Over the past few years, dozens of real estate technology startups have emerged and offer affordable, and often free, cloud-based solutions. Many are backed by venture capitalists, large financial corporations as well as top real estate brokerages. In 2017, over $5 billion worth of capital was raised in the real estate technology sector.
Our own iovox app, which helps real estate professionals manage their business phone calls, is an example of a new technology that any realtor can use – for free.
How is this explosion in innovation and more affordable tech shaping the real estate industry?We invited Emile L'Eplattenier, Managing Editor of The Close and Real Estate Sales and Marketing Analyst at Fit Small Business to talk about these trends.
A licensed New York City Real Estate Agent and veteran of the marketing department at Tishman Speyer, Emile has been involved in every aspect of residential real estate from new developments to pre-war rentals and resales. Emile also regularly provides market insights and commentary for publications like The New York Times, Realtor.com, Fox News, Yahoo, and US News & World Report.
How Accessible Technology is Changing the Real Estate Industry:
Can you share 3-4 examples of real estate technology that have become increasingly accessible to realtors over the past few years?
Emile:CRM, Chat Bots, and predictive analytics (e.g. Housecanary,) have all seen either drastic reductions in pricing, third-party companies who compete to simplify access and usage by real estate professionals, or both over the last 5 years or so.
The amount of money that has been dumped into the industry in the past few years has certainly raised some eyebrows and got smaller players interested in the space.
What are a few ways in which better and less expensive tech is helping small and part-time brokers to grow and thrive?Today, an individual Realtor with a good-sized marketing budget can basically deploy an entire virtual office from admin, to PPC (pay-per-click) marketing, to lead capture, to closing coordinator, and have all of their activity and data tracked and stored in one place.
That same Realtor can also use sophisticated email drip campaigns, chat bots, auto texting, retargeting, etc. in order to give their leads and clients the impression that they’re on the job 24/7.
This means that from the customer’s perspective, one Realtor’s tech can be indistinguishable from a large brokerage’s.If you were to approach your average Realtor with this even a few years ago, they would have assumed you were talking about science fiction, or spending tens of thousands of dollars on developers and staffing.
Is the democratization of tech also helping large real estate companies? If yes, how?
Emile:I think it has in the past where we’ve seen companies like Compass build proprietary systems and use them to woo top producing agents away from more established brokerages. Keller Williams has their own proprietary system as well. The problem for Realtors is that these systems are walled gardens very much by design.
For non-tech savvy agents, getting access to a turn key system like this, even if it doesn’t offer much beyond the basics, can still be a huge draw.
How is this trend benefiting customers – buyers, sellers, renters, etc.?
Emile:Customers today have never had it better. With a tap on Google or Zillow, they can access pretty much any information they need in order to transact smoothly in any city. The amount and depth of information available about the closing process, neighborhoods, loans, etc. is unprecedented.
Consequently, the informational advantage agents used to enjoy has shrunk to pretty much nothing.
Since the industry is so obsessed with near instant response times, customers can also expect an answer to their questions nearly instantly. Agents that keep up with the times and offer autoresponders via email or better yet, texting, currently enjoy a huge advantage over those who are slow to respond. By slow, I mean more than 5 minutes.
Today’s buyer or seller can also take advantage of paperless transactions, often with closer broker oversight and better transparency. That means fewer mistakes, and fewer minor tasks falling through the cracks.
So more and better information, faster response times, and a more transparent and painless closing process. That’s a great value add for customers.
There’s obviously a lot of competition in the real estate tech space. What do you think tech startups should do to stay ahead of the pack?
Emile:Even though we are in some ways running out of processes to automate or pain points to smooth over, I do think there are simple steps software companies can take to stay ahead of the curve.
Offer high quality, agent written content, more and better integrations, and better training.
Since most CRMs have pretty similar functionality, it makes sense to offer something proprietary to stay competitive. Why not work with top producing agents and coaches to offer pre-written drip campaigns? Why not work with IDX (Internet Data Exchange) companies so any new software your customer buys will work with what you’ve sold them?
One really smart move in this direction was when Contactually recently partnered with Tom Ferry to release a branded CRM. Great tech and proprietary, battle-tested content seems like a winning combination to me for the next few years.
What are your thoughts on how this trend of accessibility will continue over the next few years?
Emile:Like I said, I don’t see many new must-have innovations coming down the pike in the very near future because, in some ways, we’re running out of tasks to automate.
What I do see happening is more “DIY” solutions becoming available with a little less sweat equity in setting them up.
For example, let’s say you’re using a free bare bones CRM and all you really want is integration with Zillow etc. Well, eventually someone smart is going to build a Zapier Zap or If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) formula that does exactly what you want.
Since standalone apps that don’t play nice with others will likely get pushed aside by those that will, this is going to become more and more common.
We hope you enjoyed some of Emile’s insights on how some of the new innovations in technology can be applied to real estate. In our recent blog, we highlighted 50 very practical marketing tips that use some of the innovations referred to in this post, including call tracking solutions from team iovox!