Putting agents in competition online – Tim Mathews

We tell you about a website that allows property owners to upload their property and ask agents from multiple local agencies to compete for the opportunity to sell their home.   It is called Negotiagent and has been set up by an agent who says he wants to help sellers who find themselves in a negative equity situation.  Tim Mathews explains about the business model.
Kevin:   I want to tell you about a new website now called Negotiagent, N-E-G-O-T-I-A-G-E-N-T.com.au. It’s Australia based. It, as the title suggests, is an opportunity to negotiate a commission with an agent. This has been set up for consumers to talk directly with agents and negotiate the sale and the fee that they would pay to an agent for that sale. The CEO of the company is Tim Matthews, a previous agent, probably still active maybe, I don’t know. But anyway, he’s come up with the site and joins us to have a quick talk about it. Good day Tim, how are you doing?
Tim:   Yeah, very well Kevin, how are you mate?
Kevin:   Yeah, good. A lot of talk at present, of course, about value add and how much value an agent brings. We’ve seen a lot of third party sites come on that give consumers the opportunity to assess or rate agents and even talk about negotiation of commissions. Commissions are negotiable, of course. Tell me about your platform, why did you create it, and how’s it going?
Tim:   Thanks, Kevin. Yeah, there’s a lot of good services out there, especially when it comes to agent rating systems and looking at how well agents are doing from a consumer’s perspective, and with a lot of other consumers having rating them previously. We’re a platform where sellers can ask real estate agents to compete for their business, and essentially interview agents online. They can even choose to remain anonymous until they’ve chosen their agents that they would like to meet in person, one or several.
Tim:   The way I look at it is, agent commissions are a pretty similar investment, really, to a new car. But when you buy a new car, you can very easily see all the features that the car offers, the specifications of that car, and of course the price before you ever have to go to a dealer. That’s not the same with real estate agents, generally speaking. But with Negotiagent, you can see exactly what features the agent’s offering, how well they present specific to your needs, and what they’re gonna charge you. And it’s before they’ve seen your kitchen table, really trying to get you to sign on the dotted line, because agents are master negotiators, that’s what you want on behalf of when working for a seller on behalf of a buyer. Sorry, when working for a seller with buyers. But, you can appreciate that. If they are good with.. Yeah, because you have more money.
Kevin:   Yeah, just on that point. I think my comment on that would be that most agents do the same job, only some do it better than others.
Tim:   Absolutely.
Kevin:   So given the fact that your site is called Negotiagent, is it all about negotiating to get the lowest fee?
Tim:   No, absolutely not. And there’s actually a lot of information on our site also about, obviously you want the best agent, that’s the number one importance. And agents are well and truly worth their salt, if they deliver a good job to the seller. So we certainly are not advocating for just choosing the agent with the lowest fees. Our site is for conventional real estate agents, so the agents who are out there getting the best results. And it’s just about making sure that as the seller, you do have competition out there, and that you are able to see the best real estate agents, and that you are able to drive the best result, and get the best deal from those agents.
Kevin:   Yeah, well of course as you’ve already identified, and I agree with you totally that agents are very good at selling themselves, lots of promises that sometimes aren’t met. How do you vet that agents and what they’re representing on your site is actually accurate.
Tim:   Okay, so we pride ourselves on really being a platform. So we’re not a party to the transaction, and it’s up to sellers to do their own research, and to make sure that they feel comfortable that they’re getting the best deal. Our platform helps them do that on a broad scale very quickly, but we would also recommend checking out plenty of other sites, rating sites, something like RealEstate.com, seeing how the agents are presenting properties, and seeing how they’re presenting on our sight specific to their needs, and making sure they’re getting the best agent for the best price that way.
Kevin:   Well, Tim, you’ve certainly got a lot of agents on your sight, some 31 thousand agents. Given that you’re not party to the negotiations … sorry, not party to the transaction, how do you make your money?
Tim:   Okay, so we send a lead from the seller to quite a few agents in their area. We want to give a very good, broad cross section of agents. Sellers can see the distribution of which agents the lead’s going to, and they can also choose to add any particular agent that they might specifically want to hear from, if they’re not already in the lead distribution. Or they can exclude any agents that they don’t want to hear from, such as they might’ve already been on the market with an agent, and they’re looking to change, and they want to exclude that agent or the entire agency, go the agency and get the opportunity to respond. We have a nominal fee on each lead for the agents to be able to respond, and we keep that very minimal in order for a very broad cross section of agents to respond and register their interest in the seller … to the seller, sorry.
Tim:   The sellers can choose between three and five agents for a very personalised appraisal, after looking at their profile, etc. and only those agents that pay that fee. They all then have an opportunity to win the lead. And it doesn’t matter whether they win it or not, it’s the opportunity to win it that they’re paying for, and that’s why it’s a pretty minimal fee, compared to the 20% referral type services that are generally in this space.
Kevin:   So when I as a consumer come on to your site, and I imagine I enter a certain amount of detail that’s gonna go to the agents, does that include my contact and address?
Tim:   It does. However, you get the chance as the consumer to decide when you want to actually reveal those details. And those details don’t go out to all the agents, until you decide who you’d like to reveal your details to. So, yeah, that’s totally up to the seller, and they’ve got complete power over that. They even don’t have to reveal their full address, we have a map around their location. If they decide, they can choose to remain anonymous for as long as they decide, until they are happy with revealing their address to agents.
Kevin:   I understand fully that every business has a right to make money. Just to be clear though, if I put my property on your site, and it goes out to say, a dozen agents, the only agents I will hear back from are those who’ve agreed to pay you a fee to get that lead, is that correct?
Tim:   Okay, so our leads go out to approximately, generally around 50 agents, depending on the area density. So in even denser city areas, it can go out to even more agents, ’cause there are a lot of agents around, and sellers can compare them very quickly on our site. So the agents, once it’s gone out to them, they’ll see that fee, the lead specific fee, and they can agree to register interest, and at that time they’re agreeing that only if the seller shortlists them for a proposal as a one in five chance, only then do they pay the lead, not initially. And the lead is generally between 20 and 200 dollars, so it’s very minimal compared to what agents are willing to pay for genuine sellers.
Tim:   Also, the sellers on our site are genuine. They’re uploading photos of their property, and they’re ready to go. They’re just wanting to make sure they’re getting the best agent for the best price. So agents know that as well, and they’re very motivated to get involved.
Kevin:   Well, if you’d like to learn a little bit more about it, the website is Negotiagent, N-E-G-O-T-I-A-G-E-N-T.com.au. My guest has been Tim Matthews. Tim, thanks for your time.
Tim:   Thank you very much, Kevin.

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