Realogy is not about to let other real estate brokerages claim technological supremacy — at least not without a fight.
The company will “shape the future” of the entire industry, according to CEO Ryan Schneider, who announced a suite of new agent-focused tech tools at Realogy’s RGX conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, including a voice-activated digital artificial intelligence (AI) assistant called “Agent X” that runs on Amazon’s Alexa platform and an online advertising “engine” designed in collaboration with Facebook.
“The best way to predict the future is to go out there and create it,” Schneider said.
The nation’s largest real estate holdings company by transaction volume is the owner of such recognizable brokerage brands as Coldwell Banker, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate, Corcoran, Century 21, and Sotheby’s International Realty. RGX is its first all-brands conference, and comes on the heels of a tough fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 earnings report and subsequent stock price drop.
Realogy has been struggling to maintain its lead as competition from venture-funded companies such as rival brokerage Compass and the direct homebuying startup Opendoor intensify.
But at RGX, Schneider was positive and bullish. “We’re going to shape the future of the real estate industry we’ve chosen to be a part of,” Schneider said.
He went on to say that Realogy has more market share than any of its competitors, and that it has access to massive amounts of data — which he described as a “powerful driver” of success in “today’s world.”
Among the tools that Realogy believes will help it shape the future is its new “Social Ad Engine,” an advertising tool that the company designed in collaboration with Facebook.
After a brief mention from Schneider, Realogy regional vice president Sue Yannaccone introduced the new tool by saying that Facebook is “ripe for prospecting” even though most agents are either not using the platform at all, or not using it effectively.
“Realogy and our brands, we went right to the source,” Yannaccone continued. “We worked directly with Facebook to simplify your prospecting efforts.”
According to a Realogy statement, Social Ad Engine “leverages social media best practices and auto-optimization to generate and publish an effective ad for both Facebook and Instagram in under three minutes,” according to the statement.
Keith Watts, who heads up Facebook’s real estate vertical, also appeared at the conference Wednesday and said that the new tool will let users create an ad in three minutes. He also said agents can use the tool to create marketing on both Facebook, as well as other platforms such as Instagram and Messenger, which Facebook owns.
“You don’t need to be digital marketing experts,” Watts added. “From our beta test we’re seeing incredible results.”
The ad engine is powered by artificial intelligence, Watts also said, meaning that “the more people that sign up the better it’ll get.” The tool is also branded for each of Realogy’s various brands.
Social Ad Engine is already available for agents to use now.
Yannaccone also unveiled Realogy’s new digital personal assistant, dubbed Agent X, Wednesday morning, pitching the tool as a “must have” as consumers increasing embrace voice interfaces.
“The future of tech is voice enabled,” she said. “In fact by 2020 50 percent of all online search will be initiated by voice.”
Users interact with Agent X via voice commands directed at devices, such as the Echo, that run on Amazon’s Alexa platform.
According to Yannaccone, agents can use Agent X to retrieve market data, scheduled and hear calendar events and access goal coaching tools. Agent X also gives users a personalized “daily digest” that includes real estate-related headlines, a performance score card and activity lists.
The unveiling of Agent X comes about a year after rival Keller Williams launched its own digital assistant, dubbed Kelle, while pivoting into a new role as a “technology company.” Keller Williams’ digital assistant also includes voice capabilities, is powered by artificial intelligence and is accessed via an app.
The assistants from both companies show how major real estate players are scrambling to arm their agents with an array of “smart” technologies that can make them faster and strip away some of their more mundane tasks. And during Wednesday’s conference, Yannaccone indicated that Realogy believes the best way to do that is via simple technology that agents themselves decide to use.
“For technology to work it needs to solve life’s simple problems,” she added. “It needs to be easy to connect with.”
Agent X is already in a pilot stage and will become widely available in the third quarter of 2019. During RGX Wednesday, Adam Clemens — a Century 21 agent from Connecticut — took to the stage to say that he was among the group that got early access to the technology. He described the tool as fundamentally improving his ability to work and interact with clients.
“I can simply ask Agent X to either schedule a follow up,” Clemens said, “and I can ask agent x to set up an appointment.”