By Jack Stubbs
In a real estate market increasingly influenced by commercial real estate tech (CRE tech), many companies are trying to successfully implement technology into their expansion strategies. Jacksonville, Florida-based Trent Real Estate, Inc., a family-run real estate management company founded in 2016, recently announced the release of its real estate mobile software app in November 2017.
We spoke with Roy Trent, CEO of Trent Real Estate Inc., about the company’s history, how it has arrived to where it is today, and what the release of the mobile app means for a real estate management company hoping to stay ahead of the CRE tech curve.
What can you tell me about Trent Real Estate (the company’s founding, how its mission has evolved to where it is now, etc.)?
Our family name goes back over 60 years in real estate when my grandfather Frank Trent started Frank Trent Real Estate out of a barn on Long Island, New York. My whole family has been involved in real estate one way or another my entire life. All of us—my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.—have been investing, brokering and managing real estate for the majority of our lives.
Trent Real Estate was founded by [me] and a family friend of ours who also had been investing with us for some time. [There are] many real estate tech companies out there, and though they are all different, overall they are the same in many ways. Yet, there is not a single one that offers a full range of solutions on one platform [like we do].
From search to offer through closing, full [customer relationship management], and office management for agents and brokers, we are managing the entire real estate process from soup to nuts on one platform. We strongly believe this is necessary [to move] forward in the industry. We are also working on implementing crypto currency for escrows and other payments like inspections, etc.
Based and operating across Florida, how does the company’s location inform its overall strategy? Are there any plans to expand in the future?
Absolutely. We are planning to expand across the United States into all markets. Our product is scalable, and there is no reason [why] we shouldn’t. There is a lot of wealth [in Palm Beach]; however, when we speak with people here, the [topic of] commission always comes up. They always ask, ‘why should I have to pay 6 percent to sell my house?’
The main question is always about the commission…the bottom line is that people still do want an agent, either because they are not sure how the process works or they just don’t want to do it themselves.
So, in response, we have incorporated in our technology options for clients. Also, an agent is right there with them through the whole process—but we have also made it non-invasive. You could actually purchase a piece of property and have never spoken verbally with your agent. It’s all based on your preference and keeping up with the new wave of millennial buyers who prefer less interaction but still need some support.
What are some of the services that Trent Real Estate provides for industry professionals looking to buy or sell? Does Trent Real Estate operate equally in the commercial and residential markets?
[The application] may be best suited for commercial, since it’s so streamlined and provides proof of offer submission to all parties. The way we designed the software is for residential, however, we are tweaking some aspects of it for the commercial side. It is flexible enough to work with either side.
On November 17th, the company announced that the first rendition of its real estate mobile software application was complete. This seems like a landmark moment. What does this next chapter mean for the company moving forward? How long has the application been in the works, and what were some of the factors that contributed to it getting funded?
It was a landmark moment and it was a lot of work! We have sold a ton of investment properties including REO and HUD homes over the years. We used to sell bulk assets to investors and, in turn, they would advertise them as wholesale properties. While having dinner with one of our investors, I was explaining what I had in mind to consolidate all real estate transactions into one platform. Since he was a very seasoned investor, and we have done so many deals together, he understood the concept and believed in the product. After dinner, he handed me a check for $150,000 and said “make it happen,” we shook hands, and here we are.
It seems that, now so more than ever, adoption of technology in the real estate industry has become a requirement rather than an option for industry professionals. What is your take on this notion? To what degree does the new application address a “broken workflow” that was in need of revamping?
The entire industry is segmented. You have to purchase this platform for CRM, pay for leads on this platform, join the board, etc. Anyone in the industry knows [that] agents work very hard for their money. There is no doubt about that, [and] real estate is a tough business. Then, you have all of these other companies that are building their businesses off the backs of agents selling their own leads to other agents all while the agents actually pay those companies too!
Our grand plan is to open up the industry and make it more transparent. Our application streamlines the process in a very direct way and attempts to level the playing field for agents as well as consumers. If a seller wants to sell their home but they feel they shouldn’t have to pay the highest commission amount, they should be able to find an agent to do that very easily. If they would like a more seasoned agent with more experience maybe they are willing to pay a little more.
It’s all designed [so that] the agent as well as the consumer gets to choose who they do business with, but the choices are right there in front of them both. Consumers like to feel the power and have some level of control, and in this day and age, they should.
How does the application differ from other mobile applications that streamline the transaction process for industry professionals? Why should one choose this app over another?
Our software is part of a bigger picture. Yes, most applications are for industry professionals or consumers. Ours simply ties in the two. An agent who uses our app has access to buyers and sellers, and in turn, buyers and seller have direct access to agents. It’s very easy to make an offer on a home you like and very easy to list a piece of property you have. Utilizing our app, you can accomplish this in less than 5 minutes.
It’s clear that technology is a major disrupter in the real estate industry. In the longer term, do you see tech as the inevitable future of the real estate industry, or just another component of it? Are there any disadvantages to such a tech-centric and tech-saturated real estate market?
Absolutely, I do see technology as the inevitable future of real estate, there is no doubt about it. There is no reason, in the age we live in right now, [why] someone in London or China or Dubai shouldn’t be able to pick up a smart device and purchase a house in the US in a very simple manner. On the same token for agents, buyer and seller leads should be easily transferable. If an agent in Chicago has a lead for someone who would like to purchase something in Seattle, they should be able to easily transfer that lead over to another agent and receive their referral fee, no matter which office or company they are with.
We are big believers in tech. Our product is solid, with sweat equity built into our research and decades of experience, [which is] not something you find very often these days.