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Soft power

CRM software has evolved rapidly in the last couple of years empowering agents and freeing them up for the real job, as Richard Reed discovered.

Richard Reed

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Proptech is evolving so fast it sometimes seems as if barely a week passes without a new product – or product tweak – hitting the market. Nowhere is this more apparent than with CRM software, relied on so heavily by agents to keep track of buyers and vendors, and manage their lettings. What started out 30 years ago as a basic PC database has evolved, in some cases, to a cloud-based product that offers everything from automated marketing to ‘smart’ diary bookings and buyer access to key conveyancing milestones. There are now literally dozens of brands on the market, most of which cover both sales and lettings, all with differing features. We’ve put together a simple guide to some of the more innovative players and their stand-out features.

Agent Software

Agent Software is well known for its Invvy software for the rental market, which automated the tenant liaison process. It has now launched a new CRM system called Street, which it claims will revolutionise the way agents work.

It boasts an automated booking engine for viewings and valuations, two-way client messaging and customer access via an app. It also uses a key piece of ‘behind the scenes’ software you will be hearing a lot more about – Open API – that allows two different programs to ‘talk’ to each other. This has, for instance, allowed Agent Software to integrate Slack collaboration software into the system.

Heather Staff“It gives agents access to world-class tech to run their businesses – they can plug in other bits of tech if they want to, but it also automates a lot of what we call ‘busy’ work, things that agents currently have to do manually,” says Heather Staff, co-founder of Street Group.

“Street is very different to what is currently on the market. It’s not just a platform for the agents themselves – agents can offer access to that platform to their clients as well.

It gives agents access to world-class tech to run their businesses – they can plug in other bits of tech if they want to, but it also automates a lot of what we call ‘busy’ work. Heather Staff, Co-founder, Agent Software.

“If you were a client of an agent that’s on Street you would be able to log on your dashboard, you would be able to see what’s going on, you would be able to see your upcoming viewings, and when you’ve accepted an offer you are guided through the process on Street.

“Consumers love it because they get that bit of transparency that a lot of them think is lacking at the moment.”

One of the key features is that ‘intelligent’ booking engine. The system knows where everybody is, so it knows the roles of everybody in the branch and the location of all their appointments. When somebody wants to book an appointment the booking engine will star-rate all of the available slots and will show the optimal time for the appointment to go in the calendar.

Street is at £6 per property per month, with volume discounts.

Rexlabs

This Australian proptech product is a powerful and easy-to-use CRM platform which is also fully mobile via its Pocket app. As well as using Open API, Rex also works with Zapya, a file-sharing utility that integrates with apps such as Dropbox and Mailchimp.

Link to Software featureKey features include the ability to capture voice memos when doing a valuation, which are automatically converted to text to save time back at the office. It’s also possible to match buyers to a property, allowing you to show vendors a list of potential matches. “It’s basically putting your business on autopilot,” says Tracey Jones, Head of Marketing. “[Our focus has been] how can we let agents set things up better so they can spend less time on the platform and more time on the phone having those conversations they need to have. We understand that real estate is ‘people’, and is those relationships, and we want to give them the tools so they can actually be off the platform.”

We understand that real estate is ‘people’, and is those relationships, and we want to give them the tools so they can actually be off the platform. Tracey Jones, Head of Marketing, Rexlabs.

Her colleague, UK sales team leader Mark Hinkins, adds, “When you look at other CRM systems there is a massive void in that they are missing decent mobile functionality.”

Rex has three packages, Starter, Professional and Enterprise; pricing varies.

Gnomen

Gnomen began 15 years ago and now has over 800 agency branches using its software. It offers a package as well suited to a start-up as a multi-branch agency, having embraced the cloud, allowing remote working and avoiding expensive capital investment, right from inception. It has a simple subscription model, with bolt-on service modules on an a la carte menu. There’s no minimum contract term, which makes the decision for an agent to switch, that much easier.

We’ve had a lot of former Purplebricks LPEs who contacted us because they’ve heard on the grapevine that we offer a hybrid estate agency capability. Montana

Montana HassanGnomen’s versatility has developed into a hybrid offering – staying one step ahead of the evolving estate agency market. “We’ve had a lot of former Purplebricks LPEs who contacted us because they’ve heard on the grapevine that we offer a hybrid estate agency capability,” says Montana Hassan. “Many of them don’t want to re-join the traditional agency world and we give them everything they need to run a similar independent operation and model, out the box.” And the platform works the other way around too, as Montana explains. “The platform can transform a traditional agent into a hybrid one.” Another key feature is the client portal which allows vendors or landlords to log on, share documents and view their transaction progress – a real instruction winner.

AgentOS

AgentOS is a software offering that was conceived by estate agents, giving its creators first-hand understanding of what negotiators really need to free up their time.

Link to Software feature“It came about as a result of a need for some specialist software that worked the way we needed it to work for our own agency in 2004, so the functionality is about as deep as it’s possible to get from a features point of view, and it’s been borne out of experience over a long period of time,” says head of sales and partnerships, Jez Lee.

It came about as a result of a need for some specialist software for our own agency in 2004, so the functionality is about as deep as it’s possible to get. Jez Lee, Head of Sales & Partnerships, AgentOS.

AgentOS offers a suite of apps, including a negotiator app, an owner’s app and a landlord portal. “What is a negotiator’s idea of success?” adds Lee. “A lot of that is going to be efficiency of booking appointments, going out and doing viewings, doing valuations, being able to provide feedback for their customers – we’ve done that all within one single app so they can do that on the go – this has all been driven as a result of Covid and lockdown.”

Pricing is £90 per month for the starter package with up to four users, and £225 for the Professional package with five users. Each additional user is £45.

Dezrez

Link to Software featureDezrez has been around for 20 years, but head of sales Richard Milner says the company still has “that business start-up mentality”. “We are agile and can adapt quickly and make changes – in the last eight months we have massively accelerated everything we are doing,” he adds.

New features include Rezi Anytime, which allows you to run your entire office remotely. Clients can view key transaction updates, sign and upload documents and request appointments. Like Rex, Dezrez includes a voice memo that automatically converts voice to text. “It’s one of the best features that our agents love best,” says Milner. A sales progression features allow buyers and vendors to view all the key milestones in the transaction. They can also go in and add proof of ID and other documents, and vendor

We are agile and can adapt quickly and make changes – in the last eight months we have massively accelerated everything we are doing. Richard Milner, Head of Sales, Dezrez.

“For me it’s an instruction winner,” says Milner. “If I were buying or selling a house, if this functionality were provided by an agent as a service I would be more inclined to go with them than anyone else.” Dezrez also offers applicant mapping – when a new buyer is put into the system the agent can set certain criteria for them so that when a house or flat is put on the market, it will match applicants to that property.

Another new feature, which grew out of the pandemic, is Rezi Meet – which, using Open API, allows you to make video calls from within the software itself, so agents can conduct virtual tours.

For a start-up with up to five branches, Dezrez costs £250 per month all-in; pricing for larger customers varies.

VaultEA

VaultEA is another offering from Oz, where it is a big player. It’s just hitting the UK now, and promises to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for agents, including property management accounting.

Link to Software feature“Our app is a chopped down version of the main system,” says UK sales director Christian Scandurra. “It works offline, too. You can’t have something that is totally dependent on the web.”

The app allows you to send viewing feedback to the vendor, enter valuations and create buyer matches. A vendor log-in also allows sellers to see how many buyers are suitable.

It makes sense to allow the buyer to be able to log in and see where we are up to, as well as see any feedback and communications. Christian Scandurra, Sales Director, VaultEA.

You can add notes to the vendor report and generate a graph that shows the feedback from viewings on pricing, so the vendor can see if the valuation is out of kilter with the market. On the lettings side, a landlord log-in allows them to see statements and maintenance schedules – there is even a tenant log-in too help deal with that.

A buyer log-in is also in the pipeline. “It makes sense to allow the buyer to be able to log in and see where we are up to, as well as see any feedback and communications,” explains Scandurra.

VaultEA has already signed up Century 21, with 44 offices. “We’ve had comments that it’s a ‘game-changer’. We are really excited and enthusiastic about the opportunity and looking to grow quite aggressively,” he adds.

Pricing is £30 per user per month.

Tilt

Tilt is an established player that used to operate under the RentPro and Showhouse banners, but has rebranded its products to Origin as the basic product on the lettings side while Elevate is a newer, more powerful CRM for both sales and lettings.

The feedback we get all the time is that it we are very approachable and very available – and resolve everything very quickly. Diarmid Sloan, Co-Founder, Tilt.

Elevate is a no-frills package with no buyer or seller log-ons, but has a strong accounting element, and allows you to generate branded invoices. There is also a strong focus on the property management side, with a dedicated area in a property record to store compliance documents and renewal dates.

Diarmid Sloan - Tilt“We have the personal touch with all our clients, and offer fast, efficient support,” says Tilt co-founder Diarmid Sloan.

“The feedback we get all the time is that it we are very approachable and very available, and resolve everything very quickly without the blatant hard-nosed sales approach from some of the others out there.

“The view we take is that so many of the software packages try to be everything to everyone. There’s a lot of hype at the moment about have we got AI in there, or social media integration. A lot of agents say that is gimmicky – just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Elevate starts at £99 per month for sales only, £149 for lettings, and £199 for both.

VTUK – Openview

VTUK is one of the oldest players in the arena and has been offering property CRM for 32 years. It has now rebranded as Openview, which soft-launched last year and is now taking off the wraps. Openview Lettings includes an overview showing how many properties are on the books and how many are let, together with earnings. It also deals with compliance issues, reports and letters, property matching and viewings.

Openview is a fully automated, innovative, multi-dimensional, cloud-based solution for the property industry, developed over 30 years. Peter Grant, Managing Director, VTUK.

The sales app helps agents track all the actions taken on instructions, including viewings and valuations, sales progression, pipeline and forecast, and property matching. The company is also working with Coadjute to create a blockchain-based conveyancing solution so that buyers, vendors and agents can keep track.

Meanwhile Openview Banking takes advantage of open banking and will collect rents on behalf of agents, make all the payments on their behalf and carry out a bank reconciliation.

Link to Software feature“Openview is a fully automated, innovative, multi-dimensional, cloud-based solution for the property industry, developed over 30 years to be a beautifully crafted, data-driven, intuitive platform,” says director Peter Grant.

“It gives you complete control and transparency, with ‘always on’ communications, providing a total quality experience to build the relationships that enable your business to thrive in these new and challenging times.”

Pricing varies.

Try before you buy

As always, you need to choose the right platform for your own business and ambitions and with so many CRM offerings out there, it’s worth taking your time and checking out the full functionality before reaching a decision. It’s worth finding the time to book a demo and have a quick ‘play’ before committing. If you don’t find it simple and intuitive to use, then others probably won’t, either, in which case there is certainly no shortage of other options.

June 14, 2021

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