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How OpenAgent is improving the real estate experience

05 June 2017 Tamikah Bretzke

OpenAgent helps home owners make better, more informed decisions about the home selling process, working with as many as 6,000 agents nation-wide to improve the general business and experience of real estate.

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to Jorden Minos from the OpenAgent team about how OpenAgent's unique service offering is helping real estate agents across the country. You'll also hear from agent Shaun Stoker, ranked number 74 in the Top 100 Agents ranking, about his experience working with OpenAgent and how his business has benefited from their services.

In this episode, hear about:

  • OpenAgent's unique qualification process
  • How they provide sales agents with high-quality leads
  • Shaun’s first-hand experience of working with OpenAgent over the last few years 

Tune in now to hear all of this and more, in this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents!

Full transcript

Tim Neary: G'day everyone, it's Tim Neary here. I am the editor of Real Estate Business and host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thanks for tuning in. This is the show where we bring and chat to the very best real estate agents in Australia. We're going to do something a little different on the show today, it's going to make for a very interesting show too. In the studio we've got Jorden Minos who is the head of commercial operations at OpenAgent, the exclusive sponsor of REB Top 100 ranking, and Shaun Stoker who is ranked number 74 in this year's ranking from Ray White in Erskineville, in Sydney. Hello Jorden and Shaun, and welcome to the show both of you.

Shaun Stoker: Good morning, Tim.

Jorden Minos: Thanks Tim, good morning.

Tim Neary: Now Jorden, I'd like to start with you. Tell us a little bit about ... We'll get straight into it – tell us a little bit about OpenAgent and, in particular, what it does for real estate agents and how it's improving the general business of real estate in Australia?

Jorden Minos: So OpenAgent was founded in 2012 as a service to help Australian home owners make better and more informed decisions about their home selling process. Initially, OpenAgent was looking at the decision around picking the real estate agent that right for them and helping them with that decision. Since then, we've grown pretty quickly – grown to a team of 100, working with 6,000 agents across Australia, referred close to 80,000 qualified home sellers to agents. Yeah, growing really quickly and working with a lot of agents, having some great experiences.

Tim Neary: It sounds like it's a big business. You're talking there some numbers – 6,000 agents and 80,000 incidents?

Jorden Minos: That's correct.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Jorden Minos: Yeah, so it's been an interesting three years and learning experience. What we do is we really build a lot of our learning into the tools that we deliver to agents and we really work on delivering agents outstanding value, which is why most of the REB Top 100 actually work with OpenAgent and we have 6,000 partner agents. I guess if we were to summarise the service from the agent's end, it's really providing them really high-quality leads and, at the same time, selling that agent's value to that vendor when we make the recommendation to the vendor so that when the agent then has an opportunity to speak to the vendor, it's a really warm lead. They've got an element of trust built with that agent because we've talked to them about their sales experience and reviews and why we think they're the right agent for them. And importantly, the agent's only one of two to three agents that we would recommend to that vendor, so they have a really good strike rate with that vendor.

In terms of the qualification process that we go through, we’re actually quite unique in Australia. We're the only referral agency with a call centre team of over 50. That team spends all day speaking to vendors and agents. I'm sure Shaun's aware of this because he's had many conversations with our call centre staff. They speak to vendors on average for 15 minutes to do a needs analysis and then they make their recommendations off the back of that and get in touch with the agent straight away with those recommendations.

Tim Neary: You talk about high-quality leads and adding value. Shaun, what's your experience been with working with OpenAgent?

Shaun Stoker: Look, working with OpenAgent, I've probably sold over 10 properties with OpenAgent in the last two years. Their lead generation is very strong. It's probably the only one that I use for the referral companies. As was spoken just then is they qualify the lead quite well for you so by the time you make that call – the owner already knows a little bit about you and what you do, and your performance in the past. Obviously, you're up against very good competition because OpenAgent obviously uses the best, but it's always good. I've found the leads very good quality.

Tim Neary: One thing that Jorden said a little earlier which struck me as being interesting was that you build that intelligence back into the program, I guess for want of a better word. Do you, when you're working with it Shaun, do you notice that or do you see the incidents of that happening so that, so that in other words, you talk about getting a qualified lead, that it's more than just hot lead, if you say, but there's more, there's something a little bit more behind it? Something that you can use in your business?

Shaun Stoker: Real estate's relationship-based.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Shaun Stoker: Ultimately, people are going to use someone that they trust and they comfortable with. So if I've built up relationships in the past with my owners, they don't tend to go to OpenAgent. It's for people who, say, they go in the area, they say, "Who's an agent I'm going to use?" They Google, they speak to OpenAgent. OpenAgent then qualifies them and then sits their needs towards who they're going to go with.

Tim Neary: Right.

Shaun Stoker: They go, "Okay, it's in Erskineville. It's in Alexandria. Shaun's done very well in those areas so we're going to give Shaun a go." By the time I speak to them, they've already built a little bit of trust through OpenAgent but it's for me to go through to and then, obviously, built that trust through my qualifications and my skillset. But they did know a little bit about me because I just, obviously, listed one in Darlington through OpenAgent ... You might not know about this one ... And through an owner. When I sat down, she'd already known a little bit about us before we even sat down.

Jorden Minos: Okay.

Tim Neary: It's a good point that you make, and as were talking a little off air this morning, the listenership of the REB Secrets of Top 100 Agents show is starting out agents, people that are looking to build a business. It's a good idea to understand where OpenAgent fits in in the business cycle and how to use it effectively, and it comes in at the beginning. Then, as you say, real estate is a relationship-based business and then you go up from there.

Shaun Stoker: A lot of real estate agents, real estate companies, won't like the idea of OpenAgent because it feels like they're stepping on their toes. Look, what I found is, that if an agent's building solid relationships, no matter if OpenAgent's around or any other company's around, those owners will go with you because you've got that relationship, you've got that trust – you're their trusted adviser.

Where OpenAgent plays a massive role for people, those people that haven't yet met any agents, haven't built any foundations of relationships. They then will go online and then go and seek, "Who's the best agent for me?" and be a bit confused. That's where OpenAgent will play a role with those people who've got no experience in the real estate industry. They will then say, "Here's your top performers in your area," and then they'd talk a little bit about those agents. Then, obviously, then I get a step in on the relationships I've never met before.

Tim Neary: Yeah, and I'm pleased that you brought that up actually because it would be, I guess, irresponsible of me not to say that we've had some push-back around this use of referral companies in the industry and I wanted to talk to you, Jorden, about that. I'm sure that you've experienced the same thing, and what's the position that you take on that?

Jorden Minos: It's a good question Tim, and yeah, glad you raised it. The way I look at it is there are two groups of agents who don't currently work with referral companies. There's the group who just generally won't work with referral companies because it's a business decision for them, and we respect that. It's a commercial decision that each agent and agency has to make. Real estate referrals have been around forever. OpenAgent didn't pioneer that, they've been around for decades. Agents have referral partnerships with other organisations as well, so there's nothing new there. That group of agents who just made a business decision not to work with referral companies.

Then there's the other group who have had a poor experience with working with referral companies, and as a result, have said, "I don't want to work with any of them." In those situations, it's really unfortunate, and at OpenAgent, we work with over 6,000 agents who are really happy with our service. We encourage feedback and we deliver on that feedback.

What I would say is, we're really unique and that a lot of the poor experiences that agents have had that I've spoken to with other referral companies, it's because they do not have the capability to properly service those agents. As I said before, OpenAgent has 50 call centre staff who are speaking to agents and vendors every day. No other referral company has that.

Shaun Stoker: Just sorry to cut you in there, but I think also with the other companies, they won't be selective on which agents they choose to invite into the owner's home. The other companies will just do a mass email out to about 20 agents, and give you their number, their email, and then it's just about you then trying to book an appointment with that person based on the information that agency's given you. Whereas OpenAgent, I find they're a lot more selective, in the essence, they get lead, then they actually give the owner advice who the best agents are in the area so by the time we get it, they've already got a good foundation.

Whereas, I've found with the other companies and what I didn't like about it is the agency's just, obviously, trying to get paid and they're just spreading out 10 agencies in that area. They might not even be quality agencies.

Jorden Minos: That's a good point, Shaun. I actually just had a call with an agent who was very disgruntled with another ... A poor experience they had with another provider which, as Shaun was saying, true story, they were one of probably 15 agencies that had been referred and it wasn't even that agent that had received the referral, it was someone else in the business. He went on to list the property with the vendor, had no idea that it had referred to his agency in general, and then got hit up with a fee as a result. Really, really upset to know that, one, he was one of 15, so basically it's a scatter gun approach. If any agency lists it, they get paid.

Shaun Stoker: If it lands anywhere.

Jorden Minos: If it lands anywhere you get paid. As I said before, we only recommend two to three agents, and we recommend them. It's not just a mass email, automated computer system, send out to 15 agencies whenever someone clicks on a button.

Shaun Stoker: That's some of that intelligence coming back into the system.

Jorden Minos: It is, and it's also just respect to the agents and respect for the industry. That's another element, I think we're really unique, is we actually respect our agents. Because we've got that 50-man team, we're able to have good quality conversations with agents and we encourage them to give us a call. We encourage them to give us feedback. We have very open and frank discussions, and that's why I think agents really like working with us.

Shaun Stoker: Once that lead's also given, what I liked about OpenAgent actually, they've got a very good follow-up system as well. Once they give you a lead, I found that they follow-up with a phone call at least once or twice a week, [to see] how that relationship's building with that owner. They send you a reminder email, what leads they've given you, which I found very good as a follow-up service.

Tim Neary: Two things that came out while Jorden was talking, I would just like to unpack them a little. One is a poor experience with other referral companies, and in my own words, almost like they're competing with the agent. Talking and you talking, Jorden, and explaining the way that you go about your business, and listening to you Shaun in terms of just packing that together, how you're interpreting and how you're benefiting from that experience, it looks like there isn't a poor experience with ... Or you're working hard not to, or to avoid a poor experience with OpenAgent by understanding and recommending that agent's business and how to enhance that agent's business.

Then also, by avoiding the scatter gun approach, so it's not just if it lands, you get paid. Yes, you're adding value so you're entitled to some form of payment. It sounds also Shaun like you're quite happy to pay OpenAgent for what they do because you're getting value over and above what you're paying for.

Shaun Stoker: That's right. The quality of the lead's very strong. They're often relationships that I've never dealt with before and they've opened the door up for me. And it's the ability to actually talk to someone in their ... As they said, they have over 50 people in their office on the phones, and actually having one of their ... You can talk to anyone at any given time, they're following up on you. It's the service they provide once the lead's given is also ... Which you don't get anywhere else.

Tim Neary: Yeah, so it's quality of leads and that you're not on your own, you've got some backup. And it's opening new doors for you, so it's a business. Yeah, yeah. You're growing your business at the same time.

Shaun Stoker: Look, I wouldn't use it unless, A, the quality and it wasn't opening up doors.

Tim Neary: Yeah.

Shaun Stoker: Like I said, none of these people ... As I said, I've done over 10 transactions over the last 12 months with OpenAgent, and none of those relationships had I met them before, and they probably wouldn't have called us if it wasn't for OpenAgent.

Tim Neary: Then, as you said when you started out as well, this is a relationship business, so this is step number on in the process. Those clients are then yours, they go with you and then you keep working with them and get their…

Jorden Minos: This doesn't take away from the fact every agent should be building their own solid database, their own solid leads, their own relationships and trust with people within their community. This is just an added benefit of people that obviously haven't met any agents that need that nurturing and someone there to lead them in the right direction. I think that's what OpenAgent's giving.

Tim Neary: I'm so glad that you're in the studio with us today because, as I said, it's going to make for an interesting podcast because I wanted to talk to OpenAgent today and find out a little bit more about the business. At the same time, if it was just the two of us talking, Jorden, you and I, we would just be talking a two-way conversation. Having you in the studio, Shaun, gives us another perspective in terms of how that actually rolls out from the boardroom, if you like, into the field. It's been really interesting. It's been terrific just to have that open discussion.

Jorden, we're pretty much at the end of the show now and I just wanted to ask you for your thoughts around the general business of OpenAgent and where the future goes, because I guess you're always looking to improve your own business as well?

Jorden Minos: That's correct. We've raised over $20 million in funding to the business's growth over the coming years. Where I said we've sent out 80,000 referrals over the last few years, you can expect that to increase exponentially over the coming years. I think we're going to become a more meaningful part of agent's lives. That money is also going into investing in the technology and product, becoming smarter about how we recommend agents. At the moment, we have a lot of data there, there's much more that we can do. We find that a lot of vendors who come to us, it's actually a lot about the personality of the agent.

As we work with more agents, we're actually capturing more data about what type of agent they want to work with to make it a less stressful experience. Everyone has different needs, so we're capturing ... We're trying to do a better job of matching the right agents with the right vendors, which ultimately, given we've both got the same client, both agent and OpenAgent, we want the best experience for the customer as possible. If we can deliver an agent that's going to work best with them, it's a win-win because the agent gets a fantastic experience working with someone that they get along well with and can service and ease them through a very stressful transaction, and the vendor has a great experience as well.

I think that's where the future is, doing a better job of matching personalities, in addition to experience, reviews and all the other data that we collect on agents.

Tim Neary: Terrific to hear you say that, and that comes back to what you were saying, Shaun, earlier about this being a relationship business. Just listening to you talking, it makes me think and get the idea that this is about the people. It is about the agent, and it's about the vendors, and it's about the relationships that exist in the business.

Jorden Minos: It is about people, that's why we have a staff of 100 operating the business, because we need to speak to agents, we need to speak to vendors, we need to understand what their needs are. Not every vendor is the same, not every agent is the same, it's a stressful transaction, as I said, and one that lasts for up six months to a year sometimes. We're really proud to be a part of that pivotal and life-changing transaction for both vendors and agents.

Tim Neary: Mate, it's been terrific to have you in the studio today. Thank you for coming in. Shaun, thank you for coming in as well.

Shaun Stoker: Yeah, thank you.

Jorden Minos: I appreciate it.

Tim Neary: Nice to get your insights. Yeah, yeah, and just on behalf of the REB Top 100 Agents ranking, really good to have you guys on board and you've been very engaged and very involved in our process as well, so I can understand how that's rolling out into the industry as well. Thank you very much. Thank you both.

Jorden Minos: Thanks a lot.

Shaun Stoker: Thanks, Tim.

Tim Neary: Nice one. Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me also on Twitter, @TimothyJNeary, if you want to do that. Tune in next week, realestatebusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


How OpenAgent is improving the real estate experience
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