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PropTech Today: 'We’re no longer real estate' says world’s largest real estate firm

Co-Founder Gary Keller has declared that Keller Williams (KW) is, 'no longer a real estate company...we are a technology company No. 1'. 

As one of the world’s largest firms makes a bold shift towards data and Artificial Intelligence (AI), it must surely be time for everyone to follow suit?

Keller was on stage, in front of KW agents, debuting the company’s new AI virtual assistant, Kelle, which can process data to answer questions and perform tasks, such as: ‘I want to make $100,000 this year’, ‘How many contracts per day do I need to make to achieve that?’, or, ‘What’s the status of my referral?’. 


“In the fourth industrial revolution,” Keller said, “the one with the most insights wins, and that means the one with the most data.”

The new virtual assistant improves as it’s fed more data. But Keller’s interest in data goes far beyond a highly capable chatbot. And what’s really interesting is how KW plans to gather the grand amount of data it’s craving. 

Data rich, insight poor

Keller Williams is America’s largest real estate firm in terms of number of agents and sales volume. It is all of those agents who create the data, and today the firm is funnelling that previously disconnected data into one main database. A place where it can then learn everything about the past, current, and future state of the property industry.

Knowledge is power, and Keller Williams has realised that nowadays, we call knowledge insight, and the only way to get it is through big data.

So now, with its vast amount of agents all across the US, it’s hoarding data on everything from offers and contracts to appraisals, inspections, and productivity.

There are no two ways about it, without solid data insight, property firms are shooting themselves in both feet and each elbow.

Are you mobile yet?

The new virtual assistant is “designed to allow agents to run their business from a mobile device, find KW’s training content and best practices quickly, check their progress against their business goals, grow their own agent-to-agent referral network, add and nurture their contract and create and manage a business schedule.”

The idea of ‘mobile’ still, to many agents, seems like an optional add-on, rather than a vital asset. But technology has the potential to provide a competitive edge, and mobile, cloud-based platforms have become a central part of this innovation. 

Keller Williams’ chief innovation officer, Josh Team, said: “Agents are data rich, but insight poor…Our core belief is that over the next 12-18 months, winners and losers are going to be chosen and agents, right now, are being caught in the middle of this larger game.” 

Team goes on to explain that everyone at KW is pooling their resources to create a fund to fuel technological revolution, a fund which they intend to reach ‘tens of millions of dollars annually’.  

The money will be spent on one single aim, to create a solution that ‘allows the tech-enable agent to win and outperform the technology platforms that want to disintermediate the agent’. 

My third-party disagreement

Keller does say one thing I disagree with, by suggesting that property firms should not look to use third-party solutions for gathering and analysing data, and should instead build their own. 

This just isn’t viable for most agents. Keller’s words on data are correct, but I think he neglects to realise that self-builds are unattainable and wasteful for the majority of agents, at least those who don’t come close to matching KW’s scale. 

Data should also ultimately be an open platform, so I think that agents should be encouraged to work with data providers who can augment their systems to provide comprehensive insight. 

So, while I think the mentality over at KW is great and should be mirrored across the industry, I don’t think the recommended method of rollout is suitable for the general market place.

The time is now

These comments from Keller Williams are some of the most confident, bold, and aggressively innovative that I’ve heard regarding PropTech. I wouldn’t be surprised if this loud announcement creates a bit of a ripple across the industry. 

If the biggest firm in the land is going digital, relying 100% on data to succeed, it’s going to be hard for others to remain motionless. 

For all agents in the UK, it’s time to evolve with a data-driven and mobile first attitude towards technology; test quick, fail fast, but be obsessive in your search for opportunity and success. 

Technology and agents are destined to work together, it’s an unavoidable fate. Ours will never be an industry of technology without agents. But nor will there continue to be agents without  tech. The two working hand-in-hand is how we progress and it’s a philosophy that is becoming increasingly agreed upon with yesterday’s doom-mongering fading away.

If you haven’t started your journey with innovation yet, this should certainly inspire at least a first step. Something small, something simple, but something now! Go searching for technology you like, that you’re comfortable with and that you see real world value in. 

As Keller says, find the solutions which will help you outperform the online, no-agent competitors that keep rapping at the door. Everything else, you can just ignore.

*James Dearsley is a partner in PropTech Consult, digital transformation specialists for the real estate sector. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.

  • Welsh  Cynic

    This confirms the opinion that Agents need to be up to date with Tech, but that Tech doesn't work without the human involvements of Agents.

  • Simon Shinerock

    Tech in estate agency enables good agents it doesn’t replace or disintermediate them, so basically I agree with this message with one qualification. Agents work locally and big data is of limited value in a local market, it has some value just not that much

  • Mike Lewis

    And of course IT is totally reliable and never goes wrong does it?!

  • EuGin Song

    Conversely, today it is much easier to build your own internal software solutions, than at any time before. Select best-in-class reliable and secure cloud software rather than generic "one size fits all" industry solutions that silo your data, disable your processes and staff and offer no competitive advantage. Most PropTech solutions we tried, we replaced with our own, using similar software choices to KW. Far more effective Automation and AI capabilities built-in from the start.


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