Each year, Inman scans the universe of real estate companies, technology firms, individual innovators, successful agents, forward-thinking brokers, risk-takers and entrepreneurs. For this year’s candidates for the Inman Innovator awards, we chose 66 companies and individuals in six categories who are trying to change the industry
The final winners will be announced at the Inman Connect conference at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Thursday, August 6 at 5 p.m.
The categories are:
- Most innovative real estate company
- Most innovative technology company
- Most innovative technology
- Most innovative marketing strategy, service or technology
- Most innovative agent/broker
- Most innovative association or MLS
Here are the candidates:
Most innovative real estate company
1. The Agency in Beverly Hills specializes in ultra-high-end residential properties and has plans to aggressively expand its boutique operations globally. With a proprietary CRM platform and creative sister agency, the luxury brokerage has successfully reshaped the traditional brokerage format to encourage partnership and collaboration.
2. Century 21 Affiliated, Chicago, is a traditional real estate brokerage that launched the first seed-stage real estate technology accelerator in the country dubbed Elmspring, which aims to assist startups who want to disrupt the traditional real estate process.
3. Deasy/Penner & Partners, California. The 35-year old company recently announced a luxury home-bidding platform, plumBid that auctions high-end property. The fir is focused just as much on architecture and design as it is selling real estate.
4. Douglas Elliman Real Estate, a 100-year-old New York company, is the largest regional and the nation’s fourth-largest real estate brokerage company, with rapid expansions in the past three years. Boasting more than 5,000 agents in 70 offices nationwide and a partnership with Knight Frank Residential bringing its network to 43 countries, the Douglas Elliman footprint booms. As the firm expands its reach, it is investing in digital advertising innovation and in new technology to keep an edge in the changing broker model landscape
5. BHGRE Go Realty is a laboratory of real estate. “It’s messy, we don’t always know what we’re doing, we love to experiment, and sometimes stuff actually works,” say the founders. The company’s GoConnect app has 20,000 downloads, which helps 5,000 agents per week carry out their transaction duties. They start their monthly company “Go Show” meeting with DJ Al Ski Love which is often broadcasted on Periscope.
6. NextHome is a new consumer-focused real estate franchise specifically targeting Generation X and Y with end-to-end services, including print and digital marketing, branding, integrated technology and a flexible pricing model.
7. Opendoor is taking an altogether new approach to selling real estate. The San Francisco firm purchases properties directly from sellers using fair market value data and then lists the homes as the “homeowner,” taking the struggle of lining up leases and closing dates out of the equation. Opendoor received $30 million in funding from Khosla Ventures and GGV Capital along with a group of angel investors.
8. Redefy offers a flat-fee real estate model by selling homes for $2,500 while offering a full-service experience. The national brokerage offers in-house consultations, marketing and advertising on a digital and traditional level, professional photography and closing negotiations.
9. Trelora is a disruptive brokerage that has become a noisemaker in the Denver real estate community by offering a flat-fee service on both sides of the transaction and replacing commissions. The full-service brokerage based in Colorado offers a team for the buyer or seller, promising to enhance communication and the start-to-finish experience.
10. Windermere boasts more than 300 offices and 7,000 associates throughout the Western U.S. Windermere’s focus on technology took a 180-degree shift two years ago. The Seattle-based firm stopped trying to win the real estate search race. Instead, the company invested in back-end technology to support agent initiatives it openly shares with others. These moves, and others, seem to validate the role the broker must play in the new value chain.
11. Xome digitally connects every major touch point in the real estate process. Xome gives power to the buyer and seller through its dashboard that includes dynamic agent ratings, real-time property data and fast-track prequalification. The 24/7 concierge service makes it possible for consumers to research in their own time.
Most innovative technology company
1. AdWerx helps agents target their digital advertising. The technology identifies homebuyers and sellers by their unique online actions. Then the software makes sure they see ads for the agents in their area on the websites that they use every day.
2. AgentPair is a scheduling app that allows consumers to request home tours from anywhere, eliminating the hassle of back-and-forth calls and texting. Homebuyers are paired with nearby agents who are ready and willing to show at the drop of a hat.
3. Auction.com is an online real estate marketplace that has sold more than $30 billion in residential and commercial assets. Attracting buyers from more than 100 countries worldwide, Auction.com serves a wide variety of real estate customers — from major financial institutions and institutional investors to individual consumers and real estate professionals.
4. ListTrac allows real estate brokers to measure user engagement data related to listing content. The framework provides a holistic view of where listing content is being viewed, where agents are generating the highest number of leads and where buyers are spending more time viewing listings. These data points allow the broker to assess and determine an effective marketing plan for all listing content.
5. Nestio offers landlords, brokers and renters the ability to manage and communicate information easily and efficiently in one convenient place. The real-time data platform is geared specifically for the rental market, helping to eliminate the hassle of paperwork and improve profitability.
6. RadPad is an app to search for apartments and houses for rent. Its most popular functionality is its online rent payment service that makes it easy to pay rent online with any major credit or debit card for free. Real-time notifications keeps renter and landlord in the loop.
7. RentShare allows tenants to pay their rent using a checking account, credit or debit card. Each roommate pays their share of the rent, and RentShare sends a combined check to the landlord to simplify the process for all parties involved.
8. Sindeo is a San Francisco startup on a mission to transform the mortgage industry by taking life’s largest financial decision and making it simple. By leveraging technology, inefficiencies are reduced and the mortgage processes is streamlined. Sindeo mortgage advisers can provide expert, unbiased guidance based on client satisfaction rather than loan size.
9. StreetEasy provides consumers and real estate professionals a transparent and complete view of the NYC residential real estate market. Considered to be the No. 1 site for real estate research in the NYC metropolitan area, StreetEasy covers all five boroughs as well as northern New Jersey and The Hamptons. StreetEasy is owned and operated by Zillow Group.
10. Verify Photo ID gives agents the peace of mind to meet prospective clients through the technology that helps to verify the identity and screen strangers before they meet in person. The mobile app captures information from a prospect’s photo ID, then adds financial and demographic data and checks the information against a national sex offender list.
Most innovative technology
1. August Smart Lock is an intelligent hardware, software and home access management system that allows real estate professionals to send time-restricted virtual keys to anyone with an iOS or Android smartphone. The lock-and-access system allows the user to send a virtual key to anyone you choose to have access to your home.
2. Clareity Security – Single Sign On (SSO) Dashboards has rapidly become the industry standard for facilitating SSO and providing direct member value for associations and MLSs in 2015. The dashboards facilitate secure access to the MLS system and other valuable online services such as membership systems, forms, lockbox, tax data, RPR and other third party-licensed applications used by real estate professionals.
3. GoConnect is an all-mobile CRM. A easy-to-use user interface offers a simple approach to lead management and calendar functionalities to make the lives of real estate agents and brokers more streamlined.
4. HipPocket* is a private real estate agent network that offers a way to discover and market pre-MLS and pocket listings.
5. HipPocketz* is a pre-MLS and private real estate listing marketplace. The platform provides an organized and transparent approach to accessing the broad number of previously hidden off-MLS listings across the U.S.
*Editor’s note: In our initial publication of the candidates, there was some confusion about which company we had identified as a candidate. We have resolved to recognize both of them for their innovation.
6. Hobizbo’s Instant Offer is a pilot program, a new iOS mobile app that streamlines showings and purchase offers for both real estate agents and buyers with Southern California broker Boutique Real Estate Group. Using the app’s new instant showing feature, buyers can get in the door of a property within minutes of requesting a showing with the help of one of Boutique Real Estate Group’s nearly 30 agents.
7. Pipeline ROI makes marketing simple for agents with its streamlined process of generating inbound leads. The company offers services such as a website and blog, content, IDX search, analytics, lead management and social media marketing.
8. Prevali is a new real estate search portal owned and operated by agents that focuses on off-MLS properties and listings that are slated to come to the market in the near future.
9. QValue is a new automated valuation model (AVM). QValue AVM software mimics having every buyer in your neighborhood walk into your home, tell you exactly what they desire — and how much they’ll pay to get it. The software also makes it simple for home sellers to compare the value of their home to other similar ones in the neighborhood.
10. Redfin’s Book It Now allows homebuyers to book an appointment to see a home instantly like ordering an Uber car. On the spot booking makes it easy for homebuyers to beat out competition and home sellers to get their property off the market quicker.
11. TurboAppeal uses its technology to give property owners a simple and cost-effective solution to reduce property taxes and increase the odds of a successful appeal.
12. Zillow Data Dashboard is a new listing management platform designed to enhance the accuracy of listings, provide brokers with powerful reporting tools, and put increased control of listings in the hands of MLS members and brokers.
Most innovative strategy, service, campaign or technology used for marketing
1. Apartments.com ad campaign features Jeff Goldblum playing a loopy character in a multimedia ad campaign to encourage apartment hunters to “change your apartment, change the world.” The futuristic ad has Goldbum playing a Silicon Valley bigwig with flashing white lights in a “cosmic” setting.
2. Boomtown’s Predictive CRM tracks every action a lead takes on an agent or broker website and delivers insights that they can act on. The tools promise to predict and accelerate opportunities. It also tracks each call, conversation and interaction.
3. Century 21’s ‘drumbeat’ marketing campaigns — a series of “#EmptyNesters” videos, the latest example of the brand’s 2-year-old real-time marketing campaign.
4. Listing agent Jessica Canning’s aerial video drone footage showcases an $18.5 million hilltop home on the central California coast.
5. FilmHouse Mini Movies offers a new way of marketing luxury homes, developments and commercial listings by using mini-movies that are complete with story lines, actors, musical scores and even aerial cinematography. The mini movies are set in the properties to create an emotional connection with potential buyers.
6. Move’s “Real Estate in Real Time” ad campaign is a multimedia campaign designed to underscore the importance of “real estate in real time.” The company enlisted celebrity help, including actress Elizabeth Banks, to encourage homebuyers to keep pace with the rapidly moving market.
7. Realtor.com’s bus tour of open houses in NYC was an innovative way to promote its brand and offer home shoppers a one-time, one-city house tour.
8. Ruhm Inc.’s listing video spotlights a Las Vegas mansion listed for $12.5 million. The videos poke fun at snooty luxury homebuyers in a playful manner.
9. SmartZip’s SmartTargeting is the company’s predictive marketing platform with hyperlocal predictive analytics to identify the homeowners most likely to sell in a neighborhood. Targeted and automated marketing campaigns via online, social and offline channels help build agent brand awareness with the predicted sellers. The CRM helps agents track and manage leads to keep up with conversion.
10. Zillow’s “Find Your Way Home Ad Campaign” shows how modern families use technology to collaborate, shop for and ultimately find their home. Music played a huge role in the campaign, aiming to create an emotional connection.
Most innovative agent/broker
1. Mike Akerly has a background as a real estate attorney, a broker and as a member of the Aguayo Team at Halstead Property Development Marketing. Akerly works with developers in New York City to ensure that projects are fulfilled, providing insight on prices, unit mix, design choices, amenity packages and more. His voice is widely followed in the industry via his column in the Business Insider and Brick Underground.
2. The Altman Brothers are two West Los Angeles top producers who epitomize the next generation of tech-savvy, media-inspired real estate agents. The brothers’ business savvy drew Hollywood producers to cast Josh Altman in a starring role on the hit Bravo television show “Million Dollar Listing.”
3. Brian Bair was named America’s No. 2 real estate agent by REAL Trends Inc. and The Wall Street Journal’s yearly report, The Thousand. In 2013, he sold 868 homes, which was the second-highest number of homes sold by an agent in the U.S.
4. Kat Carroll, Pacific Union, brings the values and focus she learned as a cyclist to the real estate industry. In the heart of the Silicon Valley, Carroll uses all of the latest technology but also understands that the process of buying and selling a home requires the human element and long-tested practices around trusted relationships with her clients.
5. Olivia Hsu Decker was born in Shanghai and has been innovating in the luxury real estate field for more than 25 years. Her passion for real estate is unmatched. She once said, “I hate to say I have more fun in real estate than I would with a boyfriend or husband, but I do. If I found a man who was more exciting than real estate, I’d marry him.”
6. Madison Hildebrand is the president and founder of The Malibu Life Inc., and one of the most recognizable faces in the real estate space. With more than 10 years of experience and sales of over $250 million, Hildebrand has built a team and become one of the top-producing agents in the country each year. His years on Bravo earned him high marks for his tenacity, integrity and openness.
7. Brad Korn, Kansas City Realtor at Keller Williams, provides comprehensive marketing and support services in effort to making the real estate process an enjoyable one. Brad Korn’s team offers educational tools and also has access to a preferred network of lenders and various information reports.
8. Danielle Lazier, Climb SF, has 13 years of experience as a full-time real estate agent in San Francisco. She founded SFhotlist.com in 2002 in order to provide homebuyers, sellers and investors with ample information on the local market. She has worked with a range of clients, including first-time homebuyers and international investors.
9. Dolly Lenz, real estate executive at Dolly Lenz Real Estate (DLRE) LLC, has been in the business for more than 25 years and founded DLRE as a luxury real estate consulting, sales and marketing firm. Lenz hand-picked a team of 20 real estate veterans who have a combined production of $10.5 billion throughout their careers. She leverages new technologies but relies on tried and tested practices of superior networking and relationships. She is a master.
10. Brian Keith Lewis, a licensed associate real estate broker at Halstead Property, has been in the business for 16 years and was named as one of the top agents in the country by The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and 2014. For four years in a row, from 2011 to 2014, he closed the most sales deals for Halstead Property.
11. Collette McDonald was named the No. 1 Realtor with Re/Max Around Atlanta from 2011 to 2014, and the No. 1 top Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Buckhead real estate agent in 2013.
12. Ben Salem, Rodeo Realty, is a top-ranking real estate agent and developer in Los Angeles County. He is a widely known conference speaker and has garnered interest of nationally recognized shows such as “Good Morning America” and “The Dave Ramsey Show.”
13. Michelle Schwartz is a native of Beverly Hills with vast knowledge of the Los Angeles markets, Michelle is one of the founding team members of The Agency, previously part of The Umansky Group since 2010. She represents a new generation of agents who understand innovative marketing technologies but appreciates the value of connections and relationships.
14. Ryan Serhant was ranked the No. 12 best broker in New York City in 2015 by The Real Deal Magazine and has gained a strong reputation amid a class of influential clients. His brand-building success and drive has made it possible to include 30 teammates in New York and Los Angeles.
15. Leonard Steinberg is the president of Compass and specializes in the marketing of high-end New York real estate, bringing in more than $2 billion in transactions. Moving to Compass, Leonard represents a new breed of brokers who are teaming up with powerhouse technology firms.
16. Michael Thorne is a Realtor at Re/Max Little Oak Realty. Michael became a licensed Realtor on his 19th birthday, and this month marks his 20th year in the industry. Michael works on a team with two other Realtors in the Vancouver suburb of Langley, B.C. The team has always been on the cutting edge of real estate technology.
17. Kenny Truong, #FastAgent, has been a top producer since 2011 and is in the top 1 percent of agents for the number of homes sold in the East Bay. Coining himself as both a vet and a rookie, Troung utilizes new technologies, data, marketing tools and systems to assist his clients.
Most innovative MLS or association
1. California Regional Multiple Listing Service (CRMLS) has been clawing away at getting local MLS organizations to participate in its shareable database of listings, which should expedite innovation.
2. Connecticut MLS (CTMLS) has played a leadership role promoting the Broker Public Portal project, which could offer a competing consumer search experience to rival the big portals, increasing competition and innovation
3. Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. (MRIS) has used its Mozaic agent collaboration tools so home searchers can store and share their favorite properties, including a “social buying” feature between the MLS, the MLS website and many IDX sites. And its partnership with The Washington Post to share MLS data helps consumers better understand market conditions.
4. MLSListings (San Francisco Bay Area) has built tools and user interfaces for agents that allow its members to quickly and effectively manipulate MLS data to offer more insight to consumers. With its robust set of custom APIs, the technology decouples the business logic and rules which results in adaptability and expandability.
5. National Association of Realtors’ leadership around its partnerships with Upstream through RPR could lead to a single listing database that could speed along innovation with MLS data, creating an open platform and giving entrepreneurs access to his valuable real estate data.
6. San Francisco Association of Realtors will be soon offering a MLS Messenger service, which will provide instant alerts for new listings for mobile devices. Agents put in address, bedrooms, baths, price, size and compensation, and the listing summary instantly goes out to the mobile devices of anyone the agent has designated.
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