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How real-estate giant Douglas Elliman started beta-testing the perfect digital tool for the coronavirus era a month before the pandemic hit

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How real-estate giant Douglas Elliman started beta-testing the perfect digital tool for the coronavirus era a month before the pandemic hit

Agent Image, a California web-development firm specializing in business-to-business real-estate services, is building out a new presentation platform called Access that its founders say is “years ahead of competition.”The software’s first round was exclusively beta tested with Douglas Elliman’s Eklund Gomes Team, which put the tech into use just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic accelerated. Both…

How real-estate giant Douglas Elliman started beta-testing the perfect digital tool for the coronavirus era a month before the pandemic hit
  • Agent Image, a California web-development firm specializing in business-to-business real-estate services, is building out a new presentation platform called Access that its founders say is “years ahead of competition.”
  • The software’s first round was exclusively beta tested with Douglas Elliman’s Eklund Gomes Team, which put the tech into use just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic accelerated. 
  • Both firms told Business Insider that Access had already become an essential part of doing business remotely, with branded digital showings at the heart of the new real-estate climate.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

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Late last year, the Eklund Gomes Team was working on an annual newsletter with the real-estate-tech firm Agent Image when Jon Krabbe had an idea. 

Krabbe is the cofounder and CEO of Agent Image, which has been developing real-estate tech for two decades, and he told Business Insider that his thinking was the project called out for a digital listing-presentation tool.

“We were brainstorming on the website for the future,” Krabbe said. “And I said in passing, ‘Hey, we were looking to build this digital listing-presentation tool that I’ve never seen done in a marketplace the right way. I’ve seen fragmented pieces of it, but I have an idea that could be kind of revolutionary, and I think it could make a huge difference in how agents do business with consumers.'”

The Eklund Gomes Team CEO Julia Spillman loved it. “Right away she latched on,” Krabbe said. (The Eklund Gomes Team is a multicity 80-member team and company within Douglas Elliman — the second-largest independent residential brokerage firm in the US by sales volume — with $14 billion in sales.)

It was good timing, as the new tool, called Access, was put into play about four to six weeks before the coronavirus pandemic made digital presentation a virtual requirement for the real-estate industry.

“This was the ultimate test,” Spillman told Business Insider. “No one’s known the answer to how long this would last. Instead of retreating, we immediately started working on technology that let the agent be the guide. The consumer is really trying to navigate around the digital showing.”

The platform is still in development as an app and a website, but it has already become an essential part of doing business remotely, allowing the Eklund Gomes Team to create branded, curated presentations that maximize the virtual-listing experience. 

How the new platform works — and how it gave the Eklund Gomes Team an advantage during the pandemic

“Future-looking tech was alarming at first,” Spillman said, citing agents’ initial fears of the unexpected transition to digital-only property tours, where the communicative experience can be difficult to navigate.

But the leaders of the Eklund Gomes Team told Business Insider that the team has felt that it’s had a competitive advantage as other firms have seemingly scrambled to adjust to the digital requirements of doing business in a pandemic.

Upon login, agents can use presentation features that allow them to upload anything from personalized walk-through videos to drone footage, all tied up in a branded package that’s unique to the firm. The technology, when brought to market, will be built uniquely on brand for each firm using it.

A major selling point for Spillman and cofounders Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes was the tool’s ability to guide clients through properties comprehensively in an on-brand capacity that keeps the agents in the driver’s seat and the line of communication with clients wide open.

“I sit here truly inspired about the future of our industry,” Gomes said. “It took this negative occurrence to take place to change how we do business. We’re sharpening the pencils and making everything better, easier, more efficient.”

As the platform makes its way through beta testing and eventually scales up, Krabbe said he believed it has a place not only in the US marketplace but also for agents worldwide, with Eklund suggesting the technology is even capable of tackling the sales industry as a whole, from cars to travel. 

Krabbe said he saw this platform’s development as a model for how real-estate tech can continue to evolve. He said the industry was historically segmented and that tools often come to agents in pieces rather than in full packages.

“In real-estate tech, most companies sort of run autonomously, and there isn’t a lot of playing together,” he said.

Agent Image is taking many innovative new tools like this platform and putting them into one space, and it’s “years ahead of competition” when it comes to design, according to Krabbe. This version of the tool is just the beginning, he added, saying that he hopes to add more modules to its existing presentation, as well as data-tracking and live-chat features. 

As for the serendipity of the firm starting work on a new tool just weeks before a paradigm shift would make it essential, Krabbe said: “It’s one of those things where the timing of it was so strange.”

“As we were developing it, we started to realize, ‘Hey, not only is this becoming a listing-presentation tool, but there’s a whole other side to this from a virtual-open-house perspective,'” he added.

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