It seems like almost every day there’s a new headline about the launch of another real estate “platform.” The topic is certainly buzzy, but also deceptively complex and not universally understood. How many real estate professionals use “platforms,” for example, but don’t actually know how they are different from other kinds of high technology?

To help break it down, Keller Williams director of innovation Adi Pavlovic spoke Thursday afternoon at Inman Connect, explaining both what a platform is and why it matters for real estate pros everywhere.

So what exactly is a platform?

Put simply, a platform is a system that “allows multiple products to be built within the same framework,” Pavlovic said Thursday. That means platforms are not the same thing as apps or (in many cases) websites. Instead, a platform is some sort of digital space where a user can engage in a variety of different activities.

What are some examples of platforms?

Adi Pavlovic

Pavlovic pointed out that Apple’s iOS as one of the world’s best-known platforms. It serves as the infrastructure that runs millions and millions of iPhones, allowing them to hold apps — say, Netflix or Instagram — that were created by other companies.

There are numerous other platforms as well, many of which are designed to accommodate a more specific set of tasks than Apple’s generalist iOS. In real estate, for example, companies have begun building platforms or platform-like tools in an effort to streamline various parts of what is typically a very complicated, paperwork-heavy process.

During his session Thursday, Pavlovic also offered the example of his own company’s platform, Keller Cloud. It gives agents access to tools that they need while working to close deals, and relies on artificial intelligence to provide insights into things like markets and offer strength.

And significantly, Keller Williams plans to open up Keller Cloud to third party developers sometime in early 2019.

Why do platforms matter right now in real estate?

Pavlovic said Thursday that agents typically use 10 to 15 different applications while working to close deals. It can be a cumbersome and expensive process, which is pushing real estate companies to develop platforms that can gather all of the necessary tasks into one place.

“The whole point of a platform is to streamline,” Pavlovic said. “You’re empowering the agent with a platform that they can leverage, and bring their operating costs down. That’s the total end game.”

That, however, is easier said than done. Pavlovic described real estate platforms as particularly complicated because they are “b-to-b-to-c,” or in other words they have to facilitate communication from business to business (b-to-b) as well as between businesses and consumers (b-to-c).

“Platforms are really hard to build,” Pavlovic added.

But those complications notwithstanding, Pavlovic expects competition to intensify as more and more platforms emerge and try to aggregate real estate oriented tasks into one place.

“I think we’re really kind of entering a kind of platform war,” he added, “where platforms will be competing for agent business.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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