The Real Deal New York

Douglas Elliman launches new platform to boost new dev business

Agents can now use FOLIO to centralize data, marketing tools for new dev projects
By Meenal Vamburkar | November 12, 2018 04:00PM

Richard Jordan, Susan de Franca & a screenshot of FOLIO (Credit: Douglas Elliman and iStock)

Douglas Elliman is turning to tech to give its agents a leg up in the new development market.

Elliman and Knight Frank Residential, which are global partners, are launching a new platform to centralize information and marketing tools for new dev projects. Dubbed FOLIO, the new initiative launched Monday and will be available to the roughly 21,500 agents across both firms.

FOLIO has been about two years in the making, and its launch comes as the New York market has seen a flood of new development inventory. Amid the rout, which has been particularly pronounced on the high end, discounts have deepened and sales have slumped over the last three years.

“It’s a way to make our agents more competitive but also more informed,” said Richard Jordan, senior vice president of global markets at Douglas Elliman Development Marketing. “The industry has been very fragmented with distributing this information.”

The platform is launching with about 150 projects — and over the next year Jordan said the aim is to reach 300 or more. Information ranges from floor plans and unit availability to customized sales and rental comparable data. Because the initiative seeks to give these projects exposure to the firms’ global clients, it also includes buyer guides for the markets and the ability to translate materials into seven languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Information in the platform also updates in real-time, so agents are able to set custom notifications for changes. Users can also directly distribute materials from the platform, via email and social media, including Chinese messaging app WeChat. Centralizing the information and making it more easily accessible is a way of speeding up transactions, Jordan said.

In the third quarter, new development sales in New York plunged 22 percent from a year earlier. The rate of decline was double that of resales, according to Elliman’s latest market report. At the same time, the median sales price slid 9 percent.

In parent company Vector Group’s third-quarter earnings call, Howard Lorber, chairman and CEO, said that, “closings are pretty strong in new development, but that’s from sales two or three years ago.”

Elliman isn’t the only residential firm changing its new dev approach. The slowdown has led Corcoran, a heavyweight in the space, to cast a wider net. The brokerage tapped John Felicetti, a Corcoran Sunshine executive, as its first vice president of new development — and the company will be chasing smaller condominium projects.

As brokerages have experimented with new technology, Elliman said it’s staying away from developing tools in-house, noting that it’s a real estate company not a tech firm. FOLIO was developed with software company Collabra Technology. Earlier this year, Elliman launched a “Douglas,” a centralized marketplace to access internal resources as well as third-party apps.