I've stopped asking why Realtor websites are so bad.
It's just a given that Realtors who are great with people seem to misunderstand the web. People on the internet are impatient.
You need to tell a simple story; and get to the punchline quickly.
Otherwise you'll see everyone 'bounce' straight off. There's no embarrassment in clicking away from a website, like there is when you walk into a Realtor's office. There's no pressure to make chit chat or leave your email address. Online is brutal, and simple.
Even better, the sites are photo-centric. Amazing that no-one else has thought to make photos the most prominent part of a property website.
But enough of my poisonous tongue. I had the pleasure of speaking with Everdwell founder Mat Mullen.
Diving straight in, what prompted you to build Everdwell?
My Dad is a Real Estate Agent in the luxury market in the (San Francisco) Bay area.
I've been helping him build websites for high end houses; helping him one by one. Eventually I realised there has to be an easier way to do it. He's busy, I'm busy.
I looked around, and there are services, but they were built 10 years ago and look pretty shitty.
So I got together with some guys I work with and as the sites don't need much content it wasn't too difficult.
What did you specifically build?
What we've built is a solution that is for Real Estate Agents and Photographers.
There are other solutions like Squarespace, but they are not tailored for Real Estate Agents. Real Estate Agents are not that tech savvy, so we built a simple product. With Everdwell, it takes just 4 steps to build a site. We think it is a very easy way to build a site.
How has the launch gone so far?
It has been pretty good. So before the article, we worked with 3-4 agencies (40-50 agents) in the Bay area. Then after the article it expanded to a couple of thousand sign ups.
What's the size of your customer base?
We've published just over 1,000 websites (10th September 2015).
Who do you consider your most potent competition?
The agencies themselves.
The good ones are starting to get their internal marketing team to create websites for their agents. It's easier for an agent to go internally than come to our service.
So agents don't do well with self-serve. How have you found their usage different with Everdwell?
Even though we've built this, often times they want us to do it for them. So we're shifting to charging to create the site for them.
It's something we added almost immediately. To agents they don't care to pay the $200 to create the site. They just want it up.
Any challenges that you foresee?
The big challenge is awareness. Not only about our company, but also for agents.
It's pretty common for agents to create a website, but outside of the luxury makret, it's less common to see a single property website.
It helps market agents themselves and make them stand out. Tech savvy clients also feel the agents know what they're doing. We need to prove that is true.
Who is on the founding team and what have they done prior?
We're 3 guys (1 guy is still at Google, so can't say who he is).
We all originally worked at Discus together.
Josh Sortino is the designer, I'm the product manager and the other guy is the engineer.
What is innovative about your technology
We built some cool stuff, that agents could care less about.
Firebase allows us to build a real time back-end really easily. SO all changes happen virtually instantly. We weren't setting out to do anything more than make something simple to use.
The real goal was to make it Real Estate Agent proof. As simple as possible.
Any future features planned?
We're planning on expanding outside of property listings. Specifically agent marketing sites. So if you have 5 listings, we want you to have a website based off your previous listings. A similar property website for the agent.
What would you do differently?
I assumed that agents would be receptive to building the sites themselves. Most of them didn't care. They don't care about the price, as much as just getting it done.
And on-demand pricing may have been better.
What do you charge and what can customers additionally purchase?
Charge $15 to $100 per month. We've been changing price all the time, to adapt.
We also offer a one-off of $150 when agents want us to do the work for them. We can use the tool we built.
What's next for you?
Scaling outside of the bay area. We will start to roll out to other luxury markets and then the agent marketing sites as a feature.
One of the core areas is photographers who take photos of houses. They don't create websites, but easily could. Adding another arm to their portfolio.
We could build a marketplace for agents who are looking for photographers, as theyre just looking for more business
Is there anything you need to help at this stage of your business? Are you recruiting? Do you want to seal a partnership that you currently don't have?
The partnerships that we want are those people who work with agents. We have one in Australia, similar to what Zillow is in the US.
If you could wave a magic wand to make one person do something for you, who would it be and what would they do?
Speaking at a real estate conference to get some exposure for our product.
Listings are less to market the house, and more to market the agent. Proving that to agents is the challenge. Websites are for agents to get business down the line.
If your company becomes wildly successful overnight and you become impossibly wealthy, what would you do next?
Go on vacation around the world
Suppose you one day IPO, what would you state in the prospectus as the biggest risk to your business?
A change in how people consume websites. Our business is built on the web, so I guess if a company built a mobile specific product would be a threat.