Friday Flash: God’s work

Keller Williams bought mobile home search company Smarter Agent a few weeks back.

Ojo, a startup that’s built an AI-powered digital assistant for real estate agents, bought MLS data aggregation company Wolfnet this week. Realogy is one of Ojo’s investors.

Both Smarter Agent and Wolfnet have been in the game a long time. Their products have never been the sexiest, but these companies did the real estate tech version of God’s Work.

Slowly, over many years, through countless pitches, negotiations, compliance reviews, data-mapping deep dives, millions of dollars worth of steak dinners with MLS execs and waiting – always, always, waiting – these companies managed to piece together nationwide MLS data coverage.

A remarkable accomplishment. And one that made them very attractive to companies looking to do big things fast.

Keller Williams is betting the farm on a homegrown tech platform that will propel “tech-powered agents” into the future. Ojo, backed by Realogy, is hustling to create a data-fueled solution that will enable agents and their clients to glide through the real estate transaction.

Neither company has time to hit the road and hustle MLS data for the next decade. So they bought companies that have already done that work.

Smart. But these acquisitions are merely necessary – not sufficient – to getting the big things done. Securing the data at a national scale is important, but it’s also kinda just table stakes if you’re trying to inoculate thousands of agents against disruption, or create an entirely new transaction experience for consumers.

So, congrats all around. Now the important work begins.

Another quick thought related to this: it will be interesting to see if HomeServices of America will make a move in kind. How about Buffet buying Homes.com from Dominion Enterprises? Homes.com does national MLS data aggregation and has a national search portal.

Maybe?

I was just thinking, a few weeks ago, whatever happened to that offer management startup founded by the Uber guy? Well, this week, it – Haus – resurfaced with a new CEO and an updated business model you might call assisted FSBO.

I think what they’re doing is interesting because we’ll get to see if DIY plays can get further than they have historically when enhanced with well-built software and a patina of good design.

I’m skeptical. I think the ibuyer “just-get-it-done-with” phenomenon leapfrogged this approach. Managing your own home sale is still scary as hell for most people.

Brokers often come to us asking who they should look at for website/tech platform vendors. We’ve always offered only heavily-caveated guidance. And we’ve certainly never pushed certain platforms for referral fees. Yuck.

The stable of “usual suspects” is, for the most part, pretty weak. And newcomers usually don’t know what they don’t know, which is scary.

As of now, we’re officially done making any recommendation on any broker platform vendor. That’s not to say there aren’t some good options out there, but we, and our broker clients and friends, have been burnt too many times. Sooner or later, you gotta learn to stop touching the stove.

Have a great weekend.

[Disclosure: Realogy is a 1000watt client.]

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