'There is a resistance there'... We Speak to Offr CEO, Rob Hoban on Portals' Reluctance to Embrace Offer Management Tech

August 18, 2022
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What percentage of home buyers truly want to go through the rigmarole of calling an agent to put an offer in and having the agent call them constantly when rival offers come in?

There are websites out there where buyers can register to book viewings, upload documents and place bids on properties in real-time all online. Those websites aren't portal websites though. They tend to be agents' websites powered by the offer management technology of companies like Irish startup Offr.io.

It seems odd that real estate portals with their mantras of being user-friendly haven't embraced this way of doing things. We spoke to Offr's CEO and co-founder Rob Hoban to find out what's going on here...

 

 

OMP: Is there any reason why your technology couldn't be embedded into a real estate portal?

RH: No, not at all and I know we have had many conversations with the portals. But there's still a reluctance, I think, to take the big leap to deliver an entire digital property transaction end to end on a portal.

I think [for portals] the idea of delivering digital viewings, digital offers, digital contracts, digital anti-money-laundering checks, digital signatures and deposit payments - which is what we provide - there's probably a little journey yet to get there.

 

OMP: Are there any portals that have anything remotely like what you guys can do on their platform?

RH: I know there are some portals that have started to deliver the ability for customers to book viewings, which I don't really see as being part of the transaction. It certainly is part of the process that leads up to the transaction, and there are one or two portals that are starting to offer a sort of a rudimentary version of offer processing.

Ours is a hugely sophisticated offer processing engine that can handle all sorts of legally binding or non-legally binding offers from private treaties to auctions to tenders, commercial property, residential property, the qualification of funding, proof of funds, photo ID, anti-money-laundering checks that type of thing. So no portal that I am aware of has delivered that sort of technology.

 

OMP: Why do you think that there's been a reticence on the part of the portals to take that step?

Offr Founders 1

Rob (centre) with co-founders Phillip Farrell (right) and Niall Dawson (left)

RH: I'm happy with the portals to correct me here, but from my observation, it's probably to do with expertise and areas of comfort. The portals are absolute experts in digital marketing, marketing strategy, SEO etc.

My co-founder Philip and I, between us, have sold over 10,000 properties as agents and have been deeply into the transaction. So we brought that level of expertise into the build of our technology. We would not claim to have anywhere near the marketing expertise that the portals would have but we do have expertise around the transaction, and particularly the offer process.

A lot of that is, you know, where their wheelhouse is, and where they're making a lot of money doing what they do very well. So it's a big step for portals to pivot away from that. And so that's why we focused on the transaction in the hope that we might be able to collaborate with the portals if they're interested.

But ultimately our customers are not the portals our customers are the estate agents, and the estate agents' customers.

 

OMP: We've seen several companies that are coming from different angles and building out real estate marketplaces from different points of the value chain. So, for example, there's Better.com who do mortgages in the United States, and they're building out a marketplace on top of that. There are several other companies that are coming at real estate marketplaces from different angles like Zillow or Redfin.

There's another company in the United States called Doorsey that do something similar to what Offr does, and are building out a marketplace around it. Is that something that you guys are doing? and is it something that you can see working well?

RH: Yeah, funnily enough very much so! We set out to deliver an offer management process and a transaction management process for the digital age and we deliver that as a white label product on the agent's own website. But as more and more properties are going into the system, our agents are asking us to do some promotion for them to market the properties because they know that consumers are enjoying using the project. So we actually have a marketplace on our own website.

All agents who are using us also get a free listing on our own marketplace. But it's not just a marketplace it's a transaction marketplace, and this is the key difference.

So if a buyer searches for a property on Offr'swebsite, they're able to actually transact the entire process right there and then on the system. They can also do it on the agent's website and we don't mind - we're happy to direct buyers to the agent's website, and that's why we're very different to a portal. We're more interested in people having a good experience.

We are able to integrate with the portals, but there is a resistance there. Portals I think, ultimately want to build their own technology or perhaps purchase companies and bring them in-house. I can understand that. But what we have built is a pretty deep specialist technology.

So as a result of not a huge amount of engagement with the portals the agents have asked us to start marketing the properties through our own marketplace, and we're finding that a really interesting trend and it's growing very quickly.

August 18, 2022
Since March 2020 Edmund's job has been to read about, write about, collect data on, analyse and generally know about real estate marketplaces and the companies that run them. Before that he worked at the aggregator Mitula Group (which became Lifull Connect) for five years.

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