Alex Lange has always found himself at the intersection of technology and real estate, and as the industry continues to shift and consolidate, the CEO of Forbes Global Properties believes technology will play an even greater role.
Lange came to Forbes Global Properties last December with over two decades of experience in real estate technology. He was the CEO of UpstreamRE—a national real estate data platform— which grew to include more than 250 brokerage firms. Before that, Lange was instrumental in deploying Market Leader’s enterprise model, leading to its acquisition by Trulia. He also led Roost.com from inception to public launch in six months in 2008, winning the coveted Inman “Most Innovative New Technology” award.
As Forbes Global Properties’ first anniversary approaches, Lange recently sat down to discuss the company’s expanding reach in U.S. and international markets, ultra-luxury destinations, leveraging real estate technology, and the shrinking footprint of the independent brokerage. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
EP: Can you talk about the Forbes Global Properties’ members in the U.S. and internationally?
AL: We are growing exposure for our members as well as growing our referral network internally. These are handpicked brokerages focused on luxury real estate that provide clients with white-glove service. We look at their reputation within their geographical area. So many people are looking to relocate to different types of lifestyles and living conditions. The growing cohort of affluent buyers and sellers is skewing younger, and we see them looking more globally for both primary and secondary homes. Our members enjoy the expose they receive as we showcase their properties on Forbes, a 100-year-old iconic brand that receives over 130 million visitors across 70 countries.
We are looking at continued growth, with 50% of our members as international brokerages. This broadens the exposure to affluent international buyers for our members.
For example, our member in Hawaii has a $25 million beachfront development opportunity that lends itself to international buyers. In addition to the Forbes readership for exposure, our members in non-competitive markets help market each other’s properties and have created a robust referral network. They leverage the Forbes brand and they leverage each other.
EP: Luxury and ultra-luxury real estate define Dubai’s Driven Properties, which recently joined as a member. How does the Forbes Global Properties brand collaborate with Driven Properties as more international luxury buyers look to Dubai moving forward?
AL: As with all of our members, our goal for Driven is to bring them all the exposure possible. Dubai is open for business despite the pandemic and the World Expo 2020 begins October 1st, which will bring many visitors, investors and international attention to Dubai.
The growth in Dubai is striking as you watch it go from desert to cityscape in three years. In June alone, there were 6,300 transactions for a total of AED 14.79 billion, the highest monthly value in eight years. We look to collaborate with Driven Properties through this hyper-growth activity and the Expo. The iconic Forbes brand and the affiliation with both digital and physical marketing are significant factors for them in terms of exposure.
Unlike other luxury real estate brands, Forbes resonates with established affluent families and the “30 under 30” investor. It isn’t uncommon for properties in Dubai to be purchased using crypto-currency. If you are looking to attract tech-savvy, affluent investors, Forbes is the place to showcase these amazing properties.
EP: Forbes Global Properties has expanded its reach since launching last December. What do you see for brand expansion for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022?
AL: We’ve seen a massive amount of brokerage consolidation in the last few years. The premier independent brokerage is almost an endangered species. However, in the luxury space, nobody services clients better, so we focus on amplifying independents. Our new member in Singapore, who will be live within a month, understands how to service both luxury residential and new developments better than anyone in the region.
Currently, 50% of our members are international, and I believe that trend will hold as we grow to approximately 100 members. We are very proud of our growth as we approach our first anniversary. Our members are hand-selected and carefully vetted as we curate a network of the “best of the best” brokerages.
EP: Can you address how technology continues to evolve in today’s market? RETSY, the new member in Scottsdale, is contributing to changing the existing model. Where do you see that moving forward?
AL: RETSY is a technology-based real estate brokerage founded by a team that built and exited technology companies before entering real estate. They are on track to record a billion in sales volume their first year.
Although they could custom-build any tool their agents need, they have an adept understanding of what gives them a competitive advantage and what should be bought “off the shelf.” They leverage technology to better inform their agents and dramatically lower their acquisition costs. This gives RETSY a competitive edge in their local market, allowing them to redirect marketing dollars to bespoke services that resonate with luxury buyers and sellers.
EP: With big franchisers going after independent brokerages, how do those brokerages that want to remain independent continue delivering bespoke service while handling competition in technology and marketing?
AL: So many of the larger firms and franchisors are trying to leverage technology to stay competitive. They strive to arm their agent with better technology and services. The problem with big franchisors is getting adoption of these tools in a sea of independent contractors, and they focus on all price points. To get economies of scale, you need to use the same back-office system for all price points with no separate system for luxury. The “uber-luxury” client expects concierge-level service, not the lowest common denominator execution. Today’s affluent buyer is tech-savvy and younger. Independents need to embrace technology to better understand and engage younger buyers and sellers in their own mind space and service them on their terms.