If you’re a small brokerage with less than 20 agents, Mark Thomas, CEO and co-founder of Reesio, has a proposition for you.
“I think smaller brokerages and agents want the simplest solution possible,” Thomas explains. “They’re more attracted to an easy-on-the-eyes user interface and just the features they need. They don’t need or want every feature like an enterprise solution like dotloop offers.”
Thomas says he built Reesio because he wanted to serve agents. But that wasn’t his original concept when he entered real estate 18 months ago. In 2012, he set out to offer a flat-fee transaction management and advertising platform for the FSBO market, starting in California.
He formed a licensed California brokerage in order to enter the FSBO listings he received on the Reesio platform into the MLS, and charged sellers a flat fee to handle the marketing of the listing and the paperwork.
Originally, Thomas built a network 300 agents and brokers to handle the FSBO listings in Reesio (taking pictures of the property, uploading to the MLS, etc.).
Reesio • $20 mo. agent unlimited storage • $100 mo. broker (up to five agents) • annual discounts offered for pre-payment • reesio.com
Thomas even attempted to automate 26 of the California Association of Realtors forms as part of the original Reesio platform, but ultimately received a cease and desist letter from CAR for infringement of copyright.
But six transactions after the FSBO platform launched, the people most interested in the product were the real estate agents who had agreed to market the listings as a sideline to their regular businesses — not property owners.
The agents wanted to use the platform to handle their own transactions.
Bye bye, FSBOs —Thomas got the message and pivoted the company into an agent-centric transaction management platform in November 2012. The reincarnated Reesio now has just more than 1,000 agents on the platform, with 300 brokers (each with just more than three agents).
The move put him in direct competition with Cartavi, dotloop, Skyslope and a dozen other vendors in the transaction management space.
“The truth is, I had never used Cartavi or dotloop until I started creating Reesio,” Thomas explains. “But we built Reesio because we thought we could do better, based on our personal experience in real estate. We wanted to solve the pain point of paperwork because we’d experienced it ourselves.”
Thomas says that over the last eight years, he’s bought four properties in the San Francisco Bay Area for investment purposes.
After the first couple of transactions, he got his broker’s license because he thought that it might give him more control over the process and make it easier to manage the transactions. But that wasn’t the case.
“Being a broker — even though it was just to manage my own investment properties — didn’t fix anything in the process,” Thomas recalls. “It was still archaic, complicated and hard.”
Thomas hated waiting around for the paper involved in his transactions. In fact, he hated paper, period.
As a technology entrepreneur (his previous start-up, SayHired, an automated phone screen technology for recruiters that ultimately became Saygent, a tool to measure consumer sentiment in voice communications) he felt the process was antiquated and ripe for reinvention.
He partnered with Uyen Tran, a real estate investor and broker-owner of TLC Realty Group and Expert Lending in San Francisco, to add domain expertise to Reesio.
Thomas used his start-up chops to get Reesio into Dave McClure’s 500 Startups accelerator program, which he’s leveraged for connections, expertise and ultimately, more funding. He is about to go on the road to try to raise $1.5 million in his next round after raising $180,000 in his seed round. He’ll use the additional money to hire more engineers and grow as quickly as possible from his existing team of four.
Feels like Facebook, Pinterest
So the question is — is Reesio different from Cartavi or dotloop?
Yes — but not in the ways you might expect.
From the moment you enter Reesio, you feel as if you’re in Facebook. You start by selecting your role (agent, broker or transaction coordinator).
You can customize your page with your own logo and cover image. When you create your profile, you upload your photo and enter your license number and telephone number.
Reesio notes that it doesn’t support Internet Explorer and works best on Chrome and Firefox — I certainly noticed this when I uploaded my cover photo through Safari and it didn’t show up on the first try. This may be bad news for folks who are die hard IE users, or on older PCs.
It’s easy to create a transaction. You enter as much information as you have, tell Reesio whether you’re buying or selling, upload a picture of the property, and select a workflow template (essentially a list of to-dos for a standard transaction).
The image you select for your transaction becomes the graphic background for your transaction, a nice touch that helps distinguish transactions from each other. Within the transaction itself, you can see your workflow (this is the default view), activity, documents, notes and messages.
You can add people to your transactions so that you can discretely share documents and messages with them. Reesio allows you to tag whether the people you add work within your brokerage. You also select which role they play in the transaction.
You’re in Control
You are in control of who sees what in your transaction. You can assign tasks and see what remains to be completed within the workflow pane of the transaction.
It’s also simple to assign due dates to tasks and check them off the list when they’re complete. You can also delete or add tasks to the workflow as you see fit. It’s a simple interface that will be intuitive to anyone who has used Facebook.
Another nicety is the ability to flag a transaction for your broker’s review, a convenient feature for brokers on Reesio. The broker platform was rolled out in April, 2013.
Given Reesio’s earlier “cease and desist” interaction with CAR, it won’t come as a surprise that Reesio doesn’t contain a forms library. Thomas says that such a library is in the works, but it will take some time to form the relationships necessary with state associations and MLSs to develop it.
Integrated with DocuSign
For the moment, you can upload any form you want into Reesio. All completed forms can be signed via DocuSign within Reesio without leaving the application. Reesio uses a single, master account for all documents processed within the platform.
However, questions have been raised about the security of this approach. Using a single master account for everyone on the platform means that your clients are agreeing to do business with Reesio — not you.
Since Reesio holds the master account, they are also able to see and access every document on the platform as the first-level user, which may be an issue for some Reesio users who use the platform to manage sensitive documents.
Nonetheless, Thomas maintains that the ease of use and simplicity of the platform trumps this issue.
“We wanted a simple and beautiful user experience,” Thomas explains. “That means building an ecosystem where you don’t have separate accounts, or have to leave the platform to get things done.”
Focused on Users First
Thomas says that this holistic approach is what sets Reesio apart from Cartavi and dotloop.
“We care about our users, first and foremost. We want to make it easy for them to do business,” Thomas continues. “Our agents tell us they love the fact that everything is transparent and inherently social. We designed Reesio to deliver an experience like Facebook and Pinterest.”
Thomas also points out that Reesio has a broker offering, which is less expensive than dotloop ($100 a month from Reesio, or $200 plus seat costs for more than 10 agents per month from dotloop). He also notes that Cartavi’s broker offering is months away from launch.
“If you’re a five-person brokerage, dotloop’s pricing is pretty steep — and there’s nothing for you at Cartavi,” Thomas says.
Thomas’ zeal is evident in the way he’s managing Reesio through the next phase of its growth. He’s offering 24×7 email/chat support — which he personally handles in addition to his partner, Tran, and two more engineers.
Every week, Thomas publishes a long list of updates and fixes on the company blog, and aims to be as responsive as possible to customer feedback.
It’s easily a 100-hour workweek, but Thomas is excited by the possibility of creating the first socially aware transaction management platform.
And he has big plans for the future.
Cloud Based Offer Management
Thomas’ next innovation will be a cloud-based offer module for Reesio that will launch within the next several weeks. Reesio users will be able to field offers for their transactions on the platform in the cloud, eliminating the manual process of accepting offer packages personally and notifying other agents of their offer status.
Thomas says these offers will go through what Reesio calls a “public transaction” page. Other agents will be able to join the transaction, submit their offers and counter-offers until a deal is reached. The listing agent will always have control of who is invited into the transaction, so privacy will be assured for the sellers and all agents in the transaction.
It will look a lot like a Zillow or Trulia listing, and will contain the property details, offer price and status. Thomas says these pages will also be friendly and searchable, providing yet another source of data to consumers who are looking for a property on the Internet.
Thomas says agents can use the page as yet another marketing tool. What makes it unique is that it will be automatically generated, and will be fully integrated with Reesio’s transaction management platform. You’ll even be able to schedule appointments through the page.
On the face of it, such a full-circle approach sounds great. But when asked how Reesio would ensure that the information in Reesio is in synch with the local MLS, Thomas seemed unconcerned.
“There’s the possibility that Reesio’s information will be more accurate and current than the MLS,” Thomas says. “That’s because agents don’t have to do any extra work in order to field offers and update the status of the property. They don’t always do what they’re supposed to do within the MLS and update status.”
Thomas sees this as an advantage, because Reesio will in theory have the most current information about a listing. But it’s easy to see that consumers who are shopping for a house may be confused by information that is different than that of the MLS, Zillow or Trulia (or anywhere else listing information appears, including the agent’s own website).
Reinventing Real Estate
Thomas is clearly out to reinvent the way agents and brokers work. He says that future iterations of Reesio are likely to include productivity modules (such as CRM or lead generation). He envisions a platform where Reesio members can manage their whole business, all within the same platform.
“We’re focused exclusively on real estate,” Thomas says, taking a not-so-subtle jab at dotloop and Cartavi, who have announced plans to take their platforms into other verticals.
“Our plan is to go deep in real estate and stay there,” Thomas concludes. “We’re small and scrappy, and we’re committed to making this happen.”