Spamming to get ahead

<span style="font-style: italic;">As desperation rises, commercial brokers e-mail, again and again</span>

Property listing spam is a fact of life in real estate. Like the swallows of Capistrano, flocks of all-capped, too-good-to-be-true e-mails arrive in brokers’ inboxes in predictable cycles: “MUST SEE!!!” and “SPACIOUS, MODERN,” they scream in the subject line.

But as the commercial real estate market continues its downward slide, some in the business say the number of e-mails from brokers promoting their properties have reached a new level. And some firms are now restricting the number of times brokers can press send.

“I think you can peg it almost exactly to when the market started deteriorating,” said Gayle Meredith, a vice president at Grubb & Ellis. “As soon as agents realized they couldn’t just wait for the phone to ring, that’s when the e-mails started.”

Meredith said she’s now skilled at quickly identifying names of the worst offenders (she declined to divulge names) and immediately deletes their e-mails without even opening them.

“Owners and brokers who don’t want to spend a lot of money think that e-mail is a great tool,” Meredith said. “It’s not a substitute for getting on the phone and being proactive.”

Glenn Markman, executive vice president at Cushman & Wakefield, said he sees smaller companies as the bigger offenders.

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“The larger companies tend to be a little more responsible in how they e-mail,” said Markman.

Although, he added, the down market has put pressure on brokers to sell or lease their properties and e-mail is one way all firms can get the word out.

“When the market is doing well…you don’t get as many e-mails,” Markman said. “It definitely has been ticking up more and more each month [since the recession hit].”

As a result, some commercial agents now follow a strict code when deciding how many property-promoting e-mails to send out.

“We only e-mail — at most — twice a week,” said Rafe Evans, vice president at Walker Malloy. He said he knows some firms that would send dozens of e-mails a day.

Eventually, he just unsubscribed to their mailings. “We’re not the customer, so selling to us doesn’t need to be done.”