- A low-fee Colorado brokerage is encouraging prospective buyers to chat directly with its seller clients through its website.
- The feature could encourage more buyers to purchase Trelora listings without the help of another brokerage.
A Denver real estate agent recently refused to show a property listed by low-fee brokerage Trelora, according to Trelora CEO Joshua Hunt.
That’s because the listing, priced at $2.2 million, was only offering $10,000 to the agent for bringing a buyer, about one-sixth of what the agent could normally expect to receive on such a deal, he said.
But that didn’t diminish the buyer’s interest in the home. So he dropped his agent and contacted the seller directly through a new feature on Trelora’s website.
“[And] there was born a smooth and extraordinary home sale transaction led by a buyer and seller supported, as needed, by a lead [Trelora] agent and his transaction coordinator,” Hunt said.
The brokerage believes the messaging platform, known as “Trelora Connect,” will streamline transactions and “break down barriers between buyers and sellers.”
As with the buyer who purchased the $2.2 million home, it could also encourage more homebuyers to purchase Trelora listings without help from another brokerage.
“Before Trelora Connect, [homebuyers] and sellers didn’t have very many options — and they always had to go through an agent if they had questions, no matter how big or small,” said Trelora CEO Joshua Hunt in a statement.
“Trelora Connect provides an ease of communication that most agents never wanted to admit was possible.”
Push button, chat with seller
If a Trelora seller client has enabled the feature, prospective homebuyers will have the option to click a “Chat with Seller” button on the seller’s listing.
They can then submit a question and carry on a conversation through Trelora’s website. Both buyers or sellers can turn off the feature at any time.
The messaging platform “allows buyers and sellers to make better-informed decisions, solve issues more quickly and ultimately streamline the transaction,” Trelora said.
A seller could share measurements of a garage, invite the buyer over for a visit, “or chat back and forth about contract details, such as price or dates,” Hunt said.
The launch of Trelora’s messaging feature comes shortly after the brokerage began publishing, for the second time, the level of compensation that listing agents offer buyer’s agents through the MLS.
In 2015, Trelora removed this data from its website’s listing pages to comply with an order from the local multiple listing service, REcolorado. But the brokerage gave it a second shot in January, this time requiring visitors to register to see the information on listings.
The data still appears to registered users, suggesting Trelora may have found a way to display it without breaching MLS rules.
Listing charges and buyer fees
Trelora charges sellers a listing fee of $2,500, plus the compensation the seller chooses to offer to buyer’s agents. Sellers typically offer buyer’s agents less than the going rate, often on the advice of Trelora.
If Trelora believes a seller “can get away with” only offering $2,500 to buyer’s agents, then the brokerage will advise a client to do so, Hunt told Inman.
The brokerage charges all buyers a flat fee of $2,500 to $3,000, depending on the service level.
Many buyers have dropped their agents to buy Trelora listings after their agents have put up resistance due to a low commission offer from Trelora, according to Hunt.
In that scenario, Trelora has often coordinated the sale for both buyer and seller, and paid some of the compensation earmarked for a buyer’s agent to the buyer instead.
Depending on the preferences of both buyer and seller, Trelora either exclusively represents the seller in those deals or acts as a neutral “transaction broker.”
Trelora Connect might be particularly useful with facilitating these transactions.
It allows buyers to easily pursue a Trelora listing if their agent balks at cooperating with the brokerage. It might also entice more buyers to engage with Trelora listings before seeking outside representation.
“We think Trelora Connect will encourage more [homebuyers] and sellers to drop their agents when the agents are fearful and controlling sharing and spreading false truths,” Hunt said.
“We are sure that as we lean deeply into transparency, honesty and loving and serving buyers and sellers well … we will end up with transactions that allow buyers and sellers to simply use Trelora.”
But some observers are skeptical. Due to the delicate nature of real estate transactions, direct communications between counterparties could put more deals at risk, said Marc Davison, co-founder of real estate consultancy 1000watt.
Say a buyer nonchalantly requests a kitchen facelift, or a seller asks a buyer to remove an appraisal contingency. Or what if a buyer wants to know whether the neighbors are friendly?
Agents know how to navigate tricky questions and requests, but consumers generally do not, he says.
“I think this is someone just throwing a boulder into the pond creating a big splash where nothing good can come of it,” said Davison.
Trelora’s track record
In 2016, Trelora closed more than 700 transactions through the MLS in the Denver metro area, up by around 30 percent from the previous year, according to Hunt. It also did “not a shameful number” of off-MLS deals, he added.
Trelora closed a $4.4 million funding round in mid-December and plans to expand into new markets, though Hunt has declined to name any targets.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Trelora and Marc Davison.