The disruption in the real estate business continues with more big moves from both the large, established franchises and the venture capital-backed startups over the past couple of weeks. Here’s the latest.
Keller Williams’ consumer strategy is coming on strong. Inman News recently reported that KW acquired Smarter Agent in order to provide their agents with a complete, KW branded home-search app for consumers in order to compete with the likes of Zillow and Redfin. This comes on the heels of the release of Kelle (pronounced “Kelly”) that serves as an artificial intelligence-enabled sidekick for busy agents and KW’s announcement that they will soon launch a virtual brokerage akin to the eXp Realty model.
OpenDoor, the VC-funded iBuyer, just announced its first acquisition – four-year-old startup, OpenListings whose website states that it walks consumers through buying online to help save 50% in agent fees. The “Shop, Visit, Offer, Close & Save” process listed on their website offers a glimpse into how they claim to save consumers thousands. Though the real estate press has a lot to say about iBuyer disruptors, one of the more enlightening insights into the iBuyer model comes from a recent Houston Chronicle article that details their entry into the Houston market with insights from consumers…and competing brokers.
QuickenLoans’ sister company, In-House Realty, has rebranded under the Rocket Homes moniker to better align with their Rocket Mortgage offering. More importantly from a “game-changing” standpoint, Rocket Homes launched a new consumer portal that offers a home search function that leverages not only traditional search data but also includes neighborhood information and market trends. You can read more here in the HousingWire article here.
From a strategic standpoint, it is easy to see a growing trend where major players are moving into adjacent spaces in order to differentiate their offerings, improve the consumer experience and, in most cases, increase profits. While many traditional brokers and agents stand by their convictions that real estate is a relationship business, that is true for a portion of the market. For reference, take a look at how the legal field has changed in recent years. You can still hire a high-priced lawyer for the personalized touch or the complicated case, but the low-end “cookie cutter” needs are increasingly being served by online providers like LegalZoom, Nolo and RocketLawyer. Did these legal portals replace all lawyers? No, but they are firmly entrenched and serving a growing portion of today’s cost-conscious consumers. Will traditional real estate agents simply become a thing of the past? No, but they will see portals, iBuyers, discount brokers and other low fee models reaching to serve today’s cost-conscious consumers.