One Broker’s Case Study- Taking Back Control
Brokers, large and small, face significant challenges they did not face 20 years ago. Profit margins have eroded and control over their independent contractors has been minimized. The consumer has taken on a much more vocal role in the process and is forcing transparency and responsiveness never before experienced. Some of these challenges are related to technology and the advance of the Internet while others are cultural challenges that have come about through the changing broker/agent relationship. WAV Group’s new white paper explores the issues behind the broker’s challenge to gain better control and visibility into their companies while re-establishing a new value proposition for their agents!
While part one of this five part series focused on understanding how brokers got into the technological mess they find themselves today. The second part of this series discussed how to get through the maze of broker technology. The third part discussed the new technology solutions that provide light at the end of the tunnel. We have now come to part 4 of this 5 part series, to discuss a broker case study as a guide for brokerages.
New Real Estate Products Offer Hope!
Integration is improving throughout our industry. The MLS world today is an example of evolution in process. There isn’t “true” integration across all products but specialty solutions have gotten better and more sophisticated. Now vendors like Cure, and CARETS act as the data conduit between disparate systems. MLS vendors like CoreLogic, LPS and FBS offer options as a part of their standard menu of products that can tie together different MLSs pretty painlessly.
We have better conduits and connectors. But, they are still examples of interim solutions that are a result of our lack of standards and infrastructure in our industry.
In the Broker world today there are improvements as well. Standards don’t exist but now there are vendors that are offering a broader product set that provide advanced levels of integration.
We are seeing vendors now offering products that stretch from back office to the web, offering the first chance for Brokers to truly get a clear view of their businesses, and to use data more easily throughout the organization. Other companies have taken a similar approach to the data supply side of the Broker business offering product sets that manage the MLS data integration process while adding to it a full package of data products to support the buying and selling. Data like neighborhood information and homeowner demographics sit next to active and sold listing information. The beauty is Brokers don’t have to go out and piece this information together; they can work with a vendor that provides an “integrated” set of data.
Today, a new brokerage without the burden of legacy systems has choices that didn’t exist five years ago… Brokers building their infrastructure today can select a vendor partner that can offer them financial management as well as web management and lead generation. If they want data aggregation there are companies that supply this along with expanded data sets, all from a single feed. More complete product sets exist and the benefit of looking at one vendor for these products is clear, it provides for infrastructure and better data flow between business modules.
Broker Case Study
Ron Hunter, the owner broker of a Coldwell Banker real estate company in Hamilton, Ontario shared the dilemma he faced for many years as a franchise owner, working with multiple products within his master franchise operation. When he left the franchise side to open his own Coldwell Banker brokerage he realized he faced the same set of problems. He was operating numerous solutions throughout his company with different interfaces and little connectivity.
Ron said the challenge is true for any real estate company. Traditionally their world has been a very inefficient business, with different systems all through the process from accounting and back office to listings and front desk. Now with the demands of the Internet things have even gotten more complicated with potentially even more points of “disconnection”.
Data Sharing and Single Entry
Ron explained that they were looking for an integrated solution. He approached Lone Wolf Real Estate Technologies at one point, because he was using their accounting system, and was surprised and happy to see that they had expanded their service offerings to other products including front office and web services. They made the move to the Lone Wolf suite of products and Ron says they now have a solution that actually shares information and provides integration across their product suite.
In describing how Wolf ConnectTMhas impacted his office Ron started by explaining how the system talks directly to the Board MLS system allowing listings to come in automatically to the front desk. This allows agents to set up showings and share information on listings with customers that call in. That listing information also gets shared with the Realogy “CREST” system, so they don’t have to enter that information manually anymore.
Ron says that Wolf Connect has allowed him to get back in front of his agents, providing 24/7 access to documents, office news, accounting information, events, bulletin boards and other components that he used to only be able to provide if they walked into his office physically.
Ron is also in the process of adding a new company website through Lone Wolf’s Global Wolf division along with agent websites through Lone Wolf. All listing information is shared automatically at this level as well and can include IDX searches wherever they want.
Back Office Improvements
At the other end of Ron’s business, the MLS listing information is shared with the Lone Wolf back office/accounting system and is used as the basis for creating management reports and their trade record sheets. Information from these reports flows through their company Intranet and is used to provide agents their sales and commission reports among other things.
In terms of agent information, Ron says they only add it once now, in the accounting system and from there it flows throughout their various systems including Realogy’s CREST system.
Not everything is perfect yet, though. Ron mentioned an area that he would like to see improvements on would include a separate recruiting module that would allow him to track this part of his business easier as well as some more beefed up statistical reporting for their front desk product. But, he added, what they have today is light years ahead of where they were previously.
One final note Ron made is the advantage of having a consistent interface throughout his products. He feels this really makes adoption easier with his agents though he cautions you have to be realistic and introduce each new feature slowly to allow agents to absorb them. Even with a common interface if you do too much too fast it can be overwhelming for some of the agents.
Technology Companies Move to Integration
Companies like Lone Wolf, WolfNet and NetAspects are just three examples of Broker product sets that have expanded from their early offering to cover more and more of the real estate brokerage business. Lone Wolf started on the accounting and back office management side and, as Ron Hunter shared, they have created an integrated Broker/Agent product set that now includes productivity tools, lead generation and even broker/agent websites. WolfNet and NetAspects began on the website side of the business but have since expanded their tool sets to include business tools to go beyond just simple websites to broader customer and data management systems, lead generation and CRM. LPS is a good example of a data source that not only handles MLS aggregation but can also supply expanded data sets like neighborhood information and demographics. Each in its own way is a good example of where products need to go in the future to create more integration, broader reach and expanded Broker/agent benefits.
This is part four of a five part series called “Broker Technology- An Industry Needing a Backbone.” This white paper was written and researched by WAV Group, Inc.
Part 1: No Broker Backbone: How We Got Into this Mess
Part 2: Sifting Through the Maze of Broker Technology
Part 3: Light at the End of the Tunnel: New Products Bring Hope
Part 4: One Broker’s Case Study– Taking Back Control
Part 5: Creating a Broker Technology Plan– Control, Transparency & Profitability
If you would like to see the release of this white paper, please click here.
To learn more about WAV Group, please click here.