Flat Fee Broker Finds CRE

Lew Sichelman

So-called disruptors have, well, disrupted the residential real estate market. The field is now riddled with discount brokers. Agents aren’t even necessary for owners in 40-some major markets who want to avoid the hassle of open houses and back-and-forth dickering by selling their places to iBuyers, aka instant, institutional or internet buyers.

Other companies will buy the house you want but can’t afford and then lease it back to you until you have enough money to take over the deal. And still other outfits will front buyers their down payments and closing costs, taking a piece of the action in return.

Launched just six months ago, Gparency has closed six loans, the largest of which was for $20 million, and worked on a number of others, including a $26 million multifamily loan in Chicago; a $40 million transaction on a industrial property in Lancaster, Pa.; a $21 million deal for a student housing project in Stillwater, Okla.; and a $3 million loan for a retail portfolio in Wheeling, W.Va.

Though founder Ira Zlotowitz describes his totally remote, Zoom-based firm as “100 percent broker,” it is commission-free. Instead, it prices the lending process in phases, starting with an annual membership fee that allows general partners access to Gparency’s database.

“It all starts with a membership instead of a commission,” he explained during the shareholder webinar. “We’re a mortgage broker; we’re just price differently.”

As a member, general partners also have access to one of the firm’s brokers, which the company calls “concierges,” who will provide information on rates and terms and make introductions to lenders for any type of transaction.

Beyond the annual subscription, for an extra fee, partners can connect with a broker who will negotiate, underwrite and shop a deal on your behalf, or have them complete the deal through closing.

“If someone is comfortable doing the deal himself, that’s what we are shooting for,” Zlotowitz said.

As he sees it, the flat-fee program make sense, if only because more general partners are already opting to go direct to lenders to avoid the commission traditional brokers charge. Gparency’s research shows that only 20 percent of all commercial borrowers still use brokers exclusively. And even less experienced borrowers are choosing to use just some of the broker’s services to save money, he added.

Zlotowitz doesn’t believe he has any competition to his flat-fee model, at least not yet. But, eventually, he thinks everybody will join in. “We’re leading a revolution,” he said.  “Over time, this is the way people will find commercial real estate.”

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