Real estate sales representatives have long relied on word of mouth for business—but given that an estimated 700,000 millennials are slated to enter the housing market over the next decade, according to the Ontario Real Estate Association—that’s changing
And among Canada’s technology vanguard is Fivewalls.com, a free service for buyers and sellers in search of an agent.
“Only one in 10 agents make the cut at Fivewalls,” said its CEO Paul Hayman. “To make the cut, you have to have at least five years of experience, be very active in the market and have a significant number of customer reviews. You also have to have decent grading on those customer reviews. An agent will have to be open to having every customer who comes to Fivewalls rate them and for it to be publicly posted. That weeds out a lot of agents right off the bat.”
According to Hayman, the average Canadian agent does only 4.5 deals a year, and in the Greater Toronto Area that number drops to 2.4 deals per annum. Those agents wouldn’t make the cut, he added.
“We have a tremendous amount of very nice people in the industry, but very few are active in the market and it’s only getting more competitive. Regarding those people who aren’t very active in the market right now, our job at Fivewalls is to solve that problem for our customers.”
In essence, the company vets agents for consumers in a multitude of ways, including how quickly they respond and close deals. In addition to the other reviews, agents are assigned average scores.
The explosion of tech-savvy consumers—in particular millennials, who comprise the bulk of buyers—has made the marriage between technology and real estate essential, says Hayman.
“Millennials and Generation X are driving the market right now—60% of all purchases in Canada are done by those two groups, so we need to be in tune with them. The millennial group is much more research-based, whether they’re buying clothes, choosing a restaurant or air flight. It’s important that a large amount of our staff is dialed into that thinking.”
Indeed, Hayman, a boomer, is the only member of the Fivewalls team who isn’t a millennial.
In addition to having offices in Guelph and Toronto, Fivewalls is present in Chicago, as well Sarasota, Tampa Bay and Orlando, FL, and it plans to launch along the west coast next year. It also has a major presence all across Ontario.
“Agents on Fivewalls close seven times more deals than other players in the GTA,” said Hayman. “Traditionally, around 65% of this industry was word-of-mouth referrals, but now it’s about the experience of thousands rather than just the experience of one. Seventy percent of all Fivewalls clients are millennials.”