The Real Deal New York

Move over, PropertyShark. Actovia’s in town.

Commercial real estate brokers get new search engine for NYC building details

March 27, 2012 02:30PM
By Guelda Voien

Actovia's details dashboard and Jonathan Ingber, founder of Actovia (click to enlarge Actovia's dashboard)

After just eight months, a new service that helps brokers track mortgages and landlords in New York City already has a client roster that boasts household names in commercial real estate such as Massey Knakal Realty Services, GFI Capital and Eastern Consolidated.

New Jersey-based Actovia, launched by Jonathan Ingber last September, provides in-depth mortgage information and reverse look-up for owners by landlord name and address, but more importantly, it uses the latest technology to make that information available via a quick and intuitive user interface.

Ingber, who was the director of research at mortgage giant Meridian Capital for six years before starting Actovia, which he financed himself, said most of the information his service provides was already available but was hard to navigate. “Brokers are ADD,” he said, meaning they have attention deficit disorder. And, he added, “most people are lazy — to my benefit.” Actovia puts the information in one place and makes it easy to navigate.

The website uses a lot of information that is already available from the Automated City Register Information System, the city’s public data resource for real estate transactions, or from New York City’s Department of Buildings’ website. But Actovia implements the same technology that Netflix uses to stream movies, software called Silverlight, to provide information in an easy-to-use interface that links the user to, for instance, a landlord’s full portfolio, setting it apart from widely used competition like CoStar.com, PropertyShark.com and other sites and services that track mortgages and landlords, according to Ingber. With Silverlight, Ingber said, Actovia behaves more like a desktop application, with little or no load-time.

But the program not only also lets users look up a property by landlord and vice versa, it allows users to search by loan expiration date, loan rate, loan-to-value and mortgage per square foot, helping brokers identify which mortgages are most likely underwater — unlike any other site, according to Ingber. (While other sites, like Trepp.com, only track loans that have been resold as commercial mortgage-backed securities, Actovia tracks all loans originated in all the boroughs, except for Staten Island, where Ingber said the city’s information is inaccurate.) And those potentially underwater properties represent opportunities — to sell, partner on or refinance — and the broker can approach the landlord with that information, Ingber said. The system has contacts for more than 70,000 unique landlords, according to Ingber.

Actovia, which charges the 20 companies currently using it a $500 monthly fee (though there are discounts for volume), plans to expand to the rest of New York state and to New Jersey within the next three months. The company also plans to make some of the services available for mobile phones within the year, Ingber said. The name Actovia is an acronym of his children’s names, Ingber indicated.

Mark Alper, a sales manager at commercial brokerage GFI Realty, an affiliate of GFI Capital, who has been using Actovia for about five months, said the numbers on Actovia are more accurate than on PropertyShark.com. “With Actovia, eight out of 10 times you get an accurate number,” he said. “We are using it for canvassing purposes and we have gotten listings out of it.”

When asked about comparisons to Actovia, a PropertyShark spokesperson said that “perfect accuracy is virtually impossible with public records, which are the main source of PropertyShark data,” but added that “PropertyShark does a far better job than most of its competitors out there. It is the only service in New York City which guarantees to not miss a single foreclosure auction.”

Ira Zlotowitz, president of Brooklyn-based brokerage Eastern Union Commercial, said Actovia has helped him in “identifying people whose mortgages are ripe for refinancing.” His firm has been using the service for eight months, ever since it was in its beta version. “The benefit is that, we are extremely busy, with time being very valuable, this [service] gives us the ability to see very quickly if we can provide any value to an owner,” Zlotowitz said. He indicated that he does not use PropertyShark.

At first Ingber envisioned Actovia mostly as a tool for the mortgage industry, before realizing its broader application in commercial real estate. “I realized that by manipulating data points… I was able to highlight data that was attractive for commercial real estate… in identifying properties that were overleveraged.” Now, he said, CBRE and Jones Lang LaSalle are among his “ultimate goal clients.”

JLL and CBRE declined to comment. Eastern Consolidated, Massey Knakal and GFI did not respond by press time.

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