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PropertyFirst.com Lays Off 25% of Staff to Conserve Cash

Internet: The online listing service, like others, struggles to build a profitable Web presence.

November 14, 2000|JESUS SANCHEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PropertyFirst.com, one of the largest sources of commercial real estate listings on the Internet, has laid off about 25% of its workers in an effort to conserve cash.

The Alhambra-based company is one of several firms struggling to build a profitable Web-based marketplace for commercial landlords, tenants and investors.

Unlike their residential real estate counterparts, commercial real estate brokers and landlords have been slow to distribute and share leasing and for-sale listings electronically.

PropertyFirst.com, which was founded two years ago, laid off 49 people. The company would not say which departments were affected by the cutbacks or reveal any financial details of the action.

"We made the staff reduction largely to preserve our cash advantage and extend the runway we have to maximize opportunities, including potential acquisitions, and become profitable," the company said. With the reduction, the firm now employs 134 workers.

Earlier this month, in an interview with an Internet real estate news service, PropertyFirst.com Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Don Miller said the layoffs would give the company an additional year of funds to draw upon.

"There is an increased focus on getting to profitability," Miller told Inman News Features. "The bar has been raised significantly."

PropertyFirst.com, which counts Brentwood Venture Capital among its primary investors, includes the listings provided by numerous brokers and property owners, including CB Richard Ellis, Cushman & Wakefield, RREEF, Transwestern Commercial Services and the CORE Network.

The firm has estimated that there are more than 1 million commercial spaces currently for lease, and more than 300,000 individual commercial properties listed for sale every year.

Observers say that many Internet-based real estate services often lack comprehensive investment and leasing listings in many markets. In addition, while PropertyFirst.com employs researchers to review and update listings, most of the firms do not, leaving the job to brokers and landlords who provide the material.

Internet real estate firms "have made very small inroads," said Craig M. Silvers, a real estate industry analyst for Sutro & Co.

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