“We want our technology to help level the playing field,” says the chief technology officer at Mad Valorem, “giving smaller independent agents and brokers access to many of the same tools and data available to agents working with big national firms.”
I have a Ph.D. in Geography, was studying glaciers and climate change, taught at the university level for 15 years, and ran my own program in Tennessee. I’ve been programming as a hobby since I was 7 and taught programming and GIS before making a move to the private sector.
In 2012, I relocated to South Florida and met Steve Mackey, a third-generation real-estate investor and broker with a degree in computer science. Steve had been working on a new tool for investors that incorporated public and private data sources to identify investment properties. Needing a programmer versed in GIS, he hired me away from academia. Our work soon progressed beyond the creation of his algorithms for our private use.
Today, Mad Valorem provides high-end real-estate technology and tools to consumers and local agents throughout Florida at no cost, with a rollout of over 45 million additional properties nationwide in the next 100 days.
What aspects of real estate are you trying to make better? What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?
We want our technology to help level the playing field, giving smaller independent agents and brokers access to many of the same tools and data available to agents working with big national firms. We partnered with one local brokerage to roll out and test this strategy, and we have been overwhelmed by our ability to create online visibility for them on par with some of the largest brokerages operating in their market.
At one point, Steve and I created a web-based application for direct marketing where a local businesses could combine location-based, feature-based and event-based criteria (for example, all homes in a community with an air-conditioning unit that is over 15 years old that have sold in the past month) and create a mailing list. The local business could create custom mailing lists and mailers on the site, and have the mailers sent directly to the addresses that matched their criteria all at a fraction of the cost of any of our competitors.
While this product was gaining popularity, MadValorem began requiring our full attention and we pushed this idea to the back-burner, but we believe some of this same technology may evolve into a useful tool we can make available to agents nationally to better identify and predict those homeowners most likely to become future sellers.
What are you working on right now? What are the challenges?
Every time I get a glossy mailer from my local Realtors, I wonder how many people in my generation still begin their property search by calling the realtors from these brochures. There is no question in my mind that better technology will make more informed consumers, and thus require Realtors to find more ways to add value to real-estate transactions. Historically, much of the agent value was derived from their access to the MLS and other property data. While this remains the case in part, much of that same data can be found for no cost at sites like MadValorem.com, Zillow, realtor.com, and so on. Universal access to data, together with more transparent online customer reviews of agents and brokers will drive new real estate business to agents and brokers who are truly experts and specialists in their local communities. Technology favors the best qualified agents and brokers, not just the ones with the biggest brochure or the brokers who have the most expensive brick and mortar office in town.
In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?
I really love what I do. It’s exciting to see my ideas and work become reality and end up leading to young agents closing million-dollar deals. Being a part of a startup really keeps things fresh and stimulating!
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