Daniel Caceres is his brokerage’s secret weapon.
A vice president at MC Homes Realty in the Tampa, Florida, area, Caceres is a loan officer and handles the indie brokerage’s finances. His wife Maggie Caceres owns the company, is a broker, and runs the real estate and property management side.
But Caceres isn’t an ordinary loan officer. Instead, he told Inman Wednesday, he has spent years personally writing millions of lines of computer code and building a custom software platform from the ground up. It’s a system that his brokerage’s agents can use to do everything from nurturing leads to scanning documents. And, Caceres added, it’s a system that existed before major players like RE/MAX and Keller Williams debuted their own, headline-grabbing customer relationship management platforms.
“We had it before them and I know that because some of their agents came to work for us,” Caceres said. “They’re still behind in my point of view.”
The origins of the system Caceres, 51, built go back to his childhood. He said that as a 12-year-old kid he began learning to program using binary code when his family bought their first computer. Eventually, that led to a career in the late 1990s selling computers, and then to building mortgage related software in the early 2000s.
By 2004, Caceres had also earned a license to work as a loan officer and joined his wife’s brokerage.
The software platform began to grow incrementally after Caceres joined MC Homes Realty. At the time, many of the technologies that exist today hadn’t been invented but Caceres initially just aimed to solve specific problems like handling documents or emailing prospective clients. And little by little, the system got bigger and more complex.
“We’ve been perfecting the system for many years,” he explained. “Every time we need to do something we just see the need and in a matter of two or three days are able to build something.”
Caceres said that today his system allows agents to create social media and print ad campaigns, send voicemail directly to a client’s inbox without their phone ringing, and ingest documents directly from a scanner. The system handles e-signatures, has internal email and texting tools, and integrates with multiple listing services. It also gives agents access to troves of data, and includes tools for generating and nurturing leads.
“The system is very huge,” Caceres said.
Asked about some of the newer additions, Caceres described recently adding a tool that handles paperwork related to condo sales. He also pointed to an Alexa Skill — Amazon’s app-like programs that work with smart home devices like the Echo — that will allow for interactive voice-activated property searches and is currently under review by the retail giant.
The condo paperwork feature only took two days to build, he added, though the Alexa Skill required about two months to create.
If the features Caceres listed sound familiar, it’s because many of them are also part of the CRMs touted by vastly larger real estate companies. MC Homes Realty, on the other hand, has about 60 agents and does $80 million in volume per year, Caceres said.
“We are a really small by comparison,” he added.
Agents at MC Homes Realty get access to the software for free, and Caceres said the response over the years has been positive.
“We have a lot of people join us here just because of the software,” he said.
For a number of years, Caceres coded software by himself, though more recently he has worked with one other programer as well. He noted that this strategy — a tiny team gradually building something over many years — differs significantly from the approach major companies take. It’s also not one he thinks most brokerages could easily replicate because they likely don’t have someone with decades of coding experience on staff.
But he also said that it succeeded at his brokerage because the software was written by people actually working in the real estate industry, meaning they had an intimate knowledge of each problem they wanted addressed. And that isn’t the case at companies that bring in outside developers, or that have internal developers who have never worked as real estate professionals.
“There are great real estate agents and business people, but they don’t have the ability to develop software,” he added. “We combined the knowledge I have. We were able to get ahead because we use it every day and because we developed it here in-house.”