Keller Williams is ending its nearly four-year relationship with Placester, a real estate tech startup that provides agents and brokers with real estate websites, marketing and lead management tools, Inman has learned.
It’s a logical move for Keller Williams as the company prepares to roll out its revamped consumer experience in the coming months, which will include new websites and apps for its more than 160,000 associates. Keller Williams first announced the partnership at a company conference in August 2015.
“Our vision is to create an end-to-end real estate platform for our agents,” Neil Dholakia, the chief product officer at Keller Williams told Inman. “To that end, we’re introducing new agent websites that integrate into Command to deliver a best-in-class user experience. While Placester has been a great partner, the introduction of our new sites will give our agents a homegrown choice for their website provider.”
Keller Williams plans to launch new consumer-facing agent websites in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Placester websites for Keller Williams agents will disappear on October 1 unless they choose to purchase a $59-a-month Agent Core website via Placester. Agents that don’t want to continue to use the Placester website are encouraged to download all of their data.
For Placester, a company that’s struggled in the past year – laying off a huge portion of its staff and reinstating its original CEO in December – the loss of a major partner could be a big blow.
A source at the time told Inman the company had cut its staff to roughly 25 employees from approximately 140. The company’s marketing vice president, Seth Price, called the move “a pretty big pivot,” and told Inman the company was going back into “development mode.”
Placester is now pivoting away from the free, basic websites it offered members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to offering Agent Core to NAR members for $59 a month – and $75 a month for all others. The company is also working towards developing new technology solutions, according to CEO Matt Barba.
“Placester has empowered real estate professionals with sales and marketing tools since its founding,” Barba wrote in a July 30 letter announcing the shift. “One way we’ve accomplished this is with our free website products. During this time, we’ve seen the industry shift. Consumers have come to expect much more from their online experiences, and in turn agents and brokers need more from their tools.”
“Given these industry changes, we believe agents and brokers require a more robust website solution to showcase their brand and reputation, and provide consumers with a more sophisticated experience,” Barba added. “The current free website offerings no longer meet these needs.”
The end of the Keller Williams partnership opens a window on the struggle some real estate tech startups face as the industry’s top companies begin to develop solutions for agents in-house.
RE/MAX is another company working to develop its own end-to-end platform, which will include a new consumer-facing experience with agent websites and an app. Placester boasts that it is trusted by both Keller Williams and RE/MAX on its home page – along with the National Association of Realtors (NAR). A RE/MAX spokesperson confirmed to Inman the company has no formal relationship with Placester, but that individual brokerages may use the service.
With both RE/MAX and Keller Williams, franchisees won’t be forced to use the parent company’s technology, but it will come free, with the exception of traditional fees associated with the companies’ respective franchise agreements.