Integrated agent platforms offer a single software service that covers multiple stages of agent workflows. Many agents prefer this to using multiple software providers for CRM, CMAs, search, and other needs. Some brokerages build their own agent platforms.
For agents, these platforms solve the following problems.
For brokerages, agent platforms solve three immediate problems.
There are over a dozen major agent platforms. Most tend to be stronger for certain product functions and weaker in others. This is often because they evolved from a more-limited use case. For example, some agent platforms started as CRMs. But they added lead management features after enough customers requested that function. Others start as transaction management software or website builders. Often, agents or brokerages select platforms based on a this core strength. Some of the more popular platforms are BoomTown!, Chime, inside real estate, Market Leader, and MoxiWorks.
Not all brokerages and agents offer or use an agent platform. Agents or brokerages have to choose an agent platform over individual software services or simply pay for both. There are a number of advantages to using an agent platform over standalone software:
There are of course a number of disadvantages as well:
Brokerages take several different approaches to providing technology to agents. Many use agent platforms, but others build or acquire software.
Most brokerages don't build their own technology. Often, they partner with proven agent platforms. Most likely, these partnerships include a discount to the agent platform's standard rate. This is a common approach that many cloud brokerages take. Because cloud brokerages lack offices, technology is essential to serving agents remotely. For example, eXp Realty works with kvCORE to provide an end-to-end platform to agents. Real, another cloud brokerage, provides agents with Chime.
Other brokerages provide access to preferred software to replace or supplement supplied software. Keller Williams takes this approach. They offer their own internal tool set via KW Command. But they also have an internal software marketplace. For example, agents can access discounted subscriptions to partner providers such as Market Leader. Side, a tech-enabled brokerage, builds in-house technology. But it partners with MoxiWorks for CMAs. They likely view MoxiWorks as a strong product that would be too expensive to replicate.
Some brokerages choose to build or acquire their own integrated platforms. This decision is a large resource commitment. Zillow employs over 1,000 engineers. Redfin has over 200 on staff. Engineers cost over $150,000 per year in the US. That means Redfin is spending over $30 million a year on personnel to support its technology. For Zillow, it’s over $100M. For a brokerage to even begin competing with these companies on technology undertaking.
But building custom software has been an essential part of the tech-enabled brokerage business model. Often, this is in the interest of agent efficiency. For example, Redfin has built internal software that links their data across each stage of the customer journey. The helps full-time employee Redfin agents serve more customers than they could using traditional agent software focused on independent contractor use cases.
Brokerages also build their own technology to reduce service costs or generate greater fees from independent contractor agents. A good example is Side real estate, a high-touch modern brokerage. They provide workflow technology that is differentiated from competing offerings. It allows their agent teams to communicate better with support teams. This can appeal to agents who want their brokerage to provide differentiated tech. For Side, this likely lowers the cost of supporting and training agents. Similar approaches provide the following advantages:
Brokerages also build technology to drive consumer traffic. Building a strong consumer experience and brand is essential to competing with Zillow and other real estate portals. While an agent can't compete with a portal, their brokerage can. But that means the brokerage must get their agents to contribute unique data and engaging content to the brokerage platform. Otherwise, Zillow is always the preferable consumer experience. By building technology internally, a brokerage can try to capture and display listings and content from their agents. Much of this is trying to restore the power brokerages used to have. The brand of the brokerage used to matter a lot due to the listings it represented. Real estate portals largely eliminated this. By building an agent platform, a brokerage can make listings a part of their experience. This could mean posting listings on their website before Zillow. Or it might mean having custom data other portals don't offer. The goal for the brokerage is to help create a reason to visit their site in addition to Zillow's. And if a client believes that a brokerage has a unique listing advantage, they may care less about the agent and more about the brokerage. This helps attract agents who want better leads and ensures clients don't stop working with the brokerage if their agent leaves.
Finally, monetizing ancillary services becomes more effective with internal tools. There are restrictions on kickbacks for mortgage and other services. But brokerages may offer these services to generate more revenue from each client. Technology can lower the friction of using these ancillary services without violating laws in the area. This is usually accomplished by making a partner or attached service more visible to the client. These services are also more clearly built into agent's communications software, so they can more-easily pitch these offerings. The goal of these tools is to increase the attach rate of ancillary services. Third-party tools rarely support this behavior because most agents don't have this need.