Seems every day I am discovering another innovative new website for the real estate industry. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, while the residential market saw most of the innovation over the past few years, it’s clearly the commercial sectors turn. I recently met with Ben Zises, Founder/CEO of RetailMLS (www.retailmls.com) to learn more about the site, its niche and future plans.
Michael Beckerman: What’s your background?
Ben Zises: I began my career in real estate over six years ago as a licensed real estate salesperson and worked as a retail broker in NYC. I represented both landlords in marketing retail spaces and tenants in their search for the right space for their business. While a broker, I was responsible for site selection and lease negotiations with various high profile landlords and tenant clients including: The ONE Group, Megu, Prêt a Manger, Cosi, David Barton Gyms, Verizon Wireless, Marx Realty, The Gansevoort Hotel Group, The Trump Organization and Rockefeller Group Development Corp.
Michael: What was the “ah ha” moment when you discovered there was a need for RetailMLS?
Ben: My first week on the job [as a retail broker] in July 2008, I realized the process of marketing and searching for retail real estate space was inefficient. There was no listing service just for retail! Upon signing my first exclusive tenant representative agreement with Verizon Wireless, I got a taste of the inefficiencies associated with finding space in the retail market. For example, I learned that a Verizon store in Manhattan must be no less than 3 blocks from an existing location. I then mapped out each Verizon location, identified areas that met corporate requirements, and spent my nights rollerblading the streets collecting phone numbers and website addresses from storefront signs. The next morning, I called each broker or landlord and searched their websites for specific information about the listing that I could relay to my client. However, each website displayed its listing information in different formats, making it impossible to efficiently compare and contrast listings against one another. The alternative – high priced listing services that showcasedretail listings under the commercial umbrella – were often not accurate, nor were they specific enough to trust the integrity of their listings. Thus, the idea for a Retail only MLS was born.
Michael: What’s unique about the site?
Ben: That we are the only Retail Specific listing site! We are obsessed with creating the most user-friendly experience and providing free listings and searching. This allows each listing to attain unlimited exposure to an audience of retail real estate professionals. We also integrate numerous data sources and demographics into each listing to make the searching and marketing process streamlined. Our goal is to be an indispensable tool to save retail brokers time, which we know is their most valuable asset
Michael: How have you grown the site and what are your key stats currently?
Ben: We spent months preparing for our launch and met with the top retail brokers and landlords throughout the tri-state area (NY, NJ & CT), introducing them to our service and collecting feedback. 100% of the firms we met with agreed to participate by adding their listings to our system.
Before we opened the site up to searchers we populated it with listings and now have over 10,000 retail listings primarily in the New York tri-state area. In late January, after collecting feedback from customers, we expanded our coverage nationwide.
We have started to get great feedback from customers telling us about the leads they are getting from tenants. We now have listings from over 400 retail brokerage and landlord firms and each month our site traffic is increasing.
Michael: What’s the future growth strategy?
Ben: Working with the many retail and retail real estate trade organizations to spread the word about our service. Our goal is to create the most comprehensive and user-friendly marketplace for retail real estate listings nationwide and establish ourselves as the industry standard, homepage and system of record for retail real estate and retail real estate professionals.
Check out their video to learn more: