Real Estate

How Indie Brokers Can Compete With Giants on Technology

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, a pair of successful brokers advised indies to focus on tech integration and to not let their solutions get too complicated.

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The past several years have seen massive disruption in real estate thanks to a proliferation of new technology. But while much of that disruption has come from and focused on major firms, a pair of independent brokers argued Wednesday that indies can compete if they’re smart and piece together the right solutions.

“On the independent side you can use whatever the heck you want,” Therese Antonelli, broker-owner of Detroit-based brokerage Moving The Mitten Real Estate Group. “It’s fly by the seat of your pants. You see something new and you can try it.”

Antonelli made the comment while on stage for a session of Inman Connect titled “Which Operating Platforms Are Best for Your Indie Brokerage?” True to the session’s name, Antonelli shared a number of tips about specific tech providers she uses to run her company.

For example, she uses Firepoint for her customer relationship manager (CRM), which she described as “life changing for our company.”

From left to right, Mike Hogan, Therese Antonelli and Lane Hornung on stage at Inman Connect Wednesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

But Antonelli also offered tips for other company leaders looking to find the best platforms. For instance, she said brokers should pay special attention to how well any particular technology will work with systems a brokerage already employs.

“The very important question to ask a lot of these tech companies is ‘how will you integrate with our systems?’” Antonelli said.

She went on to recall having signed contracts with tech vendors in the past, then never being able to get those platforms to integrate with the tools the brokerage already liked. As a result, Antonelli was left paying a “ridiculous amount” of money for technology that was effectively doing nothing. The lesson, she stressed, is for brokers to check beforehand to avoid such a scenario.

Mike Hogan, founder and CEO of the Virginia-based Hogan Group Real Estate — also appeared on stage during the session. His company has also gone through the vetting process for different technologies, and noted that there are “vendors for every possible scenario.”

“There’s no shortage of technology for problems we don’t have,” he added.

His advice was to opt for shorter contracts with vendors, for example six months rather than a year, because doing so keeps tech companies on their toes and forces them to work to keep a brokerage’s business. And he advised against getting caught up in new and complicated options.

“We just try to keep it simple,” Hogan said. “You don’t have to be extravagant.”

From left to right, Mike Hogan, Therese Antonelli and Lane Hornung on stage at Inman Connect Wednesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

In the end, both Hogan’s and Antonelli’s companies have managed to survive while remaining independent by cobbling together their own technology solutions into a full, comprehensive system. And according to Lane Hornung — CEO and co-founder of startup Zavvie, and the moderator of Wednesday’s session — that’s one of the best things about this current moment in real estate. 

This is the golden age of technology that is accessible and affordable,” Hornung said.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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