Given Australia’s love of everything property and real estate, it’s fitting that innovation in terms of real estate-focused startups is strong. Over the last few years we’ve seen a range of companies launch, doing everything from helping people find and rate an agent, easily create property listings, showcase off-market properties, allow vendors to sell their property without an agent, and everything in between.
Founded by former real estate professional Tim Mathews, Negotiagent is one of the latest to launch in the space. It looks to put power back into the hands of vendors searching for the right agent by allowing them to compare and contrast different agents, their strategies, and their fees.
“Real estate agents are master negotiators, it’s what they do for a living and of course a seller wants a master negotiator working on their behalf with buyers,” Mathews said.
“But agents are also masters at negotiating the best deal for themselves. Negotiagent empowers sellers by allowing them to harness competition, and get the best deal from the best agent, without having to face the hard sell several times over.”
The drive to create the platform came from Mathews’ experiences both in real estate sales and, later, as the founder of building company Modus Property.
“Real estate agent commissions are not regulated. I remember during my time in real estate, regularly walking out of a listing presentation, having signed up clients at the full scale of fee and knowing that if it had come down to a bird in the hands worth two in the bush, I would have gladly charged less for the exact same thing, to the tune of thousands of dollars,” Mathews said.
“But from an agent’s perspective, if you can get $18,000, why only charge $13,000?”
Mathews’ eyes were then opened to the idea of service providers having to provide quotes responding to key questions and effectively compete for business when he began Movus Property and started working and negotiating with contractors.
While the startup has launched a functioning platform, Mathews admitted he would do some things differently if he had his time again.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and if we were to do it again we would have the business model and entire process mapped out much more clearly from the outset. We did waste some time and financial resources changing direction as the concept evolved during the build,” he said.
Customers using Negotiagent can begin the process of finding an agent by entering a few details about their property and their needs, adding some photos, choosing a few key questions they would like agents to answer, and set expectations around what kind of sale they would like to achieve, and how much they are willing to pay in commission and up front advertising.
Alternatively, they can simply ask agents for their advice and to “hit them with their best shot”, as Mathews put it.
Sellers can push leads out to a wide range of agents in their area, or choose to exclude any agents or agencies from the distribution of their query. Agents, in turn, can register their interest in responding to the query, with the seller shortlisting up to five to respond.
Mathews explained that sellers can remain anonymous through the process until they’re comfortable sharing more details, with agents able to see only their first name and the approximate location of their property.
Shortlisted agents, on the flip side, can simply begin responding to queries with text or video, and then wait for the seller to contact them to begin the negotiation proper.
“There are no contracts between the seller and agent completed on Negotiagent. It’s a setting of the stage. The seller can still choose to meet one or multiple agents in person. But by the time they do meet, they’ll be fully informed, can feel comfortable they’re getting the best deal, and that the hard part’s done,” Mathews said.
Negotiagent states it has over 31,000 agents on board across more than 15,000 suburbs. Building the agent database took “a lot of manpower and time”, Mathews said, with the team building a free profile for agents and then asking them to either claim and fill their profile, leave it dormant and wait for leads, or simply opt out.
“A good portion claimed, most were happy to leave it dormant waiting for leads, and a few opted out. We have no need to pitch to agents until we have a lead for them, then the lead is the pitch; to respond to a seller lead, agents are required to claim their profiles,” Mathews explained.
An agent registering their interest in responding to a seller query also agrees to the lead fee, however they are only charged if they are shortlisted by the seller and are able to respond to the seller query.
According to Mathews, lead prices can range from $20 to $200 “depending on various factors”, however he believes it’s worth it for agents because Negotiagent is “only for genuine sellers who are ready to sell their property”.
“We’ve surveyed agents and the biggest gripe that they have with any other services connecting agents with property sellers is that the ‘sellers’ are in fact not ready to sell or even considering selling. Our process does require a time investment on the seller’s behalf, approximately 10 minutes initially,” he explained.
“They are prompted to think through the process and are required to upload a minimum amount of detail and photos of their property. We are wanting to facilitate quality interactions so both parties need to be invested.”
The startup is targeting sellers who have been on the market for a while and not yet seen success.
“Since they haven’t had success with their current agent, they want to ensure they make an informed decision the second time around,” Mathews said.
There are a wealth of platforms aiming to help consumers find real estate agents, however Mathews believes they can work in tandem with Negotiagent rather than in competition.
“We encourage sellers to check agent rating sites and do their research, to look at other properties that agents have for sale so they can see how the agent presents, and use our site to interview multiple agents, make informed decisions and get the best deal,” he said.
“We’re there to help sellers empower themselves.”
With the platform now in market, Mathews said the startup is keen to gather feedback from sellers and agents to keep improving the service.
“That’s our primary objective, to focus on quality and ensure that we’re maximising the value for our clients in each and every interaction.”
Image: Tim Mathews. Source: Supplied.