Browse Tag: Property management

Using A Key Duplication Kiosk

A photo robotic key cutting vending machine in Chicago

Yesterday, I faced a situation that any commercial real estate agent or property manager will find very familiar: I needed to make a set of duplicate keys. I had three originals, and needed a number of duplicates.

For me, the usual solution for this task is to head down to the hardware store. There I find the friendly neighborhood key cutter and wait for a bit as he or she selects the right blanks, grinds out the duplicates and then buffs them using a wire wheel, eyeballing for a good match all the way.

But this time, the friendly neighborhood key cutter was a vending machine.

Installed in the doorknob aisle, I found an eight-foot tall, chartreuse-colored robot. A screen on the face detailed the process and a credit card receptacle beckoned. Like it or not, I was about to begin my first robotic, self-service key duplication chore.

The Set

We’ll call my original keys A, B and C.  A and B were padlock keys, C was a deadbolt key.  The A and B originals used the same blank type.

I started with A, a padlock key.  I inserted the original into a reader slot on the front of the machine, and it read the key’s teeth and shape. Through a window in the front of the machine, I could see the moving machinery and the tray of blanks it would pick from.  A friendly voice and a well-designed software experience guided me through the process, which boiled down to a) insert key  b) wait about two minutes for the machinery to read, select the right blank, cut the key, buff it, and drop the completed duplicate into a slot to be grabbed by the user.

Minutes later, I had my first duplicate. It had problems.

Photo of two keys matching up

Above, you can see the matchup.  The silver key in the foreground is the original, the brass colored key behind it is the duplicate.  You can see the teeth are aligned, but the blanks are in fact different shapes toward the base of the keys.  Here’s an extreme closeup showing the difference:


The blank selected by the robot actually left more key material on the duplicate than there is on the original. I’ve highlighted the difference in red. I expected this would produce a misalignment — even though the teeth appeared accurate, I expected that this duplicate would not travel into the lock deeply enough to work.

I moved on to B, my second padlock key. Remember, B and A are of the same type — they both have the same number stamped on them at the blank factory. I inserted the original into the machine and waited.

The result was interesting. Even though originals between A and B were cut on the same blank, this time, the robot refused to cut anything: it apologized and said on a message on the screen that it could not duplicate this key.

So far, I was 0 for 2.

The third key, C, was for a deadbolt lock.  This time, the machine happily got to work, and the duplicate produced looked like a 100% match.


When I got back to the site of the locks, I tried A, and sure enough, it wouldn’t work no matter how much cajoling or graphite lube I added. It was a bust, and it was plainly because the blank selected by the robot was a mismatch — interestingly a mismatch that it appears the machine caught correctly on key B, when it refused to proceed.

Key C worked very well in its deadbolt, bringing us to a 33% success rate for the entire job. Something in the decades of history of using hardware store employees for this task — employees with good eyesight, experience in the trade and attention to detail — tells me that there’s room for improvement here.


One aspect of the job was that the machine produced duplicates that had burrs — small pieces of cut metal that stuck to the duplicate.  This is normal in key cutting but should be removed before handing to the customer.  I could see through the window inside the machine that a final step did include a wire wheel, but the wheel did not spin, rendering the duplicate messy when delivered.  I had to buff the duplicates myself at a nearby workshop to remove these burrs, otherwise I risked inserting pieces of metal debris into my locks.

Was my experience typical?  Was this machine out of adjustment or maintenance, or is there a fundamental flaw in the software and/or hardware?  I can’t say. I do know that I preferred a living, breathing hardware store employee, usually wearing a vest, skilled in the task. Rarely if ever did these folks turn in a 33% success rate, making what should be a single trip to the hardware store into at least three trips — as well as having to finish the buffing job myself.

I suggest the machine makers work harder on making the key-duplicating part of the robot work as flawlessly as the payment-accepting part of the robot.

New CCIM Leadership Welcomed In Los Angeles

Picture of Mark Macek, 2015 CCIM President
Mark Macek, 2015 CCIM President

New CCIM Leadership For 2015

The CCIM Institute welcomed 2015 President Mark Macek, CCIM, with an inaugural celebration during the organization’s annual business meetings in Los Angeles on Sunday, Oct. 19. A 25-year commercial real estate industry veteran, Macek has served on the CCIM Board of Directors and several key national committees. He is also a graduate of the CCIM Institute’s Jay W. Levine Leadership Development Academy. Other 2015 leadership team members include President-Elect Steven Moreira, CCIM, First Vice President Robin Webb, CCIM, and Treasurer Charles C. (Chuck) Connely IV, CCIM.

Picture of new CCIM Designees
New CCIM Designees

Congratulations to CCIM’s 152 Newest Designees

CCIMs who were in Los Angeles for the organization’s fall business meetings celebrated the success of 152 new designees during a pinning ceremony on Oct. 20. To earn the CCIM designation, commercial real estate professionals must complete more than 160 hours of case-study driven education covering topics such as interest-based negotiation, financial analysis, market analysis, user decision analysis, investment analysis, and ethics for commercial investment real estate. Candidates must also compile a portfolio demonstrating the depth of their commercial real estate experience and pass a comprehensive examination. Learn more about CCIM’s designation program and educational courses.


Property Management: Tools, Approaches And Representation

Along with David Meit of Maryland’s Oculus Realty, web-based course provider Grace Hill, web-based property management software vendor Appfolio, and, representing the property management industry, NAR partner IREM all got together recently for an online webinar presentation covering the hows, wheres and whys of successful property management.

The hour-long video is worth a look for a few reasons.  First, it’s not a vendor pitch dressed up as a business conversation.  The topic of property management is looked at from the points of view of the presenters, certainly, but also the live polling questions and interactivity in the session make it a special look into the thorny fundamental problem of property management: how do people who sell for a living get their arms around the problem of property operations? 


Commercial Property Ownership Experience: Critical To Success

cdcovers/jimi hendrix/are you experienced.jpg
Are You Experienced?

It stands to reason that any transaction you undertake without prior experience is likely to go against you in some way.  Commercial property transactions, as complex as they can be, are no exception.  Lenders, counter parties, managers, brokers, even counsel, all represent their interests to the maximum. When they’re on the other side of the table, you can bet that those interests will be represented at your expense if you lack the ability to see the deal in the terms they do.  You obtain that ability in depth in only one way: through direct experience.  Experience in commercial property ownership and management is critical to success.

Everybody Prefers Experience, Starting With The Lender

A borrower’s understanding of how to operate the property is high on the list of what a lender is looking for. Creditworthiness is king, then market conditions have their say, but no matter what, the lender is always looking for clues that the borrower has an understanding of what owning this property entails.  If the borrower’s answer boils down to a simple “I’ll be hiring a property manager,” a lender has every right to wonder about the management capability of the borrower.  This is not to say that hiring a property manager is a mistake, it’s to say that the borrower’s management acumen should be on display, not downplayed.  Take the intent to hire a manager as an example: the borrower’s management of that relationship between herself and her property manager is still seen by the lender as the lender’s best defense against the borrower running into trouble down the line with the property.  And trouble means endangered loan service.

Showing Experience

A  borrower needs to demonstrate to the lender an acumen at commercial property ownership and management. One way to do this is through the development of a document of that acumen.  Sometimes called an REO Schedule (Real Estate Owned), this list of real property, which can include single-family, is to make it clear to the borrower that the lender has experience commercial real estate purchase, ownership and operation.

This document has such an effect on lenders that if a borrower happens to be out of the market at the time of the deal, the Schedule should include a list of properties once-owned with dates of sale, descriptions including unit numbers, square footage and other vitals.

Bottom line: Commercial property is income property – show your lender that you’ve got the experience and can handle the ins and outs of an income stream, and you’re more likely to get the capital you need to make the deal.



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BIM: Toward Smarter Commercial Real Estate

I was taking a closer look at the medical center property market when I came across Carrie Rossenfeld’s very interesting piece about a 500,000 sq. ft. project breaking ground last week.  The UC San Diego Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla, CA is a big project with a big idea driving the development and the management of the property afterward.

The idea is Building Information Modeling, a design, construction and property management discipline enabled by high technology.  Described as a “flight simulator for building”, BIM is a virtual construction tool/software-enabled technique that generates and manages data about the building throughout its entire life cycle, from design to property management.

The value proposition of every commercial property is anchored in the decisions made in design and construction.  The effects of these decisions have always been left to commercial property brokers, reps and managers to wrestle with using partitioning, improvement and other expensive change techniques.  BIM might put an end to that.  BIM looks into the future of the property and marries its design and construction to the future fitness for tenants.  It smoothes out and eliminates change orders both at construction time and in post-construction, unlocking maximum value for decades following.

One vendor of several bringing BIM to the market is Virtual Build, who produced this clip explaining the approach.


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We’re introducing a new regular feature to The Source, guest blogging by one of NAR’s Commercial Affiliate organizations, the Institute of Real Estate Management.  The following was contributed by Karen Altes, Senior Manager of Online Communities for IREM.  We invite you to comment and ask any questions you have for IREM.

NAR Commercial has invited us, the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®), to start contributing here on The Source. We are incredibly excited about this opportunity, and we wanted to use our first post to introduce ourselves to you.

IREM has been a trusted source of knowledge, advocacy, and networking for the real estate management industry for over 77 years. We offer training and credentialing all over the world – we have chapters in six countries in addition to the US and work with international partners in seven more. Our nearly 18,000 members are site managers, property managers, portfolio managers, asset managers, and real estate company executives. They manage all property types, from conventional apartments to commercial office buildings; from federally assisted affordable housing to industrial parks; from single-family rentals to retail shopping centers.

IREM offers several credentialed memberships for property management professionals:

IREM also offers Student, Academic, and Associate memberships.

Real estate management is growing steadily as a profession due to the overall growth in the number of all types of buildings, the larger percentage of real estate considered investment property, and increasing awareness that management of real estate assets requires special training and education. We look forward to contributing here on a variety of topics related to our segment of the commercial real estate industry.

We’ll be a regular feature here on this blog  – by collaborating, we can share and learn from each other, and together become a stronger voice for our industry.  Thanks for having us!

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