• Integration between tech tools, using data to tell stories and natural language search were areas of focus mentioned by Realogy, Compass and Placester at Inman Connect.

Real estate franchisor Realogy, brokerage Compass and website provider Placester have likely spent well over $200 million on real estate technology over the last two years.

“What are these money bags spending their money on this year?” Ben Kinney asked representatives of these companies on stage at Inman Connect. Their answers offered a window into what’s next for real estate tech. Here are three themes that stuck out.

Jenna Bascom / Inman.com

Jenna Bascom / Inman.com

Integration games

Panelists agreed that one of the major drawbacks to tech products for agents is that they often don’t integrate with each other, reducing ease of use for agents and presenting a barrier to adoption.

Realogy, the owner of several of the largest real estate brands and the largest U.S. brokerage, NRT,  has set out to solve that problem by building “the supermarket for the super agent on great technology tools” into its agent technology platform Zap, said Alex Perriello, CEO of Realogy,

Every product available in the “ZapStore” will be able to integrate with Zap, whose platform wraps together a website, mobile app and customer relationship management system (CRM).

Realogy has spent big bucks on Zap, acquiring the technology powering the platform by purchasing ZipRealty for $167 million in 2014. Besides providing the core set of tools baked into Zap, Realogy plans to be “platform agnostic,” encouraging agents to plug in whatever additional tech tools — such as transaction management platforms, follow-up apps or back-office software — they want.

Tech vendors will spend the resources necessary to integrate their products with Zap for increased exposure to the hundreds of thousands of agents that work at NRT or operate under the banner of any of Realogy’s brands, Perriello says.

Placester is trying to tackle the challenge of software fragmentation from another angle: by designing an all-in-one system that removes the need for integration between products, said Matt Barba, CEO of Placester, a real estate website provider that’s raised $50 million in funding.

Using data to tell stories

Christina Allen / Inman.com

Christina Allen / Inman.com

One of Compass’ biggest goals is to make it easy for agents to use data to “tell stories” to clients that can educate or influence them, said Christina Allen, chief technology officer of Compass.

For example, the brokerage, which has raised $123 million since launching only two years ago, has designed a “listing strategy tool” that not only highlights comparable properties to use for pricing listings, but also serves up statistics that show how much longer an overpriced home typically takes to sell and how much less it typically sells for, she said.

Lifestyle and natural language search 

If a prospective buyer wants a home on a lake with a boathouse in northern New Jersey that’s 45 minutes or less from Madison, New Jersey, they should be able to filter for listings based on those preferences.

Search tools that let buyers search based on lifestyle preferences, rather than location, price and number of bedrooms and bathrooms alone, are the future of real estate search, panelists said. Better Homes and Gardens’ listing portal represents one effort by Realogy to implement this type of search experience.

The most advanced of lifestyle-based search tools won’t require users to check filters. Instead, people will be able to write in plain language exactly what they want, click or tap, and then see the listings that match their description.

Placester continues to hone the “natural language search” capability of its property search tool. Its goal is to build a tool that does as good of a job as Google at producing relevant search results.

Email Teke Wiggin.

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