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The changing roles of real estate

Once upon a time, a real estate agency comprised a principal, sales agents and a handful of support staff. Now, with big data and technology coming to the fore, the traditional real estate roles are changing with the times. Ahead of the Business of Real Estate Conference, Kylie Dulhunty looks at US game changer Compass and a new Melbourne agency shaking things up.

Take a look at the careers page for US real estate startup Compass and you’ll notice something odd.

Most of the jobs aren’t for real estate agents.

Instead, there are a plethora of positions not traditionally seen in real estate.

There are engineers, product developers, data analysts, machine learning scientists, creative managers and even motion designers.

Not too long ago a real estate agency consisted of a principal, a handful of selling agents, administration staff and, maybe, a property management department.

Times are changing. 

Increasingly data is changing the way we view real estate, and technology is altering the way a transaction occurs, from listing presentation to key handover.

Compass is leading the charge, but Australian agencies are following suit, with an array of in-house positions aimed at providing streamlined service and results.

You could be forgiven for thinking Compass was solely another tech company in an increasingly busy space.

And it is part tech company, but it’s what it does with that technology that has dramatically changed the traditional real estate model. 

Agents join the Compass fold as independents in charge of their own business and pay Compass commission and receive access to a suite of tools and apps to help them grow their business.

Compass recently completed their series G funding raising another $370M on a $6.4 valuation, likely en route to an IPO.

According to Forbes, it has 165 offices, 7,000 agents and more than 1,000 employees nationwide.

Its homegrown real estate platform gives agents the technological tools to simplify the buying and selling process for vendors, sellers and the agents themselves.

Kevin Patsel moved to Compass two years ago after 15 years at traditional brokerages Vanguard Properties and Coldwell Banker.

Kevin Patsel Compass Real Estate

As sales manager at Ghirardelli Square, Compass’s flagship office in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kevin immediately noticed a big difference.

“I came from two traditional brokerages and the staff we had, in addition to agents, were usually reception, marketing and maybe an operation or admin person,” he says.

“That was all we had to work with, but we knew no better.

“At Compass, my sole focus is on the agents and making sure they are developing, that they have a business plan in place and that they are happy.

“Then I’m a conduit to bring all of the different support that’s available together.

“Every agent that comes in has at least five different people they can go to for support, including a sales manager, a marketing adviser and an agent success manager.”

That’s before you get to Compass’s suite of tech add-ons, which have been created by engineers, developers, product managers and data scientists that used to work for companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook.

The tools give agents the ability to optimise their workday, determine the best time to list, price properties more accurately, better understand their clients and their needs, and reach prospective buyers wherever they live.

Compass Collections allows agents to save homes that match their clients’ criteria, invite buyers to view a collection, comment on properties and answer client questions, and receive immediate price and status updates on all properties saved to the collection.

“Collections has become the staple of the product suite,” Kevin says.

“It’s the Pinterest of real estate where agents and clients can share notes about properties, get a better idea of what a client wants and doesn’t want in a property, and work collaboratively together.

“You can even invite spouses, or your mother-in-law, to view a collection to help make those tough decisions.”

Agents use the Marketing Centre daily to access automatically-generated collateral around occasions such as Mother’s Day or select from a library of templates they can personalise.

“There’s fresh content every day from mini video clips to graphic artwork,” Kevin says.

“Then you have the templates that are easy to use and adaptable with the agents’ photos for things like just listed properties or just sold properties.”

Compass Insights offers a smorgasbord of data on everything from listing view numbers to the time spent on each listing and which social and digital advertising channels are performing best.

Compass Markets gives agents up-to-the-minute real estate data at their fingertips, including the most recent transactions and historical sales and trends.

Kevin says another major way Compass is different is its Concierge program, which gives vendors interest-free loans to complete home improvements, including renovations and staging.

The money is paid back when the property sells.

“A lot of the time people are cash poor,” Kevin says.

“They have money, but it’s tied up in their home, and they need money beforehand to spend on adjustments to attract the best price.”

Kevin, along with fellow Compass agent Christine Krenos, will share Compass’s winning secrets at The Business of Real Estate on September 9 and 10 on the Gold Coast.

Christine Krenos

Before real estate, Christine worked in hospitality management, including in a major supervisory role on the opening team of The Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles.

Before coming to Compass, Christine was an agent at Sotheby’s, and now she sells largely in the Napa and Sonoma valleys.

“Compass is more about you and your brand, rather than them and their brand,” she says.

“It’s a whole different mindset. We don’t work for Compass; Compass works for us.”

“We all own our own business and Compass creates tools, technology, to help me better serve my clients.”

Christine says the tools Compass provides are updated often, with agents’ feedback regularly resulting in tweaks and improvements.

“I work in a land-intensive area, but the company is New York founded, and the city is a little different to the country,” she says.

“In the wine country, we need options and choices that say vineyards. So things that you need in my market, that you don’t need in Dallas or Miami, have been added.”

Internal referrals are another Compass strength, with Christine recently referred a $20 million listing from the Dallas office.

For that same property she was also able to access an in-house designer to create unique marketing collateral quickly.

“Compass really is a network,” Christine says.

“You get better support, not only in the quantity of support but the quality of it.

“Compass is more dialled into you and your brand.

“The marketing and tech support is there, on site, waiting for you.

“For that $20 million listing the standard template wasn’t going to be acceptable so Compass created something just for it.”

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