The team behind LavaMap wants to change how commercial real estate is bought, sold and rented. The first step on that path isn’t technology at all, it’s a big physical visual not unlike the real estate signs you’ve always seen on properties.
The web service lists commercial properties, currently for free, on one interface that’s all based on a map. For users to get instant information about a property — price, specs, time on market — they start with a text message to a phone number they spot on the company’s flagship product: the LavaTag, a large vinyl sign with a building’s unique ID number.
The team closed its first deal initiated by a LavaTag in recent weeks. A retail space was closed in three days in Irvington, New Jersey, after an initial LavaTag inquiry, according to George Pafitis, one of the two co-founders.
“Our flagship product, the LavaTag can be found throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx, and New Jersey. We are driving a startling number of leads for listing managers while saving them many hours a week,” Pafitis told us.
Here’s the basic idea of how an inquiry like that would work, from the company’s marketing materials:
So you might not even be actively out looking for a commercial property, but if you found yourself in a neighborhood and happened to see one that would meet your needs, you can send a quick text with the ID number and you’ll get information back.
What the LavaTag doesn’t make clear for potential lessees or buyers, however, is that that’s not all it does. The fact that you showed interest in the property also goes to the listing agent, to generate leads. It may come as a surprise for some folks when they get a call from a real estate agent about a location. Then again, if you work as a real estate professional, it might just save you a step. We’d like to see a clearer disclosure of the tool as a lead generator, though the value is clear.
The service will eventually cost listing agents $49 per month, he said. Right now, though, it is completely free. As are the large vinyl signs. They signs will continue to be offered at no extra charge, as part of the service.
For now, the connection from real world signage to text-based messaging is one of the most interesting aspects of the effort, though the challenge will also be to keep the idea their own.
The founders of LavaMap, Pafitis and Jordan Preston, a Brooklyn based real-estate startup, met in high school. They both came from real estate families and believed that the property industry was long overdue for technical innovation to make looking for new space easier. They work out of both Bushwick and Green Point. Since beginning to raise a $750,000 angel investment round, a team of five has been working on the project alongside freelancers.
They would like to hear from the startup community about space that is available, the kind that they might need and how they can improve their service.