In real estate, technology is no longer a novelty.
Nor is it always a timesaver.
That’s why Edina Realty is developing a suite of digital tools aimed at streamlining and integrating the existing software and other technology that the company’s agents now use to list, market and sell houses.
Move over Siri and Alexa, Edina Realty has dubbed that initiative “Emma — a real estate assistant.”
The name is a nod to Emma Lind Rovick, a suburban housewife who in the early 1950s went to a work for a struggling real estate brokerage called Edina Realty to help buy her daughter a piano.
In 1955, Rovick bought the company and helped make it one of the biggest in the state.
Edina Realty has more than 75 real estate offices throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin, and it’s now a subsidiary of HomeServices of America, which is an affiliate of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
Sharry Schmid, president of Edina Realty, said the idea for a virtual assistant for agents has been percolating for at least a couple of years. It’s an idea, she said, that emerged out of several meetings focused on finding better ways of using technology the agents are already using.
Schmid said that agents have countless demands on their time and they need to be tech-savvy and understand people.
Emma is aimed at easily providing what appears to be customized content and materials without creating any extra work.
“Our goal is to help them navigate the complexities of their role by streamlining the manual, time-consuming pieces of their job and allowing them to focus on what they love,” she said. “We wholeheartedly believe that the value and relationships agents have with the consumers is critical.”
To build a customized application for agents, the company teamed with Imprev, a Bellevue, Wash.-based tech company, to build a platform that’s able to integrate all of the other services the company is now using, and will develop in the future.
Emma was developed on Microsoft Cloud using artificial-intelligence technology that can incorporate voice and natural language search.
In a statement, Imprev’s CEO Renwick Congdon said that in addition to streamlining the tools agents already use, the platform will give Edina Realty a high-level view of all its listings, enabling the company to pinpoint marketing trends and identify what works and what doesn’t.
“That means brokerages like Edina Realty can effectively enforce marketing best practices for agents through automation, which sets workflows in place that implement the best practices of the best agents across the entire business,” he said. “Offering that type of value to agents is powerful, and we see it lead to greater success and more revenue for everyone.”
Imprev was launched in 2001 and now provides automated marketing services to hundreds of brokerages and franchises.
The company said their products are being used by more than 20 percent of all real estate agents in North America, including RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Corcoran Group, NextHome, Realty World and Hunt Real Estate.
Edina Realty rolled out the first phase of its multiyear initiative in July at the company’s annual tech camp.
Though Emma is available exclusively to all Edina Realty agents; consumers aren’t likely to notice any changes. Emma is focused on taking the manual steps out of creating branded marketing content for four key steps in the homebuying process.
The consumer-facing materials will be labeled Just Listed, Open House, Price Reduced and Just Sold.
Emma was programmed to nearly instantly pump out of a full range of materials including include fliers, postcards, single-property websites, social media posts and e-mails.
Each of those will be fully customized to Edina Realty’s specific requirements, ensuring the brokerage’s brand — and each agent’s brand — are front and center to buyers and sellers.
For example, every time an agent takes a new listing, they will automatically receive fully branded marketing packages. From the throughout the life of the listing.
Future phases of the initiative will be focused on providing agents with automated assistance to help them navigate other aspects of the buying and selling process, including managing the transaction itself.
Eventually, Emma will also be responsible for streamlining tasks related to business management and lead generation.
“Technology is never complete,” Schmid said. “It’s more of a journey than a destination.”