What’s it really like to build your own real estate technology? Dominic Morrocco knows firsthand — he actually created a brokerage in order to build technology for real estate. “The idea was that we didn’t want agents to have anything to do with anything except people — no spending time scheduling staging appointments or photography appointments,” he explained. “Those requests would go to human resources who’d fulfill those tasks for agents, and now we’ve automated everything end-to-end.”
Morrocco will discuss executing a winning in-house tech strategy at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. We talked to him about how he thinks of agents as his customers (and the difference that makes in his technology delivery) and more.
Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?
I think of my consumer, my only consumer, as my agent. So that’s part of the problem with what we’ve seen in real estate technology thus far — everything has really been written for buyers and sellers; 99.9 percent of software other than ours starts the platform at the MLS, the data comes from the MLS. About 60 percent of the real estate agents’ activity happens before the property hits the MLS. So we think about how to make the process easier for the agent.
When our agents are using our platform, we have agents who have 12 or 13 simultaneous listings with no assistant, and they’re able to save all that money by using the platform from day one, using a comparative market analysis (CMA) and property report and finding the mortgages that exist on the property, starting there and going all the way through to hit the MLS and using the design center to start Facebook campaigns and so forth, all the way to “here’s our offer and our HUD-1.” So it’s a true end-to-end platform for the agent, and the agent in our environment can handle more simultaneous business than others can.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?
It depends on who your customer is. If I’m a tech vendor, my customer is going to be the agent insofar as getting them leads. Everybody has a different focus and involvement depending on where they are in the industry.
The greatest necessity of a real estate brokerage today is to diversify their income stream if they want to stay in the business. When I started in the industry 20-some years ago, commissions were double what they are today, and they’re going to continue to get smaller; those disruptors will continue to make the pot of commissions smaller. Brokers will need to figure out ways to diversify income streams so they can return more of that commission to agents.
To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?
I think there’s a lot of opportunity through automation and machine learning now, where you can do things less expensively. You don’t have to be an artificial intelligence (AI) expert to take advantage of APIs and AI on the market. One is, we’re experimenting with using AI in photos to prepare CMAs. We have a great CMA interface right now and there are great CMAs in the market, but they’re still a little bunk as far as the ability goes because the data sources are stale. I can tell you everything about your property — the zoning, how many mortgages you have and what the terms of them are, the square footage — but what I can’t really see is what makes your property unique. You might have three homes on a block but only one has a pristine view of a lake, and I can’t tell that by using a CMA. If we’re able to pull a CMA through some other history that can access photos, we can prepare a much more accurate CMA by using AI to identify the features you can’t see in the data. That’s one we use for an agent to make their job easier, to deliver a more accurate CMA in a very fast way.
The same execution can be applied to paying commissions — how are you paying commissions now? If I’m in a brokerage and I have people handling paperwork and writing checks, that’s not a scalable approach because as my agent population grows, I’ll have to hire more people. You can use machine learning to read PDFs, create a scoring system where only a small percentage of documents get reviewed manually. Whether it’s making the process more efficient for agents or for brokers, it’s streamlining the process.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?
We want to beta test the platform a lot more; we want to expand it to a lot more offices in the area and deal with a lot more agents and team to use the system. We’re ready to grow.
Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.
Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.