Attack of the real estate concierges

Day 2 of Inman Connect was full of what the conference does best: #meetingsonmeetingsonmeetings. 

Brad interviewing News Corp CEO Robert Thomson on the mainstage was a highlight. The globe-trotting discussion hit on many topics, which shined with insight thanks to Thomson's broad knowledge and experience and Brad's piercing interviewing skills.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson -- so smart, knowledgeable, global #publishergoals

A photo posted by Paul Hagey (@hageyoak) on

One big insight from a media honcho that all of us already knew and is becoming clearer and clearer: distributors have a stranglehold on publishing. Think Facebook, Snapchat (BuzzFeed got over a fifth of its traffic from SC, the media firm's CEO said last September). Content, good or bad, tend to be treated equally by distributors. Of course, definitions for good and bad are up in the air, but the point remains, and Thomson made it clearly.

Attack of the real estate concierges

Another trend (I touched on Tuesday): the gap between lead-generation and conversion, and the human-powered solutions now proliferating. What bot?

Let's list some of them:

  • Zillow Group's doing it with the nearly-year-old Premier Agent Concierge, which involves a boiler room of human lead first responders who text, call and email Zillow Group-generated leads on agent advertisers' behalf, turning them over when they're qualified. 
  • There's Rokrbox, which also launched last year. It features a legion of humans available to hunt your leads 80 hours each week.
  • There's One Cavo, the lead-conversion tech and call center brokerage giant Howard Hanna Real Estate bought in 2014. The smart brokerage behemoth has baked it into its lead-processing protocol, helping its over 9,000 agents solve the speed-to-lead issue.
  • There's Boston Logic's Ace, which launched last month. Smaller brokers and agent teams, those who need a CTO but aren't big enough to have one, inspired the product, Boston Logic founder and president David Friedman said on Tuesday.
  • Riley, the smart, new lead-follow-up service that promises one of its human concierges will reach out to brokers' and agents' leads within two minutes. They engage the lead, qualify it and prepare for a warm handoff.
  • CallAction. This one's powerful, and different. It's totally a bot. Founder Jesse Boudoin broke down all its elements for me yesterday at the ReferralExchange/GiveBack Homes party at the Clift last evening. It's smart, comprehensive. Everyone thinks autoresponders are lame, but Jesse says he's figured out just the right wording in responses so they don't appear tone deaf and buy valuable time for agents in followup. It comes with an insane number of cool features and lots of metrics. Keep your eyes peeled for a HageyMedia profile.
  • Brokerage and franchise giant Realogy also does this with regional call centers. See Inman story here.

Newbie concierge players

I ran into two new RE concierge players at Connect: Phone Animal (not really new, but has a new model) and HomeAhead.

Founded and run by 28-year-old Keller Williams Realty agent/hustler Tim Heyl, Austin, Texas-based Phone Animal has 100, (yes 100!), full-time employees who cold-call and qualify leads (particularly sellers) on its clients' behalf, firm salesman Nick Thomas told me at its Connect Hub booth. I suggested they were partly to blame for my hometown's horrendous traffic, which keeps getting worse thanks to fast-growing firms like Phone Animal.

Phone Animal has a new model, Thomas explained. It used to work closely with clients and craft a unique follow-up service with custom lists, like an outside inside-sales service. Now it promises at least 10 qualified leads each month in each territory for its clients. It defines territories by a variety of factors. It varies by market. It has three slots per territory, at $500 per slot per month.  

The new model allows Phone Animal to leverage its analytics and technology to hopefully streamline its business, Thomas said. Because, everyone knows, human resources are expensive.

Then there's Houston-based HomeAhead. It's much smaller (at four full-time concierges), but it's also looking to transform its human concierge service, or greatly augment it with tech, head of product Taylor Hou told me at the firm's startup alley booth.

Screen shot of a HomeAhead concierge in action.

Screen shot of a HomeAhead concierge in action.

The firm has a "Wish List," which allows agents to interact with consumers. Agents narrow in on the criteria homebuyers are looking for. HomeAhead's concierges respond to leads within five minutes. The firm helps a variety of real estate pros: gents, teams and brokers.

Hou said the firm's in pilot phase and hammering out a business model that will scale. Just like all of us.