New Mexico Brokerage Eschews Brick and Mortar; Going with Tech-based Virtual Office Model

April 22nd, 2014 – in technology

While most Real Estate brokerages are engaged in a battle with competitors over potential clients and listings, a New Mexico firm has decided to flip its business model. It built tech services for any agent interested in self-lead generation and marketing, unloaded many of its agents, and gave up its storefront.

Venture Realty Group, in Albuquerque, gave up its office for good more than three months ago.

“We wanted to focus on building technology products in-house,” broker Travis Thom (@VentureRealty) said. “We wanted agents who could leverage those (products); we wanted agents that were going to be committed to the brand … of how we think of ourselves: A marketing agency that happens to sell Real Estate.”

Thom and his business partner, who also happens to be his wife, have been heading in a technologically driven direction for several years, so the current transformation was not unexpected to their agents. The brokerage started by testing out mobile apps and other services as they became available, and eventually realized that this tech was more valuable to them than their office.

The firm was an early adapter of Open Home Pro and iPads, of back-end transaction software, and lead generation.

“We were finding ourselves a little more free and not tethered to a desk,” Thom said. “We started to enjoy the automation and efficiency of technology.”

They also noticed that most of their agents stopped coming in to the office regularly because they were able to do everything from their homes or the field.

“They were given a better way to fish,” Thom said. “That allowed them to be more mobile.”

Some of the agents had to be trained about the functionalities of their phones, while the firm cut back on positions and helped those who were not comfortable with the change to find work elsewhere. Venture Realty went from having 26 agents on staff, to five.

“We want agents who are tech-savvy,” Thom said.

The company has developed two tools for the Real Estate industry: Single-property websites and lead generation software Leads2Listing. It already has agent clients in Austin, Tex., Denver, Chicago, San Diego and Palm Beach, Fla. This has all gone according to Thom’s plan of emphasizing education and cooperation of agents nationwide. He said he is happy to share his tech and marketing strategy and success with others.

Denver Real Estate agent Stephanie Cone had just set up a profile on Leads2Listing, using an advertising template developed by Thom, when she started seeing the benefits. Cone, who works for Cherry Creek Properties, shared the ad page on social media and using Google Adwords

"Within days I had mounds of leads to follow up on," she said. And one man who found the ad page despite searching for another service, turned a family member into a client.

"He was so impressed with my marketing; this little lead capture website, that he said 'You surely must know what you're doing,'" Cone said. "So now I'm helping his daughter by a house. And it was all through I site that I set up in under an hour."

The work of the five agents who stayed on at Venture Realty has not taken a hit by the business model changes, agent Joel Sanchez said.

“We’re focusing on driving traffic through our website,” said Sanchez, who has been with the firm for three years. “Most of my business now is through referral and web-generated leads. We’re at a point now where … we’re almost creating our own web lead services, similar to that Zillow was doing in the early ‘00s.”

Sanchez is using his firm’s technology to build a database of leads. More importantly, his job continues to be about helping his clients buy and sell homes.

“It’s a very fine-toothed web that we’re casting, without having to spend ungodly amounts of money,” he said.

Thom said he envisions a small percentage of other brokerages following the same business model over the next few years, but that most of them will be larger companies with extra money and resources to develop technology.

“There’s a lot of room for innovation and evolution for new products built by other agents,” he said.

And as long as agents remember that they need to be present for their clients, the influx of technology is good for everyone involved.

“There’s always going to be the human element of helping (clients) through the emotion element of selling or buying,” he said.

Author: Roman Gokhman