During the real estate boom, Jeremy Sposato was running full-speed like every other residential real estate agent in Lee County.
His tools were primitive: “It was all Excel and email.”
The challenge always was getting all the players together to close deals. Besides the buyer and seller, real estate agents had to lasso a parade of other professionals, including insurance agents, mortgage brokers and title companies.
So during the slowdown that ensued, Sposato started thinking about a better way to do business. “It gave me a lot of time to reflect,” says the broker and owner of J. Roberts & Co. Real Estate Services.
Sposato's idea: Bring everyone under one roof, using the Internet.
But Sposato couldn't find any software that could connect all these professionals together onto a single platform that could be accessed easily with just one username and password. And he didn't have the resources of a giant residential real estate firm.
The software on the market, Sposato found, was either targeted at the buyer or the agent. “They focused on whom they wanted to sell to,” he says.
So Sposato decided to create his own software from scratch, hiring developers in India to write the code and spending hours on Skype with them. He'd work at night, when it was daytime half a world away. “The process of building it took a year,” he says.
Sposato spent $100,000 and countless hours of his own time to create what's called AgentKinect, but he estimates it would have cost him three times that amount if he'd hired U.S. programmers.
The most important feature of AgentKinect is that it allows real estate agents to be more productive. “If you're the guy who can deliver the fastest, you get the business,” he says.
The idea is to automate tasks and give everyone involved in a real estate transaction access to a single online site to make the entire home-buying process move more smoothly and effectively. “We have to make every minute count,” Sposato says.
This is important because Sposato wants to recruit top real estate agents to grow his business. J. Roberts & Co. already has four offices, including Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa with 28 agents generating $20 million in sales. “We built it on a national database, so you can add it anywhere in the country,” Sposato says.
Agents are independent contractors, so the opportunity to be able to manage more transactions simultaneously is attractive. That's especially important now because agents have to work twice as hard today than during the boom for the same commissions since sales prices are much lower. “We want to offer a turn-key business,” says Sposato, who notes that his agents close six times as many deals using the software as the national average.
Besides hosting all the various parties onto one site, AgentKinect scores homebuyers according to how frequently they search for homes on the website after they register. Sposato says other computer programs only show the agent who logged into the system. “That doesn't tell me much,” he says.
Sposato is taking the software one step further. He's arranging his real estate offices like the computer dashboard he's designed. There's a room for a mortgage broker, another for an insurance agent and one for the title company. He leases out each office to a professional who specializes in that field. “This is the physical manifestation of our software,” he says. “The whole concept is not a real estate office; It's a real estate store.”
In addition to current locations, Sposato plans to open other offices in Naples and move the Fort Myers office to the Gulf Coast Town Center shopping center. “I want to get in the major markets in Florida,” he says.