A long-time Atlanta real estate agent, Janie Slater has been selling homes on and off since 1994. Concentrating on properties in and near Alpharetta and North Atlanta, Slater was at a point where working for a broker seemed, frankly, more trouble than it was worth. But instead of facing the decision to stick with an agency or go solo, she found a way to have the best of both worlds.
Since June of last year, she’s been an exclusive realtor for Real, an app that allows agents to ditch the conventional brokerage model and function more like their own bosses. Licensed realtors who sign up for the app get connected to a one-stop platform for work, which allows them to manage appointments, search the MLS, send out online marketing materials, and even handle accounting. Real provides free leads without referral fee charges. Like other Real agents, Slater, who works as an independent contractor, gets a more favorable split when a property sells, 85/15 as opposed to the typical 70/30 arrangement agents have with brokerages. Since starting with Real last summer, she’s found her leads and sales are more consistent and the money is better, too.
"It suited me because at this point in my career, I want to be left alone," she says. "I know the ropes. I don’t see a need for the broker model anymore, since the way people shop for homes is changing so fast."
According to CEO and founder Tamir Poleg, the Real app and network was built to be an open platform for agents, allowing them to work more independently, and on their own time, while still receiving 24-hour support.
"The model is broken," says Poleg. "We want to give agents the mobile tech they need to grow their own business and work from anywhere. It’s their business, that’s the idea behind Real."
Like those in many industries, the real estate workforce is potentially ripe for an Uber-like arrangement due to technological shifts. Working from a central office made sense in the eras of newspapers, printing, and everything being on paper. But when agents are empowered by technology to be more mobile and nimble, and it’s easier than ever to find leads, providing agents with the technological tools to be more self-directed seemed like a good investment opportunity to Poleg, a successful developer in Houston.
Real, which Poleg co-founded with a friend in July 2014, automates many of the functions of a brokerage. The company buys and sources leads from resources such as Zillow and Trulia, and automatically distributes them to agents based on where they work.
Poleg sees scalability in the system because while real estate is a local business, Real has no local overhead, such as office space. He says they can cover the cost of acquiring a new agent in three months. Currently licensed in 12 states including Texas, New York, and Florida, the Real app is used by roughly 250 brokers. But after a recent $6 million funding round, Poleg expects to reach nearly 1,000 agents by the end of the year, while adding additional a handful of additional states.
Potential clients and homebuyers can also use the app to immediately chat with agents, accept leads, and even apply for a mortgage. But that’s not Poleg’s focus right now. Real wants to treat agents as their clients, and market the company to them, which is why he doesn’t see other established apps such as Compass as competition.
"I realized that most other brokers are real estate companies using technologies," says Poleg. "We’re a technology company within the real estate space."