Week of June 19, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Userboy Attends RealCentric's Gala Premiere, Returns Impressed

Well, let us sit first down, slip into our velvet smoking jacket, grab a dry martini and take a deep luxurious breath. Ah, now we are prepared to share our experience from the (ahem) premiere we've just attended.

Well . . . no, it wasn't as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, this was about as un-Hollywood as could be.

This premiere, you see, was online, for Los Gatos, Calif.-based RealCentric.com (www.RealCentric.com). That meant that we attended only in the decided non-splendor of our office. The only star we saw at the premiere was Humphrey Bogart. And Bogie wasn't saying much, as he normally doesn't from his photo on our wall, where's he's insouciantly frozen forever in front Rick's Café Americain.

And, as is so often true in cyberspace, this online premiere was for a "movie" that's not quite done yet. RealCentric is something of a work in progress.

RealCentric, though, is eons ahead of those legions of real estate sites that sit in the "Under Construction" mode for month upon month - which is about as useful as owning a car that doesn't run. (May we suggest an alternative designation for "Under Construction" -- "Under the Gun to Get it Done, But Our Stuff's Not Quite Together Yet.")

RealCentric, in contrast, has somebody home. Wisely, the site launched when it had something to show users.

At the moment, RealCentric is up and rolling with market information on Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orange County (Calif.). But it has a ton of other markets in which it says it's "launching soon." (That soon-to-come list includes: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Long Beach, Calif.; Miami/Ft. Lauderdale; Minneapolis; Northern Virginia; Oakland, Calif.; Orlando; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Richmond, Va.; Riverside/San Bernadino, Calif.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio, Texas; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; Silicon Valley; Tampa Bay; Tucson, Ariz.; Washington, D.C.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.)


Elvis Takes a Test Drive

Overcome by the premiere spirit, we decided to do an online homage to "Viva, Las Vegas" (arguably one of the cheesiest films ever made, but always good for an easy laugh, which we're certainly not above here).

We began our search in King-like fashion. We wanted property on the Strip only, nowhere else. And we wanted build-to-suit; no real estate leftovers for this hunka-hunka burnin' userboy. We began to recover from Dr. Nick's ministrations, however, when our search brought up nothing. Zilch, zero. We were caught inna' trap . . . but we could walk out . . .

So we did. While Elvis was napping (wow, big surprise), we loosened up our parameters to search for less Kingly digs. This time, we included all of Las Vegas and all kinds of properties. And lawd-dee, lawd-dee, our temperature started to risin' . . . We found no less than 25 properties in Vegas.

By comparison, we've found very, very slim pickings on many of our test drives of property listing sites. Those sites have seemed to suffer from premature launch syndrome (PLS). RealCentric, though, seems to have had its act pretty well together by launch time. For that, the site rates an Elvis "TCB" pin. (Ann-Margaret had them when last we saw them, so we'll just have to settle with saying, "Thank yah; thank yah vaary much.")


A Solid Search Engine,
Loads of Property Details

Peeling off our hideous leather jumpsuit and cape, we went on to more soberly assess the site's other features. Generally, our impression was good.

For example, RealCentric's search engine seems a cut above many comparable sites. You not only get the choice between "urban" and "suburban" properties, for instance. You can also narrow down your search by "high-rise," "mid-rise," "low rise," and "build to suit."

RealCentric's search engine includes the usual square footage ranges for users to specify. But it also includes an online "space estimating tool" (click on the calculator icon). The site also offers an online glossary to assist users who are relative real estate neophytes. In addition, RealCentric provides a step-by-step description of "The Leasing Process From Start to Finish," plus "RealKnowledge," which the site describes as "an ongoing library of papers, articles and news that report on cutting-edge theory and practice." (And, again, this online library already has something in it: Chief Knowledge Officer Rick Pederson's "Future Perfect Corporate Real Estate.")

RealCentric's property listings are rich. For example, clicking on a property takes you to a page with a thorough list of all its particulars and amenities, plus a detailed location map. You can also click on the "suite/floor" link to see detailed information (including a floor plan and floor plate) about each available space in an individual property. Some of the properties also offer virtual tours.


Outfitting: RealCentric's 'National Marketing Partners'

To use the site's "outfitting" option you have to register. We did, which was fairly simple. However, the site seemed to be doing a good job (as it should) of weeding out cranks and journalists (who are sometimes one and the same, though at this point we were decidedly in non-crank mode). It makes the process detailed enough that only real-life space users will probably get through it.

It appeared, though, that some of the response from the outfitting part of the site was going to be faxed. And that would certainly synch with the site's online assertion that it "has assembled and pre-qualified today's leading brands and solution providers in an easy-to-navigate e-commerce marketplace." Some of those "brand and solution providers" are listed onsite. RealCentric's "national marketing partners" include OfficeMax, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Steelcase and Nortel Networks, the site explains, with "local professional service firms included in each market city."


Rolling the Credits

All in all, this site certainly looks promising enough. It's also designed very cleanly and navigates smoothly.

And the site's benefits look like they may benefit both sides of the equation by winnowing down the usual suspects. Says Jim Stuart, RealCentric's chief executive officer, "Suppliers of space can benefit tremendously . . . by dealing with active customers who have identified the exact properties that will meet their needs. Property owners and brokers alike will free up valuable time by interacting only with customers who have already efficiently sorted through the market and are ready to initiate a transaction."

Perhaps most importantly, RealCentric seems to know what it's doing.

And that takes us back to the Hollywood-premiere notion with which we began. In large part, the only way to guess about quality of any premiere is to eyeball the names on the marquee. And RealCentric has some names with some solid experience. So, Mr./Ms. Projectionist, roll those credits if you will:

CEO and co-founder Stuart, for example, is a former board member of Colliers International Partnership. Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Tripp Jones is also a founding partner in Business Communications, a Netscape and Oracle Database systems integrator. Chief Knowledge Officer Pedersen is a well-known advisor to many of the largest owners of real estate, including CarrAmerica, AEW, AMB, Mass Mutual and General Electric, and he has performed property planning for companies including Hewlett Packard, Quantum, Union Pacific, CIGNA and Whirlpool. And CFO Barbara Dreblow is a former partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Silicon Valley.

In short, RealCentric seems ready for its close-up.


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