Jessie Koerner was a good, effective, hard-working agent — not in the top 10 percent in her market, but real estate was her full-time job, and she enjoyed specializing in new homes. She complained to her entrepreneurial husband, Chris, that the administrative portion of her job was holding her back.
- Presto is a new company set up to take on menial daily tasks for real estate agents.
Jessie Koerner was a good, effective, hard-working agent — not in the top 10 percent in her market, but real estate was her full-time job, and she enjoyed specializing in new homes.
She complained to her entrepreneurial husband, Chris, that the administrative portion of her job was holding her back.
“She was a very productive person but needed help — she felt all these things cumulatively prevented her from selling as many homes as she could,” said Koerner. “It was frustrating for her.”
He envisioned a service where she could text for help — perhaps request PDF reformatting, lead generation, social media updating and maintenance, for example — and she could get a quick quote back for what it might cost to outsource the service.
After researching the market more widely for the kinds of chores real estate agents don’t enjoy and find time-consuming, Koerner, a property investor, and his business partner, whose background is in property development, set up what they are calling the Realtor’s on-demand personal assistant, Presto.
‘Taking care of the menial things’
“The whole idea of what we are doing is taking care of the menial things for agents that distract them from selling homes,” said Koerner, who is based in Dallas.
The screenshots on the Presto website showcase the tasks agents around the country are asking to have taken care of. The list of favorites include lead generation — sending weekly lists of expired listings and FSBOs, regular social media updating and maintenance, CRM database management, spreadsheet formatting, appointment setting, route planning, MLS research and comp reports.
Koerner, who has his virtual response team based in the Philippines, has been careful about pricing — he is charging 20 cents each for an expired listing/FSBO lead generation, $8 for a comp report, $10 to $12 an hour for a cold-calling service and $8 an hour for spreadsheet/pdf reformatting or data/CRM upload help.
“The low prices are a direct reflection of the price sensitivity of agents. Fully utilizing our global workforce is what makes these prices possible,” said the entrepreneur.
“The idea is to achieve scale much sooner with very attractive prices, while offering a killer product, and worry about profitability later,” he said. Though he has a plan if it all takes off over the next year.
“Part of our ‘secret sauce’ is our virtual assistants have worked in real estate, so they are familiar with terms like comps, they are familiar with the real estate industry, they know the lingo,” he said.
Koerner has been surprised by the interest from high-producing agents: “I would say that probably about 20 to 30 percent of our business is telemarketing,” he said. “Top agents will contract out to us for a telemarketing service for around $12 an hour.”
Cold-calling expired listings and homeowners has been really successful, he said.
Koerner has recently launched a service specifically to help agents with their Instagram activity, and he has been taken aback with the response.
“People are looking for the most help with social media. It’s a simple thing, one that agents know is important but hard for them to be consistent with. We can scale the post, use the same kind of content for an agent in Seattle as (a town in) Kansas, especially with Instagram,” said Koerner, who said over half his business is currently social media support.
Agents are liking the simplicity of Instagram, he said.
You find a balance between brand awareness and not being overwhelming or spam, he said.
“We thought it would appeal to younger agents, millennials, but we are seeing a lot of 50- and 60-year-old agents,” said Koerner. They know it is important but it’s not intuitive for them, he said.
“We are getting at least 12 inquiries a day on Instagram and closing on most of them,” said the entrepreneur.
“We are already at around 3,000 loyal and engaged Instagram followers, and we are starting to see some referrals roll in. It’s been hard to keep up with demand,” he added.
Filling a need
Four months in, Koerner and his team are convinced that Presto is fulfilling a need that agents have — but not the particular needs that they had expected.
“We thought that agents would be more likely to request help with things that are particularly time-consuming, such as doing research on the MLS, but instead we are seeing requests for things that demand consistency to be effective — such as cold-calling and social media management. We didn’t anticipate that.”