Brokerages are rushing to arm agents with the latest tools and to get closer to the consumer. But what happens to the data when you leave? Be mindful of who owns your consumer data and leads.

There’s an arms race between the major real estate franchises to build their own in-house technology these days. This ranges from customer relationship management systems and consumer-facing websites for search, transaction management tools, and mobile apps for consumers.

While I enjoy the benefits of cutting edge technology in my business, I believe the “in-house” method is a win-lose proposition for the agent.

This is bad for all (solo) agents 

At first glance, the technology appears to be a value add, and a great retention strategy for major real estate brands like Compass, Remax, and Keller Williams. But all agents should be quizzing the franchisors before any they consider relying on it, as it could lead to the agent ultimately being squeezed out of the transactions by their own brand.

One leader in the real estate industry, who would prefer to remain anonymous, was heard making the statement: “You have to understand – once the consumer downloads the mobile app to their mobile device – the company (brokerage) owns that consumer. If the agent switches brokerages, their database of leads and past clients continue using the previous brokerage’s app. As there is no way to systematically remove the app from those consumers devices — the brokerage will just transfer those agents leads to another agent.”

This would appear to contradict the statements made by Keller Williams around “it’s your data.” What they mean is that it’s your data until you decide to, or are forced to switch brokerages.

When an agent asks a consumer to download the app, they might think they’re branding themselves with that consumer, but the truth is each time the app is opened, it will brand the likes of KW, Compass, Remax and the like.

This contradicts another value statement of companies like KW, who have said for years that they stand behind the agent because they know it’s the agent’s brand that matters.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes the branding issue would also exist with any non-brokerage technology provider of mobile apps for consumers (like Kunversion and Commissions Inc.) However, at least with those tech providers, the agent can bring the tech with them from brokerage to brokerage.

This is really bad for teams 

Now teams could have an even bigger issue. Major real estate brands rushing to deliver on tech deadlines and missed milestones, and they will most likely deliver products that focus on the individual agent first as it’s the easier feat to accomplish.

And because most real estate teams pay for the leads that they are giving to their buyer and listing agents, this creates an extra layer of complication.

This is likely going to lead to a lack of transparency in how the leads are followed up on, notated, etc. You see, if each agent works their leads and contacts in their own “master” account, which provides them full administrative control over the account, rather than a “sub” account, it could be easier, if and when the agent leaves the team, to retain leads and contacts they didn’t pay for or generate themselves.

The reason is that when you give all software users the same permissions in the system, the consumer will still be tied to the agent they dealt with who might still be at the brokerage, but no longer on your team.

This is also bad for the brokerage

Since the consumers are tied to the app users (the agent,) the mobile app rush is the biggest risk to how teams operate today. Will franchises like Keller Williams who have always been deemed team-friendly now become just the opposite? If they can’t find a way to tie the leads and contacts back to the rainmaker then the answer to that is yes.

The reality is that this could end up hurting the brokerages themselves in the end, as it could cause an exodus of teams to brands that are more team owner friendly.

Building your real estate business on a technology platform that is not transferable from brokerage to brokerage creates an unneeded level of dependency from the agent to their current brand affiliation.

Switching brokerages is already a common practice in our industry, and this new battle to be first in technology is bound to create chaos and start a new battle around who owns the relationship with the consumer. The brokerage or the agent? And this could — and I believe will — lead to even more brokerage switching.

When you think about it, it’s easy to see that you could find yourself in a situation where you desire to move on to new beginnings, but feel trapped because the most valuable asset you own, your contacts, are in the hands of the brand you affiliate with and there is no export button for you to push.

The old value statements of brands like Keller Williams which stated “My listing my lead” will be replaced by “if you use our technology, we own you and your database”.

For now, while I’m extremely happy with my brand affiliation and can’t imagine making a change, I am going to stick to technology that will follow me regardless of what brokerage I affiliate with even it means I have to pay a little more for it.

Kevin Kauffman is a Realtor with Group 4610 Network with eXp Realty. Connect with him on Facebook here and here

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