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New Royal LePage platform rlpSPHERE integrates emerging technologies

Royal LePage says its new real estate platform rlpSPHERE can completely automate Realtors’ businesses and is the first of its kind in Canada.

The “powerful” cloud-based system “just allows the broker and the agent to deliver much better service to the consumer,” says Carolyn Cheng, Royal LePage’s chief operating officer.

Carolyn Cheng

Carolyn Cheng

The integrated platform, which customizes and Canadianizes the company’s kvCORE real estate platform, enables agents and brokers to create strong websites, improved lead generation and client insight and an automated client nurturing system.

It allows brokers and agents to build customizable websites with search options that include searches by drive time or by school catchment area and lifestyle information.

Phil Soper

Phil Soper

“We saw an opportunity to use emerging technologies that could be imported to any platform,” adds Royal LePage president and CEO Phil Soper. Realtors can access data anywhere on any device.

Cheng says there has been a great deal of interest and excitement in the real estate industry about technology in recent years. However, “the technology has finally coalesced to a point where we actually have these integrated platforms, so you can completely digitize the broker platforms (and create) everything from powerful lead generating websites to different lead generating tools,” she says. “This was the right time to make the investment so that our brokers and our agents could have this advantage. “

RlpSPHERE has been rolled out by region, to ensure there is enough customer support available to agents and brokers, she says. The rollout began in May, starting with the Atlantic provinces, followed by Western Canada and Ontario. In Quebec, the broker rollout is planned around the end of the year, with the rollout to agents in early 2021.

Online training and coaching is available to ensure the technology is used effectively. Otherwise, “it becomes a shiny toy and not a useful business tool,” Soper says.

He says a challenge in running a real estate company is that agents are very independent-minded.  As a result, “we decided we had to give them best-of-breed end-to-end tools so that they get an actual contemporary customized website for free, which is embedded in a contemporary leading brokerage website that’s configurable, which is embedded in the actual technical umbrella.”

While it is difficult to drive consistency at a large coast-to-coast company, if “you give it to them for free and you make it incredibly compelling, you get a higher level of adoption.” Reviews from early adopters have been solid, Soper says.

Although the idea for rlpSPHERE was cooked up about 18 months ago, its launch timing during the pandemic turned out to be “very fortuitous,” Soper says, as the platform allows people to work from anywhere they want without suffering drawbacks.

Meanwhile, Soper believes that virtual open houses are here to stay post-pandemic but that the traditional open house will not disappear.

“The message we’ve taken to our people is that you can actually hold several open houses on a Saturday if they’re virtual. If they’re in person, the work that has to go into setting up the property really confines you to one a day.”

He notes “there are agents who are set in their ways” who love open houses, love sitting in the property they’re trying to sell and love meeting people face-to-face. “So when it’s safe to do so, they’ll continue to do that. I don’t see the open house disappearing, but I see it as a slower and less effective way to utilize an agent’s time. It’s not a really useful way to spend a prime three or four hours on a weekend.”

On the other hand, it is totally unreasonable to expect people to buy a home without seeing it in person, Soper says. “People do buy properties sight unseen with just photographs and video tools, but it’s pretty rare. Most people want to have a visceral feel for what living there would be like.”

So even though virtual showings will speed the process and be more efficient for both the agent and the client, the vast majority of buyers will visit a property before the sale is concluded.

Virtual training, which “is just so efficient,” is also here to stay, he says. However, in-person training and sales rallies will not disappear once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. “Just like people aren’t going to be satisfied just with Netflix specials to replace travel, they’re not going to be satisfied with virtual interactions on a permanent basis,” Soper says.

While Royal LePage has been able to deliver specialized and targeted training during the pandemic, the company will have to see how it can balance online and in-person training post-pandemic. “With in-person training, you are able to target the individual’s needs and get more feedback,” Cheng says.

Soper says in normal times he tries to travel to meet Royal LePage people from coast-to-coast, something that can take years to do given the country’s size. Zoom meetings are “very efficient – you can cover a lot of geography in a very efficient timeframe – but are not a replacement for face-to-face gatherings.”

With online sessions, “you can literally start in the morning and march around the country.”  But he doubts people soak up information online as well as they do in person.

Mix and mingle sessions, conversations and networking online are not the same thing, even though the company tries to use virtual breakout rooms and virtual networking events.

Still, “it’s the way we’re going to operate in 2021 we believe, because that is just the way the pandemic management appears to be rolling out.”