On a sunny day in Denver, Colorado in the Fall of 2019, Jay Soneff, Amy Garris and Marsha Laurienti gathered for a weekly lunch to discuss the Commercial Real Estate deals of the week and lament about CoStar and all the ridiculously inefficient and overpriced tech that has taken over so much of the day to day tasks in the industry. Longing for the days of organic communication and face to face interactions led to a deeper discussion about the ever increasing prices and diminishing quality of the platforms we simply can’t operate and compete without.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just do everything in one place and get rid of all the garbage? Surely if something really cool and effective existed, Brokers would keep listings up to date and engage in more communication and salesmanship…? How hard can that be?”. Well…. A year and a half later, the answer is …HARD! But well worth the effort!
What started as an idea that would help Brokers communicate not only properties they have listed, but also specific needs for their Buyers, potential off market opportunities and general announcements, became an effort to replace all of the platforms we use with an all in one search and marketing tool. Costar had recently purchased Loopnet, which had been the go-to-public-view-online-commercial-search-engine for many years, and increased the price to list properties by more than 200%. What used to cost $300/month for a Broker to upload their listings to a public marketplace now costs $600/month for just 3 listings! CoStar is the original Broker to Broker commercial MLS but is only available to Brokers with Subscriptions and multi year contracts. At roughly $500/month per Broker, CoStar will allow you to load your listings and have them sit on their server until it pops up on another Broker’s screen as part of a specific search. There was a time that Loopnet automatically grabbed those listings to add to their public site, but CoStar ended that practice and now many Brokers, particularly small shops and individuals, have stopped using both services and just blast out email ads to mailing lists instead. Loopnet has only a fraction of the listings it used to house and a few other search engines have popped up, but none offer an opportunity to consolidate public searching, marketing material production, and Broker to Broker communication. Costar became a monopoly and priced much of the Brokerage Community out of the game. Oddly, Costar has done little to improve their interface in recent years and the service now has a low budget feel for a luxury price. We decided there had to be a better way.
Luckily, one of our tenants is a talented Graphic Designer, James Stolzenbach, with contacts in the Coding and Engineering community, so with our heads together, the idea grew from a networking concept to an all inclusive tech tool. By the time Lead Engineer, Bilegt Arslan joined the team, James had our vision on paper with much of the site design ready to implement. Over the next year, we evolved the concept and added features that would make our lives more productive including a social media inspired platform for Brokers to communicate without sending hundreds of emails, a Vendor piece that would consolidate the myriad of contractors and service providers we use into one place for easy access, and a rewards and marketing program that would pull the businesses in the community into the mix.
Once COVID hit, we knew we needed to make something that would actually help keep Brokers, Vendors and Local Businesses up and running, so while most of the country was in quarantine, we were cranking out ideas and testing features that could save us money and benefit our tenants and contractors when the world re-opened. The Commercial Co-Op became an idea that could reach beyond the Brokerage Community and into the industry that keeps Brokers thriving.
Having invested in the Mesa County/ Grand Junction market over the past few years, Jay suggested we use that market as our Beta Test Area and we have been engaging Brokers there for almost a year. The response is as we expected. Brokers are flabbergasted with the low quality tech available and eager to try something new. Through many conversations, a couple of masked presentations and more than a few meetings with firm owners, we are poised to launch the entire county, which happens to be a hot market, this summer (2021). Our data entry techs have loaded two years of comps to the site and are inputting current listings for Brokers to hit the ground running. The level of interest and excitement has been building, and while our timeline has run long, we get a steady stream of contacts from Mesa County wanting to know when we will launch. This tells us word of mouth will be an important tool in our expansion and it motivates us to release a tool that isn’t just cool, but absolutely necessary.
Once we release the platform for real world testing with busy Brokers in Mesa County, we will expand our data entry efforts to the entire state of Colorado. While WE work in a large Denver Metro market, we’re discovering that smaller markets often pay for an MLS platform through their Board of Realtors dues, but these platforms are entirely built for residential deals and create massive headaches for Commercial Brokers. As part of our expansion, we will target these Realtor Associations with the option to separate the listing services and offer a basic package to the Commercial Broker Members as part of their dues with the option to enhance their suite of services for a reasonable monthly rate. In addition, we are working with the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to provide an API integrated search function to imbed in their website for future residents to browse commercial listings. We will also emphasize this service in the various markets we enter through Chambers of Commerce and related Business Organizations.
We are a very small team and have self financed this endeavor through a cash investment from our CEO (I.e. proceeds form commercial brokerage deals), a very small PPP Loan, and lots of sweat equity. We have just contracted a second development engineer and are adding data input positions slowly.
We are earmarking outside investment to complete the site (we are currently at roughly 85% completion), roll out a marketing strategy statewide, hire data entry and account staff, and eventually start making money to pay ourselves as much of the legwork will remain with the Founders until we expand beyond Colorado.
Beyond Commercial Brokerage, Jay generates the maximum possible income for your enterprise.
Jay Soneff was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. The third generation Denverite attended John F. Kennedy High School. He earned a Division 1 baseball scholarship to The University of Colorado under Coach Irv Brown. In four years, Jay graduated with a Business Degree in Finance and Real Estate with a minor in Economics. Jay was the first to take advantage of the new real estate commission that allowed for a real estate degree to replace the two years of Salesman status requirement for broker licensing. At age 22, Jay was the youngest broker in the state. Jay went back to school and received his Master’s degree in Construction Finance and Management from University of Denver in 1995. As a developer, agent and investor in multiple real estate platforms, Jay has tremendous experience dealing with a variety of commercial development, investment, leasing and management situations. Jay has developed extensive experience in all aspects of the real estate business. He has experience in sales and acquisitions, land development, construction, construction management and complex joint venture agreements. He is a survivor of several market swings from the late 70's boom to the late 80's crash. The market swings have taught him that the market will ultimately separate the conservative and stable projects from the speculative and over leveraged properties. This experience serves all his clients in his ability to help protect and maintain properties for long term success. Jay is married to his elementary school sweetheart, Jan. Jay and Jan have two children, Jay Jr. and Jaclyn. He is an avid vintage car enthusiast.
Amy Garris was born in Boulder, CO and she grew up on the grounds of the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. She began working full time at the camp as a member of the summer staff at age 12. By 18, she became the youngest member in the camp’s 100-year history to receive a 7-year employment pin. She attended her freshman year of college at Texas A&M University, and she graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1995 with a BS in Political Science and a minor in Theater. She spent 10 years as a professional singer touring the country with several rock & roll, blues, bluegrass, and swing bands before she moved to Steamboat Springs in 2000.
Amy spent 7 years in Steamboat as a Hotel GM and another 5 years as the President of a Commercial Property Management Company identifying, restoring, remodeling, leasing, and managing several large downtown commercial buildings for a single owner. She coordinated construction projects that included numerous tenant finishes, large scale structural repairs, and a 7-million-dollar refit of a bookstore into a night club and music venue. Her vast experience in evaluating investment property, identifying capital improvements, and overseeing construction projects has given her a unique perspective in the commercial real estate industry.
After moving to Denver in 2012, Amy spearheaded the formation of a commercial brokerage division at the Keller Williams downtown office, which had previously held only residential agents. She joined the KW Commercial platform where she executed a wide variety of deals: a 10,000sf retail to office conversion, coordinated the $400,000 tenant finish, handled industrial land sales for development in Commerce City, and oversaw the purchase and subsequent sale of two 120-year-old Ballpark Buildings.
Her time at Jamis Companies has put Amy at the forefront of Commercial Brokerage in Ballpark, Arapahoe Square, Whittier, and Park Hill neighborhoods. In January of 2019, she represented the seller on an assemblage at 21st and Arapahoe that resulted in one of the highest price-per-square foot transactions in all of greater LoDo at $496 per square foot.
Specializing in off-market opportunities, Amy has successfully brokered several multi-tenant deals on East Colfax, including an acquisition by Jamis Companies at 5022 East Colfax known as Fairfax Plaza that is now home to one of Mayfair’s favorite neighborhood bars—The Owl Saloon.
Landlord and tenant rep successes include the placement of Wurk, a cannabis tech company, in a 12,000sf creative office building at 2162 Market St., as well as connecting two bar owners for the rebranding of the Curtis Club on 21st St. to Rock Steady in Arapahoe Square. She represented the Landlord in relocating Mammoth American Tattoo from Tennyson St. in the Highlands to their new location on 26th Ave. in Whittier and is currently consulting on a mixed-use new construction project next door on High St. with a projected delivery date in late 2020.
Amy is an avid sports fanatic and an obsessive skier and golfer. She is a Denver team super fan and spends much of her free time playing or watching sports. You can often catch her singing with her band, Corduroy Tiger, at neighborhood bars in Park Hill. She lives with her Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Mack, downtown amidst the Union Station redevelopment and is proud to be a part of Denver’s amazing downtown renaissance.
Marketing and Communications Director
Jaclyn graduated from Colorado Christian University with a degree in Communication. She works on various social media marketing strategies for Jamis Companies and Soneff’s Master Garage. She creates emails, makes videos, and blasts pictures and information on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
Unlike many native Coloradans, she favors reading and writing over hiking and camping.
Property Management Division Director/
Marsha@TheCommercialCoOp.com Marsha was born in Denver, CO and has spent her life in the area. Marsha started out working in the banking industry before moving over to the mortgage industry. When she was first hired by Jay Soneff, she headed the Mortgage and Finance Division. She specialized in Commercial Lending and fulfilling long term goals of the Jamis Companies’ clientele. During this time, Marsha assisted Jay in his real estate and development division. Before the housing crisis of 2008, Jay and Marsha made a joint decision that the Mortgage and Finance Sector was far too unsettled to offer great service to their clients, closing down that section of the business. During Marsha’s time with Jamis Companies, she has tackled many different positions to assist Jay in his businesses. From taking over and increasing the bottom line of the Property Management division by 30% to being the operations manager of 2 bars, to being the bookkeeper for 5 companies to operations manager for Jay’s restaurant, Marsha has done a little bit of everything. Through everything she has attempted, what she loves most, is the relationships she has built with her employees, tenants, landlords, and clientele. In 2014, after 10 years in the real estate industry, Marsha took the real estate test and became an associate broker to better serve Jamis Companies’ needs to grow. Currently, Marsha heads the Property Management Division and assists Jamis Companies’ agents, employees and clients. Marsha has expertise in understanding the long term goals of a client, and helping the client achieve those goals. Marsha has established strong relationships with her clientele by excellent customer service and her knowledge of the Real Estate field. Marsha is an avid Broncos fan and a single mother of 4 now young adults.