A vast majority of homebuyers use the Internet to shop for homes, but just a handful find their agent online, a discrepancy that many think won’t hold.
That disjunct inspired realtor.com’s bold experiment with AgentMatch, which let consumers in two test markets search for agents based on productivity statistics like the number of listings represented, homes sold, and list-to-sales-price ratios.
The dearth of opportunities for consumers to connect with agents online also inspired Austin, Texas-based startup ReelAgent to develop an agent-to-agent referral network based on video.
ReelAgent conducted a soft launch in November. For now, ReelAgent founder and CEO Steven Senter said, the company is building the network as a place where agents, through video, can get to know and trust agents in other areas, building foundations for referral relationships. Once it builds up a solid stable of agents in a market, the firm wants to expand its focus to consumers, Senter said.
The National Association of Realtors’ latest survey of homebuyers and sellers showed that 89 percent of homebuyers used the Internet to search for a home, but only 9 percent said they found their agent online. Senter, who says he has been a licensed real estate broker for the last 18 years, believes the way to bridge that gap is through trust.
Trust, he says, is best established online through video.
“Consumers don’t choose agents based on how many homes they sell,” Senter said. “ReelAgent was designed to get in front of agents (and eventually consumers) on an emotional level.”
In its initial phase, ReelAgent allows agents to build video-based profiles linked to specific ZIP codes. When agents come to the site looking to form a referral relationship with an agent in a specific ZIP code, they see the handful who have created ReelAgent profiles and choose one they want to work with by checking out their profile and video (see Steven Senter’s ReelAgent profile).
Agents can develop a profile with up to three videos using ReelAgent’s video platform and link it to one ZIP code for free. They must pay $20 a month per ZIP code to associate their profile with additional ZIP codes. About 50 agents are currently using the site, Senter said.
When two agents find each other and want to set up a referral agreement, ReelAgent facilitates the referral by prepopulating a form within ReelAgent with information sourced from profiles, including the agents’ names and license numbers. Agents enter additional details, like referral fees. ReelAgent does not take a cut of any referral made through the platform.
Down the road, Senter says ReelAgent will slowly build out agent bios. One feature he mentioned is a Facebook-matching tool that will surface how a user may be connected to an agent.
ReelAgent is remarkably similar to realtor.com’s profile management tool SocialBios, which realtor.com launched last month after two years in beta.
The tool, embedded within realtor.com agent profiles, aims to beef up the qualitative aspects of an agent’s online presence with LinkedIn and RealSatisfied recommendations and insight into how users match up with an agent through their social media accounts. The updated tool also now allows agents to post a six-second Vine video to their profiles.