Technology sucks. Everyone, at one point or another, has had this thought. For most, it’s because some system or tool isn’t working properly, doesn’t do something it should, or (even worse) costs too much. For every one person that loves the new program you just added, one person wants you to switch back to your previous vendor, and another one wants you to choose something completely different. Selecting the “right” suite of tools is a never-ending game of tag, and some days, all you want to do is call timeout!
And, this doesn’t even begin to touch the financial or legal side of technology. An additional—yet often overlooked—problem with having multiple systems is that you also wind up with multiple databases, contracts and fee schedules, all of which creates an enormous tangled web, locking you into your current tool sets, or buying your way out of costly contracts.
In an industry filled with so many technology options for so many different purposes, one challenge remains: Programs are rarely designed to truly work together. At each and every industry conference, attendees can find rows upon rows of technology vendors selling widgets, software, systems, tools, and more, all promising to “streamline your business.” There are literally hundreds of companies in the marketplace that claim to have solved the technology conundrum. Yet, there are few real estate companies able to effectively launch and market an integrated, proprietary platform on which brokers and agents can operate—in fact, HomeSmart International believes it is the only franchise to ever truly do so.
From transaction management to agent websites and everything in between, HomeSmart International believes it has won the technology game. By building an in-house technology company to create, maintain and continually improve its proprietary, end-to-end platform, HomeSmart is able to provide one integrated system for brokers, enabling agents to access and use the systems at no additional cost. According to HomeSmart International, the company has taken control of its technical future and refuses to be held hostage by contracts, the latest and greatest tech startups, or anything else in surrounding spaces that may impact the real estate industry. The company has created an environment where it has the ability to assess the needs of consumers, agents and brokers, carving its own path through the tech maze.
Tech and Real Estate Get Equal Billing
“We function as much as a Silicon Valley software development company as we do a real estate franchising company,” says Matt Widdows, HomeSmart International founder and chief executive officer.
When Widdows created the integrated, end-to-end technology platform on which all brokerage operations and agent business can run, he did so because there simply wasn’t anything in the marketplace that could offer everything he believes brokers and agents need to be able to effectively service consumers.
Prior to becoming a successful real estate agent, Widdows developed a software company in the medical industry, which he later sold. His desire to “find a better way” is the driving force behind everything HomeSmart does.
“I founded HomeSmart because I needed change as a real estate agent and no one else in the industry offered what I was looking for,” says Widdows. “So, I built a system for myself and ultimately parlayed that technology first into a brokerage management system, and now, a franchise management system.”
Since its inception, HomeSmart International has operated solely on the company’s proprietary, end-to-end technology. Yes, you read that correctly—no third-party vendors, no outside systems. Widdows believes so firmly in the company’s technology ecosystem that he’s invested in a deep bench, and will continue to invest in the development arm of the organization, to best meet the needs of brokers, agents and consumers. Today, more than 16 years later, Widdows’ unique concept has attracted nearly 11,000 agents to more than 94 offices in 15 states.
“We don’t believe in technology for technology’s sake,” says Ashley Bowers, president and chief operating officer at HomeSmart International. “Technology is a means to provide a consistent and excellent customer service experience for our brokers, agents and consumers alike.”
A Truly Unique Tech Offering
Nowadays, almost every real estate company boasts technology as a differentiator. So, what really makes HomeSmart’s offering more unique than any other? At HomeSmart, broker/owners get eight different technology systems rolled into one platform. That’s right—one login, one URL, one system, which feeds data to and from each of the other systems. And, because the technology is built, sustained and updated in-house, there isn’t an additional incremental cost to add more agents to the system. In fact, HomeSmart agents pay nothing to get the end-to-end technology…and brokers don’t, either. It’s all included for all HomeSmart brokers or agents, anywhere in the United States.
“Our ability to scale technology platforms in-house is what enables us to provide everything to agents and brokers for free,” says Widdows. “We aren’t paying per-user fees to outside vendors, so we’re able to provide access to all agents and brokers, and our adoption rates are through the roof.”
One-hundred percent of HomeSmart brokers and agents are on the company’s transaction management system, perhaps making it the only franchisor that is completely paperless in all brokerage offices and with that level of adoption.
Because the technology drives consistency and quality service across the nation, it enables HomeSmart to provide centralized services from its corporate office in Scottsdale, Ariz. For instance, an agent in New York or Chicago is on the same system as an agent in Portland or San Diego, ensuring that the consumer in each location gets a consistent experience when they select a HomeSmart agent. HomeSmart’s technology is oriented for the sole purpose of providing incredible customer service to consumers, agents and franchisees.
Simplifying Services for Brokers
In early 2015, HomeSmart International launched its Centralized Services division, providing a menu of services to franchisees at a much lower rate than brokers would normally pay if they were to staff up and provide these services themselves. Today, services in this division include recruiting and marketing, agent support, agent retention initiatives and virtual reception, with other offerings scheduled to become available in 2017.
“Through Centralized Services, we are able to show the broker what to do and then take it a step further and even do it for them,” says Bowers. “The purpose behind this is to free up the franchise owner from some of these time-consuming activities to better focus on providing leadership and guidance to agents, helping them grow.”
Over the last 15 months, the recruiting arm of HomeSmart’s Centralized Services division has set more than 7,000 appointments and hired close to 500 agents to 31 franchises within the HomeSmart family. Since launching the program, two-thirds of all HomeSmart franchisees have leveraged the company’s Centralized Services at varying levels. At the heart of the recruiting engine for HomeSmart is a new, fully-staffed call center, which manages all outbound recruiting calls and scheduling for the individual franchises using the service.
“Streamlining these services for our franchisees positively impacts their brokerages by helping them grow at a faster rate while also saving money on hiring employees for these task-oriented positions, which we are better staffed for,” explains Widdows.
In recent years, HomeSmart International has garnered much attention and many accolades for growth and future-forward plans. To date in 2016, the HomeSmart brand has increased its agent count by a net-positive 10 percent and grown its franchise base by 26 percent, with several additional brokerages slated to open in the fourth quarter of the year. Historically, HomeSmart has bucked against the tradition of the real estate industry, always thinking outside the box and looking for new ways to innovate. It’s that same unique approach that has taken HomeSmart International down a less traveled path toward an end goal intended to revolutionize the way the real estate industry thinks about the integration between service and technology.
“Practicing real estate, owning a brokerage and providing a consistently amazing customer service experience doesn’t have to be as hard as everyone makes it out to be,” says Widdows. “No other company can provide the same quality systems and tools we do while also jumping in to help brokers grow and manage success in so many aspects of the business.”
Given the technological advances HomeSmart International has made to propel the industry forward, it’s obvious why agents and brokers nationwide are jumping on board to exceed goals, systemize the real estate business and provide high levels of service to consumers.
Technology Applications Built to Support Your Business
From a brokerage standpoint, having access to integrated technology means having the ability to scale and grow affordably. Likewise, to agents, the technology HomeSmart provides cuts operating expenses and saves time by having everything that is needed in one place, for free.
RealSmart Broker – RealSmart Broker is the central hub from which the brokerage operates. It centralizes paperwork, broker-to-agent communications and operations regardless of whether a franchise has one office or 20. Its paperless transaction system allows for maximum efficiency by giving 24/7 access so broker/owners can quickly track and manage productivity. This guarantees smooth transaction review with a high level of accountability.
- Transaction Management
- Broker Website
- Agent Services
- Broker Review
RealSmart Agent – RealSmart Agent is the central hub from which all agent business is conducted. In this one system, agents can access all listing information, transaction documentation, business-planning goals, custom marketing materials, websites, and much more. This one login gives agents access to everything they need to run and grow a successful real estate business.
- Custom virtual tours
- Buyer home search
- Personal agent websites
- Listing websites
- Search engine submission of listings to 2,000+ websites
- Custom YouTube video for each listing
- Automated listing flyers
- Transaction management
- Broker communication
- Product catalog
- IVR MLS Integration
- MLS Phone Search
– Caller ID for lead generation
– MLS information by text
– Property availability for agents
– Read description of property to customer
- Phone System Auto Attendant
– Agent directory integrated with RSB agent roster
– Auto-transfer to agent preferred phone
– User definable touch-tone directory
– After-hours directory
- Centralized Agent Services (Agent Support)
– Answer incoming agent questions
– Technology support for agents
– Remote/webinar training for agents
- Centralized Agent Recruiting & Marketing (Recruiting Support)
– Marketing creative
– Contact center – outbound calling to recruits and existing agents (retention)
– Appointment setting
– Email marketing
– Video creation
– Benefits explanation to recruits
- Centralized SmartAccess
(Remote Keycard Entry)
– Honeywell keycard access control
– Integration with RealSmart Broker for agent access card management
– Integration to SmartReception for remote door unlocking/locking
– Full reporting of user access and auditing
- Centralized SmartReception
– Proprietary centralized receptionist for all offices utilizing the service
– Remote notification of visitor arrival
– Two-way video and voice communication
– Integration with SmartAccess for remote door unlocking/locking
– Scheduled coverage with HomeSmart Centralized Services for when live receptionists are out to lunch or out of the office
– Video banner advertising for recruiting, affiliates, etc., remotely managed
SmartSites (Agent Website)
- Agent-branded website
- Full IDX-enabled with powerful consumer search
- Customer relationship marketing (CRM) tool
- Comparative market analysis (CMA) tool
- Drip marketing system
- Lead capture from consumer visitors
SmartTools (Automated Marketing Tools)
- SmartFlyer (Automated custom listing flyers)
- SmartTube (YouTube property videos for each listing)
- SmartGallery (Custom listing websites)
- SmartTour (Custom buyer tours)
- SmartSearch (Easy buyer searches)
- SmartSES (Automatic search engine submission of listings to 2,000+ websites)
The Numbers Don’t Lie
- 5000® – HomeSmart has held a place on the prestigious list of the fastest-growing companies in the United States for several years. In 2016, the company ranked No. 611 out of 5000 other companies in all industries, representing a 642-percent, three-year increase on the list.
- 223 percent increase in agent growth over the last five years.
- Entrepreneur® Low Cost Franchises® – HomeSmart has ranked for the last three years for being an affordable franchise option for brokers.
- RISMedia’s Power Broker Report – Three HomeSmart franchises were ranked on RISMedia’s 2016 Power Broker Report for their success in 2015: HomeSmart Phoenix/Denver/Palm Springs (No. 9 in transaction sides and No. 14 in sales volume), HomeSmart Evergreen Realty (No. 318 in transaction sides and No. 151 in sales volume), and HomeSmart Realty West (No. 447 in transaction sides and No. 362 in sales volume).
- Tools 4 School by HomeSmart – Each year, HomeSmart actively participates in numerous charitable outreach projects. This past summer, the company raised more than $35,000 in multiple states to provide backpack kits and school supplies to more than 3,000 underprivileged children to prepare to go back to school ready to learn.
- HomeSmart Phoenix was ranked No. 1 Residential Real Estate Brokerage by Phoenix Business Journal.
- HomeSmart Utah grew from zero to nearly 200 agents in just three-and-a-half years.
- HomeSmart Realty West (Carlsbad, Calif.) grew to 450 agents in four-and-a-half years.
- HomeSmart Professionals Real Estate (Rhode Island) went from zero to 120+ agents in just over two years.
- HomeSmart Connect Real Estate (Chicago, Ill.) expanded from five to 145+ agents in two-and-a-half years.
- HomeSmart Realty Group (Salem, Ore.) joined HomeSmart in 2014 with no agents and just surpassed 145 agents to become the largest office by agent count in the market.
- HomeSmart Evergreen Realty (Orange County, Calif.) recruited 365+ agents in four years under the HomeSmart brand, and is now at more than 1,100 agents with seven offices.
- HomeSmart Phoenix grew by more than 1,000 agents in 2015 and ranked as the No. 1 residential real estate brokerage in Arizona for the last several years.
To learn more about HomeSmart International, visit www.HomeSmart.com.
For more information about the real estate technology landscape, visit www.RealEstateTechSucks.com.