KEEPING UP TO DATE WITH technology is a priority on most business owner’s lists, but for Glenn Sanford, CEO of eXp Realty, technology has become the backbone for success. eXp Realty is a unique agent-owned cloud brokerage that is leading in innovation by bringing the team together in a virtual office.
STARTING IN 2009 with just 25 agents, eXp Realty has grown to over 700 agents and is one of the fastest-growing real estate firms in the United States. It is also by far the most innovative, using cutting-edge web-based and social media marketing techniques along with virtual technology, with agents based across the United States and Canada working in a cloud office environment.
Put simply, eXp realty agents collaborate in an online 3D environment, working from their homes, own offices and coffee shops; they attend meetings, weekly classes and training sessions, while having real-time access to transaction and marketing teams. Agents are maximising their efficiency by using the best technology available today and providing quality services to both homeowners and home-buyers.
Sellers receive full service and innovative marketing to list their home both locally and nationally, with teams collaborating across the country to maximise the exposure the home receives. Transactions are managed three ways, between broker, agent and administration staff.
Because of its unique approach to real estate, eXp was a finalist for the Innovator Award for Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise Category in 2011 (Inman News).
Elite Agent caught up with Glenn Sanford to ask some questions about how the model works and why it has been so successful for eXp.
How does the cloud agency model work?
We have moved away from the traditional bricks and mortar to a ‘cloud-based’ office, which allows people to start work when they want to. If you are going to work in a traditional office, you have to physically get dressed, get in your car, fill up with some gas and drive to work. There’s an hour to two hours of prep time to go to and from the office that totally is not as productive as it could be.
Our model is different to a ‘virtual’ agent model, it’s more collaborative. Virtualists tend to be very transactional. You send an email and get a reply back; but you don’t have what takes place in a physical office because you don’t have people walking down the hallways, having conversations just randomly. You don’t have that sense of community. That was the piece we wanted to solve, so we designed our own system.
You can see in our cloud office avatars are literally walking through hallways: we are seeing people, we’re having conversations, we get to meet and know everybody. As a result of this, agents don’t feel like they’re alone. With the way that we operate, literally you get up in the morning, you’re drinking a cup of coffee in the front office in avatar and because it’s an avatar you can have a bad hair day and nobody cares. It’s not like you are turning on a video camera and doing a Google hangout or Skype.
What sort of technology allows you to do this?
We’re using a technology similar to Second Life [a free 3D virtual world where users socialise and connect using free voice and text chat]. You can visit our YouTube channel to watch a whole bunch of videos. There can be 50, 60, 100 people in the office at any given time and they can literally move from room to room, just like a traditional office. We’ll share screens, do different things based on what’s going on. It’s literally the social piece that’s missing from virtual world apps.
Could you take a client to a meeting in the virtual world?
You very well could. But when you’re involved in client work there is always value in being face-to-face and having those conversations. Our cloud office solves the problem of allowing brokers and staff to work where they want to and also have a community they are part of. They just log on; at any time they can just jump in from anywhere in the world and be part of it. At the moment, I’m travelling around the country to meet our brokers face-to- face, so that side of it is still important.
How do you ensure your agents have the best resources?
We look for the best technology and software so agents can run their business.
We provide CRM, websites, group versions of Google Apps, social media presence, Facebook, private groups, conversations. We’re always at the best ways to capture leads for our agents on the web; we help them cultivate those leads and to close the transactions.
What is it about your program agents are most attracted to?
They get a little better financial model and can, in essence, earn more than they would in a more traditional brokerage. We’re big technologists as well and you have a leadership that understands internet, regeneration, websites, all the modern ways; and we’re very good at the coaching and consulting side.
Our agents are also shareholders in the company. When we grow, their equity increases in value. That’s a big win for them as well and it makes us pretty unique.
What’s the goal for the next 12 months?
Maintaining our growth trajectory and making sure we also provide a high level of service to our agents, since our agent is our customer.