A property software guru says he wants PropTech firms to join with him in an ‘open platform’ which would allow smaller agencies to access technology at minimal cost.
Charlie Wright - a long-standing champion of smaller agencies, and the man behind the now-defunct Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents - says his latest idea, BestAgent, is a platform enabling small operators to access the sort of technology now found on large-scale services such as Jupix and EstatesIT.
Wright says he has over 10 companies already on board but wants more to consider joining, and he has set up an event in the early autumn for those interested.
“The idea of BestAgent is to assist all those running agencies who are not fans of technology but who need the basic tools” Wright has told Estate Agent Today.
“They need the tools to do things like build and manage their own websites, put listings directly on portals and be sure they’re GDPR compliant. Our plan with BestAgent is to allow an agent to get details of an instruction on to portals while they’re still with the vendor - literally in a few seconds, from their smartphone. That’s serious disruption to the current model, on the scale of what Uber did for taxis and what Tinder’s done for dating” Wright explains.
He says the market for agency customers is vast - he believes 85 per cent of branches are in companies with three or fewer branches, showing that independents still form the most powerful part in the agency industry, if only they acted in unison.
Wright says he already has some of the industry’s biggest supplier names on board, willing to work with agency customers using BestAgent so long as key connectivity and rights issues can be agreed.
This revolves around a single open API - tech jargon for Application Programming Interface, which allows a range of different suppliers’ services to be accessible from the one platform.
Wright says those suppliers already signed up to the idea include The ValPal Network - owned by Angels Media, publisher of Estate Agent Today - as well as Yomdel, Kremer Signs, Resi Analytics, Legal4Landlords, Landlords Insurance, BriefYourMarket, ViewMyChain, Feefo, PayProp and the upcoming compliance service called The Depositary.
But Wright says he is in the market for more suppliers if they want to come on board, with a major event being organised on September 26.
He admits the concept has numerous technical, political and financial obstacles to overcome; these include persuading the suppliers to accept common standards, agreeing on data ownership, and forging a relationship with the existing major CRM services.
“We don’t see ourselves as competing directly with the big CRM suppliers, but there will be some overlap. But my intelligence tells me that agents - this big market of smaller agents - want many of the services we’ll offer on the BestAgent platform which won’t be available on the big CRM systems anyway” says Wright.