CommNet, a new company dedicated to delivering online exposure to commercial realtors to drive sales and lease deals, believes it has created an online marketing destination that can have a major impact on the Canadian market.
CommNet president Sam Kamoutsis invested his own money in the site and developed it for a year-and-a-half before launching it last month with a soft rollout that thus far has signed on about 100 realtors and companies as members.
Target visitors are buyers, sellers and investors looking for commercial real estate services, opportunities and properties across Canada. He describes CommNet as a three-layered system, with the first being the “property profile” that’s free to the public to access commercial listings.
“It has all the information from the MLS, plus additional information that the salesperson wants to add to the listing,” says Kamoutsis, who opened the PLANIT Real Estate Inc. brokerage in 2009 and has been a real estate training coach and worked in information technology for 25 years.
Its all about professional profiles
The second layer of CommNet provides professional profiles and, unlike MLS, is not a property-based system where all of a realtor’s information is attached to a listing. “We include the listings as part of your profile, which is always visible online,” explains Kamoutsis.
“Whoever is a member of CommNet always has a presence online. If you have listings, they’ll be right there. But there’s also the services you offer, a link back to your website, a description, images and multimedia, ratings, testimonials and reviews. We’ll also be adding a closed transaction tab where you can advertise deals you’ve closed and whatever you’ve done in the past.”
Company profiles are also part of this second layer, and these include a page with all of a realtor’s members and properties, as well as a suite of “feature-rich” add-ons similar to what’s offered in the professional profiles. Commercial property managers, builders and other professionals in the real estate sector can also promote their services in this layer.
Kamoutsis says the third layer, which provides networking opportunities, was the primary reason for building CommNet since he doesn’t believe there’s enough communication among commercial realtors. His system allows them to talk to each other and share information securely.
“The third layer, community, has been built to attract and keep a realtor active in the back end system with forums, resources and training facilities specifically for commercial. We’ll be starting seminars and webinars to show everybody how we do it. We show them how to take their business and move it online — the benefits of being online, how to do your marketing and promotion online, what your website needs to market properties.”
“Tried to address all of the inefficiencies”
Kamoutsis claims he’s “investigated the platforms that are out there and tried to address all of the inefficiencies” inherent in them that he believes have left the Canadian commercial real estate industry underserviced.
“The MLS does a fantastic job of promoting MLS listings in Canada, but doesn’t process the other 30 or 40 per cent of commercial deals that are going on out there, the exclusive market listings. CommNet addresses that issue and provides a platform for every single property that’s available.”
Comparisons can be drawn to the United States-based LoopNet online commercial real estate marketplace. It has a Canadian presence, but Kamoutsis says CommNet’s capabilities exceed it. It integrates the Canadian Real Estate Association’s (CREA) data distribution facility feed (which allows brokerages and realtors to share MLS listings) into its system and acts as a multi-level marketing platform.
“As soon as we’re able to import a property profile, it automatically attaches to a set of about a dozen tools to help a realtor market properties,” says Kamoutsis. “By coming on to the website for 10 to 20 minutes in the morning and clicking a button or copying and pasting some code, they can promote their listings online on a variety of platforms, including classified sites, blog posts and social media platforms.
“That’s how we generate leads for our listings. This is one of the tested and proven methods to attract buyers, sellers and investors to our listings.”
The goal is to have 1,000 realtors and companies involved with CommNet by the end of 2014, and three salespeople were just hired as the Toronto-based company is going into promotion mode to showcase the service to real estate professionals and brokerages and increase its footprint across the country.
About 150 properties
There are currently about 150 properties listed on CommNet, with more than 80 per cent of them located in Ontario, but Kamoutsis is confident it can become a national service with representation in every province.
Professional memberships cost $69 per month or $580 annually, while company memberships go for $99 a month or $832 for the year. The CommNet Concierge service, which launches all of the marketing tools for members daily, is priced significantly higher. The CREA data distribution facility feed starts at $3,000. Advertising on the site gives another boost to the bottom line.
Online and print newsletters should be made available to the commercial real estate community in December. In the meantime, the site has a blog section that includes a “Commercial Rents Service Price Index” and an “Apartment Building Construction Price Index.”
Kamoutsis says CommNet employees interpret data provided by Statistics Canada for the indexes and will monitor releases on the commercial real estate market for which it will provide analysis.
Several optional add-on-fee services are slated to be provided by CommNet and its partners to bring in more revenues starting in January. Its partners offer commercial web design, search engine optimization and marketing, pay per click, social media and Internet marketing, commercial brokerage services, paperless, iPad, customer relationship management, recruiting, business coaching, sales training and events services.
“We’re trying to provide a system and a feed to local Canadian companies with Canadian content,” says Kamoutsis. “Along with the exposure that we promote, we invite realtors to use the marketing tools that are attached to their properties and promote them to the public.”