Earlier this year, Realogy launched a new product and innovation team under former ERA Real Estate leader Simon Chen, giving the company two tech leaders in Chen, the executive vice president of product, and Dave Gordon, the company’s chief technology officer.
Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider has long said, in both interviews and earnings calls, that he’s surprised by the lack of tech innovation in the industry. That gives Realogy, in Chen’s words, “an awful lot of greenfield for us to be able to develop in.”
“There’s a huge need in the industry, having gone through two transactions myself in the last month,” Chen said. “As a consumer, the experience is still broken.”
Gordon echoed those sentiments, noting that Realogy hasn’t seen anyone come in and change the industry in any meaningful way, despite the money flowing into the space. The levels of venture capital going to real estate tech startups and incumbent players in the industry continued at record levels in 2019 and experts don’t believe it’s set to slow down in 2019.
How does Realogy build new tech?
The basis on which everything is built and developed is Realogy’s massive database and open application programming interface, which allows the company to quickly plug-in and launch products, as well as roll them out to multiple brands. It’s an advantage, according to Chen, over competitors working in closed systems.
“Having a clean database that we’re building from and having it be the most timely and accurate in the industry is a huge step forward for anything that we build on top of, or any of our partners leverage to build on top of,” Chen said.
It’s also an area where Realogy’s scale is a huge benefit. Realogy is the largest real estate holding company in the United States, with a huge own-side brokerage as well as franchise brands.
“We’ve got the most data in the industry,” Gordon said. “In today’s world, data is king.”
The value of the data comes from artificial intelligence (AI), Gordon explained. Realogy, which operates an AI lab in Silicon Valley, built a completely new enterprise analytics platform that crunches data from national multiple listing services, company transactions and information from 300,000 agents worldwide. The company is also buying data externally, which augments the existing massive data scale.
By reorganizing Realogy’s product and technology team, meanwhile, Chen and Gordon’s staffers work hand-in-hand, cutting the runway time significantly, Chen said. It also shifts brokerage leaders to the forefront of developing new technology.
In simple terms, Chen’s team focuses on what Realogy is going to build and Gordon’s team focuses on how Realogy is going to build the new products.
Where has Realogy been focusing resources?
In 2019, Realogy launched and deployed a ton of new tech products, including an enhanced learning platform, Agent X voice assistant, new marketing tools, a Desk platform and other internal products, Gordon said.
“We’ve been in the tech business for a while, but we’re really focused on that next generation,” Gordon said.
As a public company, Realogy needs to keep specific plans on lockdown until they’re ready to be deployed, but, broadly, the company is looking at the next generation of its products, like new websites, consumer apps and a customer relationship management tool. It’s also on the lookout for new partners to enhance those offerings.
“As we build products, we’re also always on the lookout for the great partners out there that we can work with to customize and integrate so we can both accelerate and leverage the whole industry of developers in the world,” Gordon said. “We’re going to have some of our major components, upgraded or replaced, at least from a Realogy perspective across all the capabilities that we offer our agents.”
Chen thinks 2020 will be an interesting year from the standpoint of everyone racing to continue rolling out their end-to-end platform. He likes Realogy’s odds because they’re already rolling out the next generation of products on an open architecture platform and getting interest from some of the top companies in the industry, which want access to Realogy’s scale and the exposure that the company’s vast network brings.
“A lot of best-in-breed players have been approaching me and my team at the conferences and saying, ‘we hear you’re building this platform and thank goodness it’s open because we want to be part of it, we want to to be integrated into it,’” Chen said.
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