By Tiana Baur
The next time you purchase a car, it very well might be a self-driving one. It’s a headline our eyes now only glance at because we’ve seen it so many times and it’s only a matter of time before it comes to fruition. We’re not only okay with that technology, we’re jazzed about it. We’ll all be able to work, read, and relax during our commutes and trust that we’ll get to our destination timely and in one piece. There’s foreshadowing of another technology too. One that would not only upset our industry, but would tear it to pieces, and that’s the tease of robots as real estate agents. It’s a viable conjecture, especially given how technology is now paving the way for the future of our industry. The problem is, the home buying journey has a very different barrier to trust and breaking down that wall will be close to impossible.
People got their heads out of the sand (some didn’t) and we’ve seen rapid change in the past couple of years. VR (virtual reality) tours are a “thing” homebuyers now expect when they’re house hunting. You can even pay your rent with bitcoin (crazy, right?). The one constant that our industry has always had, though, is that homebuyers choose an agent. That agent happens to be in the form of a human. And that will never change. The CEO of Compass even agrees with that.
Sure, some will be interested in a robot agent. We imagine Elon Musk himself would be eager to try out a robot instead of a human agent for his next transaction. The problem is, most of us are not Elon Musk. We have a comfort zone and although we step out of it more often than before, we stick to it when it comes to the biggest financial transaction we do in our entire lifetime. Robots may charge two percent commission instead of the typical five or six, but guess what? Consumers don’t care. Or, they don’t care enough to risk it. If they cared enough about that five or six percent, they’d be listing their homes by themselves or using Instant Offers (which, I’ve never heard of an actual situation where someone did).
Here’s why people choose people:
Extremely. Real estate agents serve as a sounding board and a therapist just as much as they do a trusted advisor. People want someone who will answer phone calls at midnight when the home seller is crying and stressed because something unforeseen went wrong last minute during the transaction. They want someone to send a bottle of champagne to congratulate them on their great home sale with a heartfelt note because they got through it together as a team. Robots don’t promise to hold their hand from the very beginning, all the way until they’ve moved and settled into their new home.
Buyers and sellers want to sit across from someone in a coffee shop and talk face-to-face. They want something tangible. They want to shake someone’s hand and know that person actually cares about them and their family and that they have feelings and blood running in their veins like they do theirs. Because that is how emotional a home transaction is.
First time buyers all the way through home buying veterans use agents. Why? Because there is always a new situation, a new question, a new issue that pops up that they haven’t seen or dealt with before. Maybe it’s an issue with the mortgage company or maybe there was an issue with escrow. Maybe you just want some advice on what color to paint your living room before the house is listed. Whatever it is, the agent is prepared to handle it.
Let’s back up. AI probably has a place in real estate when it comes to scheduling, answering simple questions, etc. But it will never, ever replace the human connection that is found between a trusted advisor and their beloved clients.
A brokerage intranet is the glue that keeps everything together and the filing cabinet that keeps it all sorted. They increase efficiency, boost productivity, reduce information overload, enable true mobility, and drive engagement.
Moxi Works Hub is the ultimate brokerage intranet. With over 1.5 million agent sessions, brokerages use it as a center for announcements, multi-media, documents; the one stop shop for all of their communications.
Quickly find the agents, staff, documents, and client presentations with one search box. That’s right, through keywords, Hub is able to pull up all the relevant information from the agent’s search. No more time wasted searching for something you could find in ten seconds. Sounds like a productivity booster!
Every document within your brokerage is organized within the hub and is searchable in one central location. Set permissions for each document, ensuring the right people see the right information and documents. This helps when you want your managers and higher-ups to have different information than your agents.
Sure, it’s nice to have a place to store all of your documents, but what about your multi-media? Your videos, photos, and other brokerage collateral you’ve spent precious time on. The Hub is your communications center for it all. Have a new TV commercial coming out or an online ad campaign running? Give your agents a sneak peek inside the Hub!
Find contact information for every agent and staff member within your brokerage. The roster allows collaboration among agents and staff. It even makes referrals within a brokerage very simple.
Tools & services
All the tools and services your brokerage provides are found in one place. Everything from marketing to transaction management to your MLS. This is the power of the Moxi Cloud, integrating everything a brokerage needs in one place, with Single-Sign On (SSO). Provide links to tools and services that agents use every day, so they have to click around less.
Post announcements you’d like all your agents to see or remind them of ones they’ve received in email form. Notify when upcoming events are around the corner or when their taxes are due. Your brokerage value proposition can get a lot more attractive when an agent only needs to log into one place to see it all.
Want to learn more about Moxi Works Hub? Click here and watch the video below.
Here’s the deal: 65% of the Real Trends top brokerages know one big idea and they’re acting on it. Which means, if you’re not in that 65% – chances are you’re doing something wrong or you’re going to quickly fall behind. With brokerage dollars shrinking and agent adoption of technology tools at all-time lows, what are the most productive brokerages in the industry doing better than everyone else?
The one big idea
The top brokerages are consolidating technology tools and focusing on increasing agent productivity, while getting industry leading CMA and CRM tools. And, they’re doing it by having visibility into their business at the brokerage level.
These top brokerages are using the only true open platform in the industry. Not sure what that means quite yet? You’ll find out below. The point is, those not future-proofing their brokerages with open platforms are not going to exist on the top Real Trends list for many more years.
Picture this. Your brokerage: Being differentiated from competitors. Increasing technology adoption. Improving recruiting and retention. And a major productivity rise. All this, just by employing a system that provides best-in-class tools and services you already know and love, and swapping out tools that are no longer performing. Plus, agent adoption rates well over 80% and up to a 43% increase with seller-side and buyer-side transactions.
This is what an open platform can give you. All your data in one place. Your agent roster, property data from your MLS, brokerage assets, brokerage data, consumer data, agent CRM contacts, and an API that allows any tools you want to plug in and play nicely with all the rest of your tools and everything we just mentioned. This is what our Moxi Cloud open platform looks like for reference:
Technology is becoming more segmented for agents and evolving at warped speed. That and brokerage dollars are shrinking, the talent pool for recruiting is getting tighter, and creating business efficiencies are more critical now than ever. If there’s a time to get your brokerage ducks in a row, it’s now. Because eventually, it’ll be too late. If you embrace it now, the future of your brokerage will be much, much smoother.
Find out more about Moxi Works and open platforms here. Don’t feel like exploring? Watch the video below.
How does agent productivity affect your bottom line? It seems obvious that if your staff is more efficient, the business will be more profitable. Yet, agent productivity is rarely a main consideration when big decisions are being made for a brokerage, such as which technology solutions to adopt.
Windermere Real Estate has experienced this correlation first-hand. For far too long, they suffered from ‘shiny tool syndrome’ which was disruptive, inefficient, and caused a lack of cohesion across their organization. When the organization shifted to focus on a sphere selling methodology and put a fully integrated, flexible open platform in place, things changed. Five years ago, Windermere did approximately 60,000 transactions with 6,000 agents. Last year, they handled 83,000 transactions with 6,500 agents.
So… focusing on agent productivity and seeing the average agent increase their annual sides from 10 to 12.8? Not bad for your brokerage profits and growth, but how do you get there? It can be difficult to track the ROI of productivity, so we decided to break down how agent productivity and brokerage profits are interconnected.
Agents can focus on the things that matter
What happens when effective productivity tools are in place is that people have the ability to rely on those tools for the things that make them unproductive. Traditionally, agents are juggling hundreds of little tasks at a given time, trying to maintain relationships with their clients post-sale, trying desperately to acquire new leads, planning open houses and completing transactions, and much, much more. The home sale process has a lot of moving parts, so when a defined process is in place, it relieves the agent from unnecessary stress. Agents spend less time on busy work such as data entry, transaction management, managing their schedule, and client research, and more time developing relationships and closing deals.
Brokerages that have adopted the sphere methodology understand the importance of building strong long-term relationships. Agents need the unique ability to be able to nurture relationships with clients over a long-term period of time to stay relevant in between home sales and gain referrals. With the right systems in place that focus on productively nurturing these relationships, agents can maintain routine touchpoints with their clients in the long-run. What does this result in? High quality referral leads, repeat clients, and easy sales.
Agent recruiting and retention improves
We all know that turnover is expensive. Agents are quick to make the switch from one brokerage to another given the right reason. Work/life balance is a priority for agents, which means productivity is key. The more productive agents are, the better balanced their life is, and the more money they’re making. Providing tools that allow your agents to reach a balanced, lucrative workflow will, in turn, improve your brokerage profitability. Take a manager dashboard, for example. Agents feel more supported, because managers have a level of visibility and become aware of coaching opportunities as they arise rather than after the fact. When agents are used to using a system that makes their business operate more smoothly, they’re less likely to leave. Happy agents make successful brokerages.
As a productivity tool provider, we live and breathe this stuff. Our goal with the Moxi Cloud is to improve margins for brokerages by leveraging technology.
So, what should you do? Take a step back and look at your business critically. Ask yourself what the three major pain points are for your brokerage right now and think about whether they’re linked to productivity and, if so, how brokerage profits might be getting affected.
The difference between closed and open platforms exposed
By Mike McHenry, VP of Channels and Partnerships, Moxi Works
- A platform is like a power strip; it lets you plug and unplug tools
- An open platform differentiates a broker’s tool set, aiding recruiting and retention
- The difference between a closed and open platform is monumental
A “Platform” is whatever you want it to be
Platforms have existed in technology for ages. Most industries have already adopted them, but it’s a relatively new idea for a residential brokerage. I’ve noticed that the word “platform” is being thrown around heavily right now – it’s the 2017 buzz word and because of that, it’s starting to lose its meaning.
Some of these vendors that are calling themselves “platforms,” however, don’t actually do what they should and because of that, you’ll need to know what to look for. There are five basic services that a proper platform should have and offer:
- Property data that can be shared across all tools eliminating redundant entry
- Brokerage and agent data that’s up to date
- Consumer data so technology can help agents manage their SOI
- Integration with both Microsoft and Google cloud environment to easily and securely share data across tech companies
- An API (it allows other tech companies to integrate and share common data)
Let’s also put some rumors to rest. Just because you use a platform doesn’t mean you need to embrace the entire platform. It would be insane for a single brokerage to use every single one of our 30 integrated partners. A platform is whatever you want it to be for your brokerage.
Also, Security isn’t an inherent problem in open platforms just because a system is open, doesn’t mean it’s insecure. YouTube for instance, is an open platform site. No one is afraid to use it.
Closed vs. Open Platforms
I have to shed light on how important the distinction between a closed vs. open platform is. Many vendors that call themselves “platforms” are just products that sit on a database with no API – meaning they have no way to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some examples:
Open platform: Microsoft Windows. Windows is an operating system that allows you to download whatever you want, whether that’s QuickBooks for your taxes or Adobe Photoshop, and delete the apps you no longer want or use. If apple is more your speed, think iPhone and the AppStore.
Closed platform: Video game consoles. If you buy a game for Xbox and you get a Sony PlayStation, you have to buy your games all over again. The choice is not up to you if you ever decide to switch.
As a broker, this means with a closed platform you have to go with whatever tools the vendor chose to work with OR the vendor built it all themselves and can’t afford to evolve it over time at the same speed as competitors. Either way, it can be a disastrous future for a brokerage.
The reality is, no one can be great at everything. An open platform allows a brokerage to get all of the best tools out there, have them work together, and can change tools at will – hassle free.
Open Platform Benefits
If you’re a broker and you’ve already invested in some tech solutions over the past three or four years like a digital transaction tool, gifting, or lead partners, you don’t have to change them to get on an open platform; you integrate them and preserve your investment in agent training. That’s why an open platform is so dominant: the power and tools stay in the brokerages hands. They help companies retain the tools they love and find replacements for the ones they aren’t jiving with.
If you choose a platform provider for those benefits today, that provider can help you flawlessly transition as new tools come online in the future. At the end of the day that’s what everyone wants right? No headaches and a shorter list of items for a brokerage to worry about.
If those are not good enough reasons to use an open platform, then how about this: money. Maintenance and support are cheaper on an open platform because it leverages the entire community that makes up the cloud. Development time also decreases. Boeing doesn’t make aircrafts, they assemble them.
What’s an Ecosystem?
This is another term used in the platform realm. An ecosystem is a collection of complimentary applications all working together, sharing data, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Each platform has its own ecosystem that makes up the cloud.
Again, think of your iPhone. You can have all of your applications together so that the device becomes an indispensable business tool. You get to pick à la carte whatever applications you need and don’t have to worry about how they work together. If you find later you don’t like an application, you can delete it and install a different one.
Why a Brokerage Should Care
It’s no secret that the pace of change for real estate technology is accelerating. We know that there are hundreds of companies making technology for residential real estate, which makes for thousands of applications available for use today.
What this means to a brokerage owner is that there’s no way to predict which companies and applications are going to succeed or even to envision what technologies will come into the market in the future.
Having a platform and ecosystem of applications that run on it is the key to agent productivity and retention. If you don’t think that having a complete integrated technology platform and applications to offer your agents is important, talk to a broker that just lost an agent to Compass.
If you choose the right platform, you’re going to get most of the benefits that Upstream promises for your brokerage today and will future-proof your brokerage for what’s to come in the future.
We all heard the roar coming from NAR (National Association of Realtors) yesterday, who announced they will now be offering free
Placester websites. In the past, these have been offered for $5 bucks a pop, but now are completely “free.” The problem is, free doesn’t always mean free, and this news puts a big dent in the brokerage value proposition.
Moxi Works CEO, York Baur, weighed in saying, “It’s not good for the industry to have the NAR leveling the playing field for technology. The brokerage is the sun in the real estate solar system and should be allowed to create their own unique value proposition – we don’t need the NAR meddling in that.”
It’s important to note that none of these websites will carry brokerage branding. We believe it’s essential for brokerages to encourage agents to include brokerage branding, and although these sites can add your brand, it is not entirely automated. These sites are great for agents to create their own brand and image, but it also creates an extra step for the brokerage to maintain their brand and therefore becomes a headache.
“I hate things like this and brokerages should too. It’s not right that they’re taking away the brokerages ability to generate their own unique value proposition. Brokerages should be able to do that without NAR giving away tech,” said Baur.
Finally, there’s the upselling factor. This is a “freemium” play as everyone is saying. Freemium models are intended to get something in front of people for free in hopes of upselling them to paid products and services later.
Like all startups that raise incredible amounts of money (Placester is somewhere around $100 Million), there will be unbelievable pressure from their investors to get a return. That means they’ll be upselling agents like crazy, which only dilutes a brokerage’s value proposition that much more. “We’re in the business of helping brokerages, so this is unsettling,” said Baur. “The NAR might as well have knocked on the door of the brokerage and slapped them across the face.”