In August 2014, Realogy prevailed in its bold strategy to pursue Emeryville, Calif.-based ZipRealty, acquiring the innovative brokerage business and Zip’s proven end-to-end technology platform for $167 million. Following fast on the heels of that move, Realogy has been rolling out ZipRealty’s proprietary Zap® technology to the brokers, agents and consumers of the CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, ERA® and Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate franchise brands. Today, more than 500 Realogy franchise brokerages and 25,000-plus affiliated sales associates are up and running on the Zap platform. That’s where the real story begins…
After months of casually looking at homes online, a potential homebuyer decides it’s time to get serious about buying a home. She begins searching for homes in a specific area, looking for properties that have a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms and that fit into her price range. Spotting a couple of interesting possibilities, she saves those homes with the intention of coming back to them later, maybe visiting them if they’re open this weekend. Later that same day, a real estate agent with knowledge of the consumer’s search area gets an alert on her mobile device about the woman’s search activity and is advised that it’s time to reach out to this potential buyer. Before the consumer even thinks to call an agent about getting into those houses, the agent is contacting the potential buyer, armed with a sneak-peek window into the early stages of the consumer’s home-search process.
That’s the power of Zap. It’s not as dramatic as Clark Kent emerging from a phone booth as Superman, but Zap does give mild-mannered real estate agents and brokers real superpowers when it comes to identifying potential customers and accurately anticipating their service needs.
There are many real estate agent-technology platforms out there, but none operates quite like Zap. According to Lanny Baker, chief executive officer of ZipRealty, Zap is a fully integrated system that gives brokers and agents the ability to understand, anticipate and serve their clients’ needs.
“The power of Zap is that it provides the agent the ability to know who needs help, what help they need, and how to deliver that help even before they reach out for it,” Baker says.
The Realogy-Zap story began in early 2012. During a meeting of Realogy’s franchise brand senior leadership, a strategic recommendation was made to improve the company’s value proposition for its affiliated brokers by offering a turnkey technology solution.
“We identified what we wanted before it existed,” says Alex Perriello, president and chief executive officer, Realogy Franchise Group. “It was a grand idea, but the technology didn’t exist at the time. So the question was, ‘Do we build it, do we license it, or do we buy it?’ There was a lot of conversation and analysis surrounding those options, until we previewed the Zap platform several months later.”
Enter ZipRealty and its new Zap platform. A system 15 years in the making, it offered everything that Perriello and his team were looking for. After doing their due diligence, it was determined that buying the company and its technology was the best way to go. In August 2014, Realogy acquired ZipRealty for $167 million, including its owned brokerage offices that were subsequently integrated into NRT, Realogy’s owned brokerage segment.
“We decided we needed to own the company if it was going to be core to our franchisees’ future success,” Perriello explains. “You can have great technology, but without the talent in place to keep it cutting-edge, you will disappoint rather than amaze, and we always look to amaze.”
A big part of what made the Zap platform attractive to Realogy is that it was built and refined by a real estate brokerage company.
“The Zap technology was fine-tuned by real estate operators with first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day business,” says Perriello. “You can see that in every aspect of the platform—customer relationship management (CRM), websites, mobile apps. This was not technology for technology’s sake. It was designed to sell houses.”
The next decision Realogy made was to make Zap an integral part of its brands’ value propositions for their franchisees by providing it free of charge.
“Our franchisees told us they were investing in technology on the local level but not getting the results they wanted. So each year they invested more, but they felt like they were in danger of falling behind,” Perriello explains. “We decided it would be a great investment on our part to provide the Zap platform to them at no additional cost, because at the end of the day, our job is to make our franchisees more successful. When they win, we win.”
Zap is Interconnected
In addition to being created by a company with a firsthand understanding of how the real estate brokerage business works, the Zap platform stands out because of the way in which it is completely interconnected.
How does it all work? Simply put, Zap “captivates, predicts, informs and connects.”
With Zap, each participating brokerage receives a custom-branded website and mobile app that displays complete, accurate and up-to-date MLS listings surrounded by all kinds of relevant data, such as school information, lot lines, neighborhood profiles, price trends and transaction histories. The Zap platform allows consumers to create their own searches, dig deep into local market data, and save and share the results they find. Meanwhile, Zap sends automated notifications to agents, keeping them up-to-date on each individual consumer’s research activity. Configurable agent websites and agent-specific mobile app experiences provide marketing support that promotes the agent’s local expertise and service track record with other consumers.
Zap-powered agents gain tremendous insight about consumers’ behavior and interests, while the agent’s daily activities—touring homes, listing homes, showing properties, closing deals—are simultaneously cataloged and communicated to consumers through the same interconnected Zap system.