By Rob Barber
Real estate brokerages aren't letting tech take them down without a fight. In fact, many are using technology as a differentiator—critical leverage in the battle for great agents in an already-crowded industry.
And the proof is in the headlines. Just a quick glance at the past month's news shows all kinds of tech developments on the brokerage front. Well-known brokerages are snapping up tech companies left and right, they're launching their own proprietary tools and solutions, and they're hiring known tech teams to keep the ball rolling in the future.
They need to, too. According to the most recent Technology Survey from the National Association of REALTORS®, less than a third of agents are completely happy with the tech their broker provides. Brokerages that can up their game in the tech department have the opportunity to bring in more agents—potentially even steal them away from competitors—and, most importantly, keep them there for the long haul.
How do they go about this, though? In general, brokerages are approaching their tech takeovers in one of two ways: with open platforms aimed at expanding their agents' leads, branding and marketing opportunities; or, in some cases, with proprietary solutions, which offer agents a proprietary advantage once joining the team.
Let's take a look at both.
Open vs. Proprietary Technology Platforms
A lot of the more time-tested brokerages are using open tech solutions—tools that offer a plug-and-play approach (often as a quick fix to keep up with competitors). These tools range from CRMs and texting campaign platforms to tech that helps agents launch their own websites, market their services and hone their individual brand. Property data and predictive analytics tools are also popular options.
The approach here is one of empowerment. Brokerages are looking to differentiate themselves from their competitors by offering agents a large arsenal of tools that can both improve their prospects and help them boost their earnings.
The other approach is one of exclusivity. It's brokerages offering proprietary, firm-only technology that agents can't leverage anywhere else. It typically requires bigger spend, but the expectation is a bigger reward, too (however, time will tell).
These "proprietary" tech solutions are a little more custom-fit and often more advanced. They're mobile apps designed to help agents on the go, pre-populated with Google and Facebook campaigns to promote new listings, and automated CRMs that tap into property, neighborhood and market-level data instantly. There are even proprietary recruiting and scouting tools that help brokerages find and poach the best local agents.
In a fairly new development, some brokerages are even offering internal cash-offer programs to help agents better compete with tech-heavy iBuyers. Given the rise of these new selling solutions in recent years, these programs can go a long way in helping a brokerage stand out among the crowd.
Competing on Price
Still, brokerages aren't just differentiating themselves in tools or approach. They're standing out in how they price these tech advantages, as well.
NAR's survey shows that almost 40 percent of agents pay a monthly technology fee to their brokers. But another 36 percent of brokers don't charge for their technology at all. Others charge separate fees for each tech product, while others ask for a percentage of commissions for using the firm's technology.
It seems there's a lot of room for brokerages to differentiate themselves simply by structuring their tech fees in a unique—or better yet, more affordable—manner.
Who Will Win Out?
In the end, there's no right or wrong path when it comes to brokerage technology, but one thing's for sure: Investing in tech pays off. At ATTOM Data Solutions, we're proud that our property datasets (and the platforms they power) can play even a small role in this growth.
Rob Barber is CEO of ATTOM Data Solutions. He directs enterprise, data and product strategy, customer acquisition and service, and corporate operations at the organization, and has more than 20 years of experience in the real estate information services industry. For more information, please visit www.attomdata.com.