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Tech of a Life Edition Two: Embracing tech and lessons from across the pond
Let’s discuss: Positive Disruption
Our second edition of our new digital magazine, Tech of a Life, is packed with collaboration and ideas, hearing from forward-thinking industry experts on how to tackle disruption head on and their views on the future of the property market.
Grab a cuppa and dive into some really interesting interviews with Simon Whale, MD & Founder at Kerfuffle; Adam Day, International Expansion Leader at eXp; Charlotte Jeffrey-Campbell, Director of property training platform The Able Agent and more.
Embracing tech and lessons from across the pond
Interview with Adam Day, International Expansion Leader at eXp
When it comes to shaking up traditional Estate Agency models, eXp are in the pack of global leaders. With its roots across the pond and having been founded in 2009, it’s considered one of the fastest growing Estate Agency businesses globally.
The architect of eXp in the UK is Adam Day, who saw how it could help Estate Agents to deliver a more personal and one-to-one service to home movers, with a network approach. Adam brought eXp to the UK in April 2019, after being an early pioneer of ‘online estate agency’ at Hatched.co.uk, the UK company he originally founded back in 2006.
We caught up with Adam to find out how Estate Agency continues to evolve and how the right mix of technology and a personal service can help Estate Agents tackle market disruption head on.
How is eXp handling the constant disruption in the sector?
Estate Agency has evolved so much over the last 20 years and will keep evolving at pace, because there are always new things to consider and big shifts in consumer demand too. But with better systems, technology and accessibility it’s clear that we’re continuing to move further into an era of ‘personal experience’ and a very competitive market.
When it comes to disruption, I like to think eXp are one of the disruptors. We need to see disruption as a positive thing. We brought eXp to the UK as it mixes the best of technology, with the best of personal experience. We are the ‘self-employed model’ in the UK that’s grown the fastest and become the biggest in a very short space of time.
If you look at other industries like Netflix and Amazon, Facebook and Google, you can see that disruption isn’t always something brand new, but it’s something that creates change and drives conversation. You could argue that Google wasn’t a disruptor, but it was the first mover of search. Disruption gets people to see there is a different way of doing things.
What’s the most exciting thing about disruption for you?
Seeing something new grow into something that becomes a global change, and something that builds a new and successful way of doing things. For me, all disruption is really about is constantly looking at Estate Agency models and spotting what’s next. I’m a bit of an Estate Agency geek, and always have been, so I look at industry models all of the time. I analyse them and try to figure out what agencies are doing and ask myself, is this going to counter-disrupt the disrupters?
Disruption is such an easy word to use, but in reality, there hasn’t actually been a disruptor of the industry that’s lasted the test of time. We wanted to do something that’s different and hard to copy. A virtual Estate Agency world that’s like a computer game is just part of that. What’s really important to us is helping our Estate Agents stay one step ahead and make sure they know what’s coming round the corner from the industry and their competitors.
What impact do the type of people in your organisation make when it comes to adopting new ways of doing things?
Estate Agents often get a bad rep for ‘being stuck in their ways’ when it comes to tech, but that’s not the case – it’s all about mindset. Tech is very much a people thing. The thing that makes eXp different is the model. Every Estate Agent owns their own business, they are all ambitious entrepreneurs who are committed to great service, it’s not about being tech savvy.
The typical model we have in the UK for Estate Agents is ‘employed’, which is the traditional model. I know that when I went self-employed and set up my own business I cared an extra 100%, and there’s no employee that cares as much about the success of a business as the person who owns the business.
Does having a ‘collaborative collective’ help eXp to navigate market volatility?
Yes, the collective definitely helps. I think the ‘top co’, or as they say in America ‘the brokerage’ of eXp helps with that as well. The constant change we’ve been through over the last 18 months has been difficult for everyone, and business owners’ worry has been a collective response too.
The people within the ‘top co’ have to lead by example to support our Estate Agents and make sure that we’re researched and ready, by understanding what’s happening now, what’s likely to happen in the future and prepare everyone for that change. In America we’re always asking ‘what if?’ and preparing for every possible scenario. We ask questions like, ‘what if a recession happens?’, ‘what if we see a market correction?’, ‘what if we see a market crash?’, ‘what if we don’t see any of those?’. That’s a big part of my role, making sure that we’re six months ahead of the game and that I’m supporting the agents with the right tools, training, technology, mindset, processes and systems for their business, so they can thrive and not just survive if any downturns happen. And if we don’t see a downturn, they are prepared for that too. I guess that’s probably why it’s so important to be part of a business where people have a shared experience, where they have been there, done that, experienced recessions and can come together to innovate and look at new ways to deal with market changes.
The biggest difference from my experience in the UK and US property markets is mindset. It’s probably the big difference between the US and the rest of the world.
How does the choice of tech on offer impact Estate Agents’ ability to stay agile or decide which tech to choose?
It’s difficult for me, let alone the Estate Agents. The agents just want to sell houses because that’s what they do and love. I sometimes wish I was an Estate Agent again because I love selling houses, it’s what I was most passionate about and still am, but I have a thing about digital. In my old business we had automated communications in 2009 when this was way ahead of its time, then digital journeys, then vendors approving their own details without agents touching it -it was all automated. Tech matters and digital matters, we just need to do it for all the right reasons without replacing human interaction. We have a very fine balance within the business because I 100% do not believe in automating everything. Instead, we need to spend the time looking at the features and benefits of tech and understand where it adds value.
At eXp it’s down to us to provide agents with the right research, insight and information so that we all understand what’s going on in the marketplace, who’s doing things right, what digital adoption works and what doesn’t, and what the best tools out there are. Then we implement it within the network and this insight has a value proposition for the agents. We work with partners we trust and can build alongside to create solutions that support our entire network to save time and make more money. Agents want to spend more time with their customers, so tech and digital must enable that.
What do you think buyers and sellers want from tech?
I think they want a happy medium. The client is selling their biggest asset, they’re in an emotional state, and depending on their circumstances, emotions can be incredibly high. They want a personal service, but they want it to be slick and tech enables that. For example, a slick biometric check means they don’t have to hunt around for their passport and drivers’ licence, and the agent has more time to spend talking them through the process and reassuring them – it’s a win-win.
Buyers and sellers want the digital experience of being able to log in and see their stats on a Saturday at 6pm over a glass of wine and find out how their property advert is going. On the other hand, they’d also like to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone or have a meeting with them to ask burning questions, like ‘What’s going on? How are things working? What are your thoughts on the market for my property?’. I think customers want to hear from the Estate Agent personally as well, especially when they’ve just finished a viewing, for example, to get feedback. We can’t underestimate the power of finding the right tech that solves the right problems for agents and their clients.
What lessons can the UK learn from across the pond?
The biggest difference from my experience in the UK and US property markets is mindset. It’s probably the big difference between the US and the rest of the world. Most Estate Agents go out and say they want to conquer their region or be the market leader in their city. I thought I had a relatively big mindset when I said ‘I want to conquer England’ with my old business back in 2006. The US mindset, of everyone you speak to, is that they want to conquer the world. It’s that ‘American Dream’ way of thinking. I think the number of entrepreneurs in the US is another influencer of that ‘go get it all’ mindset. Being an entrepreneur in the US isn’t a rite of passage, but it’s certainly something that a large percentage of people have a go at.
They might not all succeed but they’ll give it a go, because they’re encouraged to and they love change and to try new things. Everything in the US is just bigger, like when you visit the hotels, they’re the size of a small village in the UK. Americans’ mindset is bigger because of the surroundings they’re brought up in. This is way of thinking could teach the UK a lot about ambition in business.