Chris Heller, the chief real estate officer at OJO Labs, says the interest in the platform shows how the industry’s feeling on referral networks has evolved.
Less than three months after announcing its exclusive agent referral program, OJO Lab’s OJO Select Network is officially live nationwide. Chris Heller, the company’s chief real estate officer, says the lightning quick pace at which the platform scaled is evidence of the industry’s 360-turn on referral networks in general.
In the past few years, if a company launched a platform like the OJO Select Network — which allows pre-vetted “top agents” to receive warm leads and pay a portion of their commission on closed deals — there would have been pushback Heller said, citing agent opposition to realtor.com embracing the Opcity model.
I know three, four or five years ago, if a company was introducing this type of program where they were charging a 35 percent referral fee, there would have been — and there was when other companies and even realtor.com changed their model — a lot of resistance,” Heller told Inman.
“Now, agents and brokerages are more accustomed to these types of programs so you have agents seeking more of these and wanting to be members of the OJO Select Network, or the Dave Ramsey network, or HomeLight or Referral Exchange or any of those.”
OJO announced it was launching its OJO Select Network in late September, eyeing only top agents in each market with a minimum barrier to entry. On December 3, the platform was live nationally, with the company seeking participating agents in any market where there’s inventory on OJO’s Movoto real estate listings portal, Heller told Inman.
Since taking the platform live, Heller said there have been a couple of insights that surprised he and his team, specifically that demand doesn’t seem to be slowing down in December.
“December is still trending like previous months, which is a tremendous amount of buyer activity,” Heller said. “It’s been great for us because it allows us to introduce that many more consumers with real estate agents.”
The other thing that has surprised Heller is how far down the pipeline consumers already are, when they reach out to OJO Labs to be connected to an agent through the Movoto platform. These leads are immediately turning in showings, offers and pending sales, because consumers that are reaching out are already so far down the path, Heller said.
The transactions are also coming together so quickly because OJO is particular about the agents with which it works. To participate in the network, agents must have at least three years of experience and 25 closed transactions in the past year. Those requirements are laxer in less competitive markets.
“The agents that do this at a high level, that really know how to serve consumers, move much more quickly, they ask better questions, they’re more direct in their conversations which helps the consumer move in the direction they want to move at a much faster pace,” Heller said.
Now that the platform is live in every market, OJO is focused on finding the right balance between recruiting more agents to participate, while simultaneously ensuring the agents that are participating get enough leads. To help the agents already part of the platform, OJO is investing in driving more traffic to Movoto, the real estate listing portal it acquired earlier this year.
“We try to balance it so the agents that we are introducing to consumers get a meaningful amount of introductions so they view this source for their business to be a really important one,” Heller said.