignment, and it allows them to see it a manner pertinent to apartment investors.

“The Bay Area is one of the largest multifamily investment markets in the country and it is truly amazing that there hasn’t been a centralized place to freely view what’s listed on the MLS market,” Shreve says.

Thomas says the inspiration was seeing sites like Red Fin, Zip Realty and Realtor.com, good sites that carry some apartment listings but not all and do not cater to multifamily investors because they were designed primarily to cater to home buyers, not apartment buyers. Wheelhouse’s MLS database, by contrast, includes all listed apartment buildings and highlights the relevant information — price, cap rate, GRM and price per square foot–in addition to the requisite photos and property description. In addition, the site requires no registration whatsoever to use.

“We saw residential sites getting so good at it we just thought ‘why is nobody doing it in our space?’ ” Thomas tells GlobeSt.com. “ So instead of jamming information into a format built for selling homes, we’ve created a web site that provides exactly what apartment buyers are looking for in a clean, simple way.”

Wheelhouse’s first foray into marketing all properties, not just their own listings, began with “Wheel Deal,” the company’s name for their broker-reviews of other company’s listed properties. With its multifamily MLS database now open to the public after two years of R&D, the company now provides investors with a complete synopsis of all Bay Area multifamily properties.

“Every other firm where our brokers have worked focused solely on displaying and promoting their own listings,” Thomas says.”Now there’s a site where people can scour the entire local market, creating a comfortable environment for investors to give us a jingle, even if it’s not our listing. Phone traffic has increased tenfold since we launched the site.”

Thomas believes that is happening because investors have made the transparency of information a top priority, especially in light of today’s disreputable investment climate. As well, he hopes competing brokers frequent his site as well.

“Brokers are starting to move away from being the gatekeepers of information, and we’re excited to be leaders in this movement,” Thomas says. “As a broker-owner looking to grow, I would love to have our competitors look at Wheelhouse as the benchmark for brokerage technology, and to challenge the status quo.’”

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