When a real estate agent launches their business, building an online presence and generating leads is usually the first big hurdle they encounter. How do you choose a company that will have such a huge impact on your business? And then how do you afford it?

Michael Zobeck

“Marketing and branding is absurdly expensive for Realtors,” said Michael Zobeck, one of the founders of Agent Brand, a Fort Worth-based automated marketing company. “If you put a real estate logo on a marketing piece, the cost doubles.”

But Zobeck and his team — which includes co-founder Justin Hammond and his wife, Ashley — has plenty of experience in vertical marketing. They’ve operated heavily in the franchise space, building websites that are mobile-ready platforms for retailers such as Dickeys BBQ, Menchies Yogurt, Medici Pizza, and more. 

“I have been working with Realtors for years with a couple of different companies that I founded when I saw this platform,” he said.  “I knew there was nothing like and jumped aboard immediately.” 


Fathom Realty CEO Josh Harley (Photo courtesy Fathom Realty).

From staff reports

McKinney-based Fathom Realty announced last week that it would begin working towards taking the company public, saying it would file documents for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the second quarter of 2019.

The cloud-based, 100 percent commission brokerage said it will submit a Form S-1 with the SEC to begin the process of publicly listing its common stock. (more…)

Virtual Staging adds furniture to empty rooms (Source VHT Studios)

Every show on HGTV ends with the glamor walk-through where the paint’s fresh and professional stagers have airlifted a lifestyle no one actually lives into place. Tears flow. Have you ever seen the revisit shows?  They don’t show them too often because how people actually live is far, far from photogenic. Crimson walls and gold brocade curtains that are never a part of any staging plan. Monstrously large and cheap sofas. Banged-up walls. Junk everywhere.  And if you’re the listing agent on one of these lived-in homes, dealing with sellers who think their dreck puts Architectural Digest to shame.

It makes you want to shout, “Calgon, take me away”.

Enter virtual staging, where computer jockeys elevate good pictures into great marketing tools. Last week I wrote about a Turtle Creek high-rise listing shot by Epic Foto Group that used drones with remarkable effect. This time, we’re talking about enhancements that can be electronically done to listing photos.

Virtual Redecorating (Source VHT Studios)

When I spoke with the Brian Balduf, CEO of Chicago-based VHT Studios, a nationwide real estate photography service, he described five distinct opportunities to enhance traditional listing pics.


Vital. Groups. Knee. That’s the three-word address of Dallas City Hall – no number, no street, no zip code.

It’s how you would find 1500 Marilla using What 3 Words. The company has covered the world in a 3-meter square grid (10 feet) and assigned each one a unique three-word code. What appears to be a party game at first glance is a lot more (click here to explore your address).

The operation was founded in 2013 because addresses were imprecise for deliveries – which loading dock, which section of the park, etc.? Beyond that, over 75 percent of the globe has poor or non-existent addresses – and then there’s the oceans and seas.

Precision of location is the name of the game and investors have taken note with millions invested in the technology. For consumers and real estate agents, there are great uses for the free app available for both Android and Apple users. First is the location pinpointing. If you’re in a rural area, the accuracy is unlike what you’re used to. Using What 3 Words for selling property with considerable acreage definitely makes meeting a buyer or Realtor on-property a snap (no more arm waving, horn honking, and light flashing). The location is within a 10-foot-by-10-foot square.

You can also tag photos with What 3 Word addresses so not only can a buyer find the property, but they know precisely where the agent snapped pictures. For the digital egotist, you can add the What 3 Word designation to photos of your lunch or the sunset you just enjoyed. The apps also support speech recognition so you can tell it to remember or find a precise location without typing.


We told you how the whip-smart folks over at Dave Perry-Miller & Associates — Ryan Streif, Holly Aldredge, Betsy Sears, Betsy Sorenson, Jamie Kohlman and the whole gang, came up with the idea of investing in a Virtual Reality program to help market Bentley Place, that very cool upscale townhome community on Inwood Road just south of Lovers Lane where we partied a few months ago with an actual Bentley from Park Place. The team knew that only a few units would be complete, and it would be difficult to show potential buyers what the finished product would look like — the common areas, the gardens, the back driveway.

“What’s there now is dirt, but when you look into the goggles you see what it is going to be,” says Jamie Kohlman. “That’s why we decided to invest in a virtual reality presentation.”

Well last week, as happens so often, I got an email from a local TV news station with a question about real estate.

“Have you ever done a story about virtual reality and real estate?” (more…)

(Product image courtesy Smarter Agent)

Keller Williams announced Wednesday that it was acquiring Philadelphia startup Smarter Agent in what company leadership says is part of the company’s $1 billion tech fund.

The company told Inman that its newest purchase is a mobile-first platform that connects to more than 650 multiple listing services (MLS). It also allows brokers and agents to create branded real estate search apps, Inman said.

Keller Williams Chief Innovation Officer Josh Team said the move would allow the company to compete with other real estate search sites like Zillow and Redfin. (more…)

Really, buying a house today has never been easier. I mean, we are not letting Alexa do our work just yet… but so much of the buying process has become digitalized, thanks to technology and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000.   Legitimizing electronic business transactions opened the door to companies like DocuSign, a San Francisco-based firm that was the first to introduce electronic signature technology and digital transaction management. That was in 2003. Flash forward to now when you can deposit checks and transfer funds right on your phone. Even Earnest Money, the backbone of the real estate contract, can be wired or transferred, managed from a laptop, tablet or phone.

Does anyone out there remember the days when agents spent all day driving contracts to get signatures from the buyer, then drove them back to the listing agents’ office, or home, check in hand? If something was wrong or not initialed, it was back in the car again.

But today, almost 98 percent of the contract process can be done from your laptop.

Exception: The Option Fee.

“Real estate agents are still spending hours driving to pick up and deliver option fees,” says Renée Pellét, one of the founders of GoOptionPay.com, a company based on proprietary software that is revolutionizing the way the Option fee is delivered and receipted. (more…)