As the technology arms race continues in the brokerage world, Douglas Elliman is looking for new tools to help agents — but staying away from building its own.
The brokerage launched “Douglas,” an internal platform that will give agents access to corporate resources like marketing tools as well as an app store, the company announced Tuesday.
So far, the platform has more than a dozen partnerships with third-party apps and is exploring additional ones, according to Jeff Hummel, Elliman’s chief technology officer. Though other firms may build tools themselves, adoption and maintenance is a challenge, he said.
“We let them run their business,” Hummel said. “We feed them data, they feed us back analytics.” He likened the partnerships to those with listings services like StreetEasy.
Last year, Elliman tapped the Zillow Group-owned site to build a new back-end portal for agents to input listings, which is rolling out this year. The brokerage had considered building a new system from scratch, but estimated that would cost between $2.5 million and $5 million.
“We’re not a technology company,” Scott Durkin, the brokerage’s COO, said at the time. “We sell real estate.”
Elliman’s intranet launch comes as firms have been finding new ways to use data. Venture-backed firm Triplemint, for example, uses data to predict when sellers are likely to list their properties. And companies are deploying significant funds toward tech. Keller Williams has a $1 billion tech fund, while Realogy spends $200 million annually. The price of Elliman’s new platform was in line with the costs of a normal upgrade, Hummel said, declining to specify further.
Through Douglas, agents can use corporate apps, including marketing tools and a listings entry system, without paying. They’re charged directly for third-party apps, but the firm negotiates discounts, Hummel said. Costs for agents will vary by product.
At the same time, the company has been struggling with profitability as traditional firms deal with a changing landscape that includes discount firms and high commission costs. Though the New York market is starting to pick up, it’s had a challenging start to the year, the company said last month.