I’m excited to bring you my next post in the #InnovatorsRE series. Each month we will be featuring companies in real estate – brokerages, franchises and technology companies who are ‘shaking things up;’ not just providing great technology solutions – but providing great customer and agent experiences.
This month I had the pleasure of connecting with James Dwiggins, CEO of NextHome. James and his team at NextHome are certainly impressive, having grasped technology and social media to make remarkable strides in their progressive real estate franchise. They are rocking the industry and, for them, this is just the beginning.
Q: How did NextHome get started? Talk a little bit about the growth you’ve had and why you think that has happened?
A: NextHome started from the understanding that the real estate industry needs to change and adapt – and in our view, it’s not happening fast enough. Gen X&Y now make up the majority of homebuyers. They search for real estate differently, and brokers nationwide have said that recruiting younger agents into the business is one of the biggest challenges they face. We developed the NextHome brand to be techy and modern, very consumer-centric, and driven by understanding the lifestyle of today’s mobile consumers.
Although the NextHome brand officially formed in October 2014, we did not begin the process of actually franchising until January 2015. We signed our first two offices on January 1st and proceeded to add another six offices in our first 30 days of the year. At our current rate of growth, we’re on track for 75 locations by year’s end.
In speaking with our franchisees that have joined us thus far, they continue to rave about the clean, crisp look of our brand and the high level technology available to their agents. Add in the exceptional tools, products and systems that agents want, in an affordable all-inclusive package for both the franchisee and the agent, and we believe we have the right model for today’s real estate professional.
Q: How does technology play a role in the day-to-day life of your agents? Are there certain tech tools that all of your agents use (ie: apps, portals, CRMs, email tools, social tools, etc.)
A: In 2015, how doesn’t technology affect our business? NextHome has a dedicated team of in-house engineers and designers who work diligently to make our technology the best in the business, by being user friendly and mobile. Our intranet is full of robust products and services, yet it’s very simple to use.
We feature Single-Sign-On (SSO) technology that allows our agents to log into one site and instantly be connected to all the various tools such as the online testimonial system by Reach 150, client utility switchover service by Updater, or even our customized comparative market analysis tool by Cloud CMA.
We are very proud of our Mobile Connect app that allows a potential buyer to stand in front of a listing and instantly get property information, via text or email, sent to their smartphone while at the same time generating live leads for our agents. Consumers want their information as quick as possible. What’s quicker than instantly?
We work very closely with some of the top real estate search portals such as Zillow, Trulia, and Homes.com in order to stay on top of consumer minds by featuring all our listings and removing all competing agents. In today’s real estate world, consumers are online and primarily using third-party search portals to find their home. We want our agents to be where the consumers are. With over 88 million unique consumers visiting Zillow and Trulia monthly, we would be doing a disservice to our agents to ignore those figures. That’s why we approach our affiliation with them strategically so our agents receive all leads generated from these sites, and with no referral fees.
In addition to Trulia and Zillow, we have our agents’ listings syndicated to over 700+ additional websites including Yahoo Real Estate and AOL Homes. Our system can track the number of people that have viewed a seller’s listing on these 700+ sites and automatically notify the seller each week through an online traffic report.
Q: How are your agents and your company utilizing social media to build your team and build your brand?
A: While some companies restrict their associates’ use of social media, we fully understand the benefits of using social media and the reach that comes with effective communication through it.
Our main social media connectivity is through Facebook although we do incorporate Twitter, LinkedIn and other methods of social media. We are fortunate to have several members of our senior management team that were very active and visible on Facebook before they were ever a part of NextHome leadership. They have been able to reach their own social media spheres and get the NextHome brand out there quickly.
Our experience with Facebook tells us it is the most commonly used method of social media interaction among real estate agents over the age of 45 – a demographic that comprises 81% of the existing REALTOR membership nationally. While we have the Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennial consumer as our focus, we understand the majority of current REALTORS are still an older demographic. It’s important we include them in the conversation of our franchising concept.
In addition to our corporate team, we encourage all of our agents and brokers to engage via social media. Nothing makes us happier than watching our business owners, brokers, and agents sharing their successes through social media. All our moves are strategic and with the end goal in mind. We want our agents and brokers to be confident that our franchise not only understands today’s real estate, but is also positioned to continue that success into the future.
Q: Why do you think you’ve had the success you’ve had thus far? What are the one or two things that you can point to that have helped?
A: I think success starts with the people. We have recruited a group of professionals to our senior management team that we believe are the best in the business.
Tei Baishiki is one of the most brilliant technology minds in real estate. His understanding of technology is second to none. He leads a team with a member services division, an accounting division, and an engineering and design department. Add in the fact that he is one of the most thorough and organized individuals I have ever been around, and you have the perfect skillset for a Chief Operating Officer.
Imran Poladi joined in June of 2014 and is our Vice President of Business Development. He has had an exceptional career in real estate sales and has been one of the top real estate professionals in the industry. As a well-known international speaker, he adds real estate knowledge and depth when working with our agents and brokers. He also handles all of our training and social media, which in today’s world, is the most visible and viral piece of our business.
Charis Moreno joined NextHome in August of 2014 and is our Vice President of Sales. After working the past ten years at both Realtor.com and Trulia, she is one of the foremost experts of real estate search portals. Working with brokers throughout the United States has put her in a position to best understand what they need in their business. Her hard work thus far has put NextHome’s growth in hyper drive.
Christine Dwiggins is our Vice President of Marketing and Events. She is the one that makes sure every piece of marketing, every sign, and every website is perfectly branded with the NextHome touch. One of the most common things we hear from our franchisees is that they absolutely love the look of our brand. Christine works very hard alongside one of the most prestigious design firms in the world (Pentagram) to create the magic that is NextHome. With nearly a decade as a REALTOR®, broker and office manager in San Francisco, Christine understands what agents, brokers, and consumers want in a brand.
We hold each other accountable. My role as the Chief Executive Officer is to push our team to think big and support them every step of the way. When you have so many bright people in key positions, it allows us to be forward thinking and continue to develop new ideas and processes that we believe will keep our franchise at the top for a very long time. Continuing to hire the best talent from inside and outside real estate is a focus of ours and we believe we’re on track to revolutionize this industry.
Q: What’s next for NextHome?
A: Keep working hard and have fun while doing it. Creating a company that is completely consumer focused is often a challenge for agents and brokers to understand, because we’re changing the way things have always been done. But once they see how we developed the company and why we created this model, brokers and agents get it.
Our model is unique and we have the small to mid-size independent brokerages in mind. The National Association of REALTORS tell us that over 80% of all brokerages in the US are non-franchised offices, and that of those brokerages, 75% are five agents or less. We want to be the choice for these offices. It’s time a franchise has those great brokerages in mind when creating their model.
Our expansion into new states and markets will continue to be the main focus of 2015. Our projections have us in 11states by the end of the 2nd quarter and we have a goal of being in all 50 states by year’s end. It’s an exciting time to be a part of our growing company.
Q: Can you share any numbers backing up how you guys use technology and social media – and how it’s increased the bottom line? Has it increased the type of agents or the type of clients you work with?
A: The ironic thing about our growth is that most of it has been organic and can be attributed to visibility virally spread through social media, SEO, Referrals and articles that have been written about us.
Any type of organic visibility and growth will have an obvious impact on the bottom line. While some franchises choose to spend money in large, expensive, and frankly ineffective ad campaigns, we understand the value in being a contributor to the article, rather than buying the ad next to the article.
When you have a very talented senior management team, you get a lot of ideas and opinions, so content is never lacking. Every week, we publish a new article written by a member of our team. We bring our expertise and incorporate that into our articles. It allows outside agents and brokers to see how we think and what we believe in. With so many companies sitting on the fence, I think these outside agents and brokers find it refreshing to see a company that actually takes a position on topics rather than just standing on the sidelines.
At NextHome, we make sure that above all else, the agents and brokers that we have come first. Our customer service is top rate. If you were to ask any of our franchisees, I’m confident they will tell you the NextHome corporate team goes above and beyond in helping them be successful. In return, we are always asking our franchisees what we can do better, what trends they are seeing that we need to be aware of, and what tools they think might be worth looking at. Our relationship with our members goes far beyond a franchise agreement. We treat them like family because they are.
By being consumer-centric, creating and maintaining a great brand, and taking care of our existing franchisees, we continue to attract agents and brokers that want these values.
Q: How many offices and agents do you have?
A: Our franchise expansion began January 1, 2015, and as of May, we have opened 23 office locations in 12 states: California, Oregon, Hawaii, Alabama, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, and Tennessee – with about 200 agents under the NextHome brand. In 2014, these agents represented over $220 million in closed sales volume. We are proud to not only be expanding so rapidly, but also expanding with productive agents in their respective markets.
We are on track to be in another five states in the next 30 days.
Thank you so much NextHome team for sharing your insights!
Be sure to stop by the NextHome website to learn more or visit the NextHome YouTube channel for frequent video updates. Do you have a question for the NextHome team or would like to recommend another innovator in real estate to be recognized? Leave me a comment below or send me a tweet!
Check out our other great Innovators in RE: