Coldwell Banker CEO: Building Technology for Real Estate is a ‘Nightmare’

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In 2013, Inman News publisher Brad Inman outlined a vision for an easier and faster real estate transaction that would be as easy and hassle-free as ordering a latte. But in this nearly decade, with the real estate flooding of venture capital, how close has the industry come to realizing that vision?

Not so much, according to panelists at Inman Connect New York on Thursday.

“Are We Confusing Progress With Movement?” in a session entitled panelists M. Ryan Gorman, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, and Brian Donnellan, CEO of Bright MLS, answered this question mostly positively.

“There is a lot of movement and not a lot of movement,” Donnellan told the participants.

“It’s taking so long to get where we need to go, and I think there are many reasons for that.”

First, he said, developing technology for brokers and agents is not easy. Bright, the country’s second-largest multi-listing service, suffered multiple outages for several days earlier this month, sparking outrage among some subscribers.

“We have 100,000 independent contractors in our market, all doing something different, wanting something different,” he said.

“You move something and half the people hate it.”

He added that the process itself is complex and companies should ask themselves what problem they are trying to solve, adding that legacy technology often stands in their way.

“I think there is progress,” he said. “Just really slow.”

According to Gorman, most brokers and brokers in the industry do not see particular issues as they belong to only one of the 500+ MLS, whereas companies like Coldwell Banker own almost all of them.

“Trying to please people is a nightmare,” he said. “Most of the dissatisfaction people have, like help desk tickets, [with] People who call, ‘Hey, this thing isn’t true,’ are falling back on master data management standards or what we don’t agree with.”

For example, if an MLS subscriber wants to buy a particular product they saw on Connect, that doesn’t mean they can, according to Gorman.

“You can’t have it because it’s not in your MLS,” he said. “Like 180 MLS but not yours. I’m glad you’re excited [but] You’ll have to wait three and a half years or maybe for the MLSs to come together, this weird brute-force attack to really try to get somewhere standard, somewhere we’d be able to get if we really cooperated and focused. The problem is trying to make it easy for everyone to work.”

This hurdle is not something agents face as consumers of other products, Gorman said.

“When was the last time you downloaded an app and they said, ‘Oh, sorry, this service is not available for you’?” said.

“It bothers us that an Uber takes around 13 minutes and there’s a human coming to us, let alone the technology you can download and use.”

According to Gorman, venture capital, which has revolutionized other industries, hasn’t really made a difference in transactions.

“Billions of dollars,” Gorman said. “We invested in developing more processes than we probably spent on our first moon trip, and it’s basically the same, I don’t know, 15, 20, 180 years.”

“It’s a pretty slow move, partly because I don’t know if people really know how good this could be,” he added. “And if you don’t know how good that can be, how motivated are you really to engage in some of the dialogues necessary to get there?”

Too many people invest in the status quo, according to Donnellan.

“We have a lot of people who are self-interested,” he said. “We have to accept what’s not right about what’s going on here and actually get somewhere and fix it, otherwise someone else will and probably won’t include the players here in this room. It’s going to be someone else.

“But today there are people who invest in what they have. And that doesn’t help us go elsewhere. To be honest, it has prevented venture capital from moving faster because of the fragmented parts of the business. But at some point, it will all go digital and someone will be able to pick it up.”

According to Gorman, the “organization” part of organized real estate – agents, brokers, brands, MLSs and industry associations – should not stand in the way of progress.

“We are swimming in the organization,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem like we have clear goals to go after it really aggressively, and I think that could make a huge difference. If we do that, venture capital can move faster. Complexity benefits incumbents. So part of the resistance is some awareness of that, I think. ”

Gorman added that trying to work through organized real estate logistics is a “nightmare.”

“We’re an established company and we’re leaders in most of the markets we operate in, so we could kind of benefit from keeping things mostly the same, sort of, but if we really reach a point of standardization, all these unintended positive results from it,” he said.

“Less money spent harmfully. More efficiency. The ability to move faster, deliver extraordinary experiences. Of course, you may have less ditch, but the experience you offer is much more rewarding.”

As someone who has bought hundreds of companies, Gorman said consolidation wasn’t the most efficient way to get there.

“Actual collaboration on some of these standards will go much faster and may then allow standardization to go faster or consolidation to go faster as well,” he said.

Donnellan noted that he would sometimes call Gorman with an idea and Gorman would say, “That’s great,” but he couldn’t do that because he had to coordinate with the other 500 MLS.

“Trying to really help some people solve problems is a real problem,” Donnellan said. “The experience thing is probably one of the worst conversations I’ve ever had in my experience, but it has to happen. That’s where the speed starts, where [brokers] they can really do something and start creating a really great consumer experience because they can really do it faster. In fact, they can evolve faster.”

The lack of standardization also prevents top developers from entering real estate, according to Donnellan.

“The best cannot excel in these fields,” he said. “This is something we really need to find a way to address: How do the best get an easier way to get things done?”

According to Gorman, the pursuit of the perfect standard can become an obstacle to consolidation when one party is convinced that there is only one correct way to describe something like the number of bathrooms in a home.

“There is a notion that we need to reach the best standard; like, not really,” he said. “I think a lot of people are looking for Esperanto out there. It’s like, ‘Let’s keep talking forever until we develop the perfect standard and then we’ll spread it all over’.

Donnellan concurred, noting that when MRIS and TREND combined to form Bright, it was “a holy war over the farm, the crook and something else. It pretty much pulled down the entire consolidation.”

Panel moderator Sam DeBord, CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization, noted that both Coldwell Banker and Bright are building their own software, but Gorman said he didn’t build it because his company wanted it.

“If there’s a truly unique experience we can create, we build for it, it’s great, we’re excited,” he said. “Or if there is something we need that is not yet provided, we usually do a pretty thorough RFP and talk to everyone in the space and we actually hear a lot of their words about how they can scale to meet our needs, but just watch them collapse. This process results in our need to develop something.”

If third-party companies could scale nationwide and “didn’t spend all their time trying to fix interruptions around MLSs or different data streams, and that’s where they spend a lot of time regardless”, Coldwell Banker would use more third parties. party products “and just invest our magic in a truly unique, differentiated experience,” he added.

Gorman said he’d like to see more standards for who a list actually belongs to.

“We would have standards for listing the agent adjective, it’s a passion point for me, but it should be a passion point for everyone,” he said.

“But we don’t. If we [did], everyone would just have to take it. I don’t care how impressive your app or website is, you have to follow this standard because it’s our standard. We, as the industry, have decided that the list of brokers will be represented and associated in a certain way and that everyone must abide by it. It’s easy for someone to come in and basically not do it because we’re screwed.”

Donnellan said the next few years will be crucial to what the industry will look like five years from now, and that participants need to understand how they are part of solving these problems.

Gorman encouraged attendees to seek action from management teams and Realtor associations.

“Request answers to why my MLS region isn’t on the list of vendors I just saw at the conference,” he said. “There are very specific reasons for this, and I’m guessing you won’t be completely impressed by them when you hear them.

“Demand to know what the answers are and then ‘Well, that’s [sounds] like blaming, can we really get past this and go to a better place?’ If you do that… we will all be able to move faster and achieve better things.”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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