“Welcome to the real estate revolution,” declares a YouTube video uploaded by Keller Williams Realty. “The first real estate platform to connect agents, clients, data and systems.”
That platform is Command, an app that since December Keller Williams agents have been able to upload onto an Apple iPhone or Google Android device.
How is the revolution going? The reviews are mixed.
Some Keller Williams agents see Command as a Swiss Army Knife letting them do home sales on one platform.
“One of the challenges for a lot of businesses, including Realtors, is that you are constantly jumping between different tech tools and platforms,” said Andrew Mannix, a Keller Williams agent in South Burlington, Vermont. “The power of Command is not having to pay for all those services.”
Others view Command as either not a difference marker or an incursion by Keller Williams into data they view as private.
“I have my own system that I use to follow up with clients and stay in touch with clients, which I prefer,” said Lori Hicks, an agent in Columbus, Ohio. “It gives me the flexibility if I ever decide I want to change brokerages.”
Command is the latest attempt by a major American brokerage to show it is not just playing catch-up with consumer technology, but proactively reshaping real estate sales.
“Our goal is nothing short of reinventing how people experience real estate through technology,” Gary Keller, Keller Williams founder and executive chairman of holding company KWx, is seen saying in the aforementioned video.
It comes over a decade after apps hit the mainstream, years after Keller Williams’ own first app, and amid the rise of competing platforms like Homesnap Pro.
Keller Williams touts itself as the largest real estate franchise network in the world and having more agents – 176,467 as of Dec. 31 – than any other U.S. company. But the Austin-based business is private, and its reliance on franchise fees – instead of slivers of sales commissions – make it almost impossible to even guess at the 39-year-old companies’ size, trajectory, and financial health.
The company declined to say what resources it has put into Command, noting, “Keller Williams does not typically release specific development cost and headcount information.”
Chris Cox, the Chief Technology and Digital Officer of KWx, did say, “Since the release, we have observed record levels of engagement” with downloads approaching 60,000.
In a random sampling of Keller Williams agents interviewed, a few said that they downloaded the app, but only because they thought they had to.
“All KW agents are required to use Command in order to register home sales with the company,” said Mark Siwiec, head of the Mark Siwiec Team, a Rochester, New York-based group of agents. “So, we are obligated to use Command for that reason. We don’t use it for anything other than the necessary reporting.”
Siwiec called Command “clunky” for operating a large team, a criticism echoed by other agents.
“It isn’t always stable,” said Tracy Keffer, head of the Powerhouse Columbus team in Columbus, Ohio. “If I send an email to 300 people, I’ll look to see who actually got something and it may only be 280 people. So, things get lost sometimes.”
Also, Keffer had a very specific complaint. Unlike Netflix, Amazon, or other digital platforms, it is impossible for than one person to login to the same Command account.
“If I am using Command to do something, and my assistant gets on it to build a marketing campaign, we can’t do things at the same time. It just won’t work,” she said.
Keffer did add that Command “does a good job covering the basics,” including an intuitive contact list that helps her send automated texts and emails to clients.
Cox, Keller Williams’ chief technology officer, acknowledged there are kinks to be ironed out.
“We are actively working on a form of delegated authentication or ‘on behalf of’ function that would support designated individuals access to individual agent accounts,” he said.
That agents must download Command to record deals is not quite right, Cox said, as the companies’ original mobile app largely works for that.
Overall, Cox, who joined Keller Williams amid a leadership shake-up in February 2021, said “feedback is consistently positive” and, “We are very happy with the results.” (In Apple’s app store, Command gets a sterling 4.8 out of 5 stars, but that is based on just 54 reviews.)
Unclear is whether Keller Williams has done more, less or about the same for its agents in providing technology. Other brokerages, from New York-based Compass to Chicago-headquartered @properties, also tout their app as a difference maker.
Anecdotally, an increasing number of agents have migrated to Homesnap Pro, an app that is offered by a multitude of Multiple Listings Services. Homesnap Pro is not affiliated with a brokerage: It is owned by CoStar, the Washington, D.C. based company that recently entered the residential real estate market.
A few agents interviewed made clear they would prefer an app that’s not affiliated with a larger real estate institution.
“With Command you kind of lose control of your data,” Mannix said. “If I leave Keller, I can still export my data, but they will have access to all of it.”
Brooklee Han contributed reporting