Listing Village: Local company provides the next big thing for real estate agents
June 18-24, 2018
By Becca Bona
A large ping pong table is the first thing visible when entering Desk Agent Inc, a small company focused on web design, application building, and marketing. Walking further through the maze leads to a shared work space filled with computers, hieroglyphic-filled white boards, and a team hard at work.
It’s a forward-thinking, modern office – similar to something you’d find in Silicon Valley – that happens to be in the heart of downtown Little Rock. Currently, the team is rolling out their latest – Listing Village – a service that provides a personal Zillow to real estate agents.
CEO and programming wizard Matthew Young didn’t initially set out to create Listing Village, but he was able to identify a need through the work he was already doing with Desk Agent.
“We’ve been building this web application platform for years,” he explained. “Real estate agents either had one of two problems. They have to send their homebuyers to a website that they have no control over whose entire purpose is to sell them off to somebody else.”
Which is why, as Young said, agents aren’t huge fans of Zillow.
“Or they have a personal map and website under their control, but don’t know how to advertise it, it likely has limited listings available, or the interface is outdated and wonky so people don’t use it. Now they’re back to Zillow who’s trying to steal their homebuyer.”
After three years of programming in conjunction with then-intern and now-team member Jacob Fry, Listing Village was born.
Over a year ago, the team did an initial roll-out, expecting a rush from local agents who clearly needed the service Listing Village provided. There was a lag, however, and part of the initial issue was communication.
It would take the introduction of Daniel Schroeder, now-Listing Village’s Chief Operating Officer, to build a story and solid brand around the new tech.
“Before when I would explain it I would just dive off into the weeds,” said Young. “Luckily I met Dan down at the Venture Center, and we had many conversations about marketing […] because that was the thing I didn’t understand.”
A homebuying guide: Putting the agents at the helm
The nuts and bolts behind Listing Village are fascinating, but were initially weighing down the company and baffling real estate agents – i.e. – the company’s pool of potential users.
“It wasn’t hard for us to build the tech, connect to Facebook, or narrow down what we think a homebuyer would be and all that,” said Young. “What was difficult was explaining that to the agents.”
In today’s ever-changing world of technology, agents are constantly battling the next big thing, the next app or social media trick that essentially eliminates their participation in the homebuying process altogether.
Listing Village adds the human element back into the process, keeping real estate agents at the helm while acting as a guide for homebuyers.
“You need a trusted guide when purchasing a home,” Schroeder explained. “Real estate agents are very important as this is one of the rarest financial decisions that most people make in their lifetime. Living in a house doesn’t mean you know how to buy a house or even that you understand your local market. You need a person on the ground who knows the market.”
Within that vein, the team at Listing Village is not after the spotlight. They want to shine the light back towards the agents.
“We want our Realtors to be able to customize and brand their information on our platform. If the homebuyer doesn’t know about Listing Village – that’s fine with us –that’s not our objective. We’re here to work with real estate agents and help them be successful,” said Young.
Tweaking the tech: Keeping the user in mind
Listing Village has undergone many changes since its first iteration.
“I first tried a full automated-system and I’ll refer to it as a Tesla in this example,” said Young, “that drives down the road until it wrecks – and that’s basically what happened.”
Instead of throwing in the towel, he and his team interacted with their users, and took notes to tailor the service to make it as “frictionless as possible.”
“Ego kills businesses,” said Schroeder. “Humility is the true foundation of real confidence. We’re willing to have someone tell us what doesn’t work so we can fix it.”
An early version of the tech included videos, but they discovered the agents did not want to wade through them. Even further down the line, they realized that for Listing Village to be successful, agents would need to spend as little time as possible inside the platform performing tasks that could best be described as “mundane.”
The team used a little bit of creativity and even more ingenuity and looked toward mobile gaming for some answers. This idea was largely Landon Burress’, another intern-turned team member who’s been involved with Listing Village from the get-go.
“It’s mundane to follow up and nurture a lead over the course of a year,” said Young. “It’s mundane to contact people once a month that are in your email lists or further out of your circle – but if you do that you stay in people’s heads and that’s where 80 percent of the business is.”
With that in mind, the team members were able to design the program such that a few follow-up actions a day could see great results.
“If they do those follow-up actions and keep up with what their referral network looks like, then they can go back to doing what they do best – communicating with people and researching the market,” said Young.
Tweaks have also included making the cost exceptionally reasonable, at $20 a month per agent as well as $10 a month per agent if the whole brokerage signs up. For a system that took three years to build, that is a stellar deal.
“We’d rather have them reaching out to homebuyers than have them spend huge amounts of money on a subscription fee. That helps us fine tune the service and find homebuyers,” said Schroeder.
Currently, beyond Arkansas, Listing Village has a far reach – and is already serving Memphis, Nashville, Tulsa, areas of Southern Missouri, Arizona-at-large, and Santa Clara County which houses Silicon Valley.
While Schroeder jokes that he’s the least-intelligent team member, there is something to be said for a platform with the capabilities that Listing Village exhibits.
“Jacob, for instance, spent three years of his life designing what is now potentially the best real estate search tech in the world – it’s better than Zillow, and when I say that, I mean that Zillow is clunky, it shows homes that aren’t for sale anymore. The system Jacob built updates every ten minutes,” he said. “When I say that these guys are brilliant, the map they built – they solved a problem that Google gave up on. Google was working on this years ago and just kind of abandoned the project.”
Plus, the entire team is passionate about providing a quality service and platform to help real estate agents and homebuyers alike. “The fun part about it is that we love what we’re doing. We love being able to serve people. Every day is a fun new challenge,” said Schroeder.
For more information, to talk to the team, or to get on board with Listing Village, visit listingvillage.com.
Listing Village team members discuss a few tweaks they have recently made to the platform to make it easier on users at their downtown Little Rock office. Standing from left to right are Landon Burress, Matthew Young, Nathan Cain and Jacob Fry. Not pictured: Daniel Schroeder. (Photo by Becca Bona)