Challenges For Established Brokerages - The Tech Stack
John Currie, SVP of Operations, Weichert, Realtors
For well-established brokerages, one of the biggest challenges they face is building a unified technology platform offering an integrated and seamless experience for their agents and customers. Transitioning legacy systems intoscalable, less-costly platforms is a problem most large, well-established brokerages are dealing with.
Build IT or Buy IT?
When implementing a project to build a solid tech stack, brokerages can take one of two paths to solving this problem – build your own internally or outsource to vendors who specialize in each area. Of those that chose the DIY path, only one has been completed with partial success. The others have abandoned their projects in favor of the vendor-driven approach. Ultimately, real estate companies shouldn’t be software developers. That is why several years ago when Weichert embarked on a journey to modernize and streamline our technology,we opted foran integrated third-party model, with limited proprietary Weichert process and technology, except our selling system.
With 53 years of history accumulatingtechnical debt across a family of 19 companies, a phased approach made the most sense. The goal was to immediately improve our agent and customer experience while replacing legacy systems with solutions that delivered more scale and ongoing innovation, without the cost burden of a large development team. Our Weichert Tools platformwill integrate our partner platforms into anintegrated and cost-efficient environment. This way we can provide a low-cost backend that works with the full-service capabilities of a traditional brokerage.
For Phase One, we focused on the agents’ needs and changed the front-end with a digital storefront and connected CRM, and lead generation tools. Working with Inside Real Estate,kvCORE is customizedwith an integratedWeichert app store, Weichert Tools,Weichert company generated leads, and other key systems. Dubbed myWeichert, the appis a wonderful cloud-based digital marketing tool with integrated social media capabilities.
In addition to the technology investment, having a human resource that can train and support the agents is a critical component that can be an advantage for large brokerages. When deploying myWeichert, we also created a team of Marketing& Technology Specialists.Their mission was tointegrate myWeichert into Weichert’s selling system through training, then provide ongoing support to leverage the stream of new marketing content that is constantly being created. That veritable army of support resulted in an extremely high utilization rate for the platform.
As we moved to Phase Two, the idea was to add incrementally to the Weichert technology platform. Keeping to our agent-centric focus, the new phase will introduce SkySlope andgive agents an integrated forms, electronic signature, and transaction management platform. Phase Three will add the final, broker-centric layer to the stack, cloud-based commissions, and processing with Core Back Office.
The competitive advantage for Weichert is the fourth layer, our own proprietary solution -Weichert Tools - that sits above all platformsas aseamlessly integrated Weichert app store and the connection point for all third-party platforms to deliver seamless integration that matches our workflow, the Weichert Way.
Scalability Is Key, But Service Matters
The advantages in terms of operating costs are sizable once complete. However,running an old-school mainframe while also building and migrating to a cloud-based system gets costly fast. Brokerages need to sunset the older system cost to remain competitive. But doing that is no smaller feat. Newer firms have upended the old way of managing agents, and new technologies are driving widespread shifts in how companies handle these issues.
New virtual brokerages may have an advantage in speed; it’s easier to build from zero than transition legacy systems. They canoperate at a dramatically lower cost because everything from meetings to office space is virtual, and that lack of physical infrastructure and legacy systems has allowed them to scale bigger and quicker than older companies.
But the full-service resources offered by established brokerages can help them maintain a competitive edge. By developing their tech stack and complimenting it with the right resources, brokerages can offer agents and customers the full brokerage model with offices and business-building tools – like marketing, training and education, management, and process support. These are combined with integrated front-end storefronts for agents to generate leads, plus the back-end processing and online tools to convert them. In real estate, service matters – broker to agent and agent to customer. Combining tradition with technology is the best way to compete and succeed.
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