Interview: LeadHome, CTO John Murray speaks about tech disruption in real estate

The establishment of Leadhome was inspired by the need for transformation in the real estate industry.
The establishment of Leadhome was inspired by the need for transformation in the real estate industry.
The establishment of Leadhome was inspired by the need for transformation in the real estate industry.

South African human/tech hybrid estate agency, Leadhome, was launched two years ago and helps homeowners with buying and selling property. The modern estate agency provides solutions using technology in a bid to simplify estate agency processes.

Earlier this year the company launched Simpli, a first-of-its-kind and only platform in South Africa. Simpli uses the latest technologies to empower buyers and sellers, and significantly improve their experience of property transactions. The platform will be expanding and developing over the coming months with additional features set to go live soon.

IT News Africa interviewed Leadhome’s Chief Technology Officer, John Murray to find out about the impact of technology in the industry .

1. What inspired the start of Leadhome?
The establishment of Leadhome was inspired by the need for transformation in the real estate industry. Customers are charged enormous amounts of money for a service that many are unhappy with, and the industry largely still works on a model that hasn’t changed in decades, with very little use of technology.

After some intensive research into the industry, Leadhome was established in late 2015 by CEO Marcel du Toit and Principal Harry Hattingh. The agency combines the best of traditional real estate agencies and modern technology to provide an online, 24×7 service combined with expert real estate agents that guide clients through the process of selling their homes – from start to finish – for a flat-rate commission fee (R29 995 excl VAT).

2. How would you describe the role of technology in the overall success of the organisation?
Technology enables us to provide a superior customer experience, at a very low cost. Using technology, we provide our customers with insights into how to best price homes to sell them rapidly. We have developed a platform that connects buyers and sellers 24×7, wherever they are, allowing prospective buyers to schedule viewings for properties when it suits them rather than having to wait until a show day is scheduled, or an estate agent to phone them back, to view a property they may be interested in.

Technology has simplified the process of buying and selling, making it faster, stress-free and cheaper.
For instance, with our dashboard – Simpli – sellers can see how much interest there is in their property, set their availability, schedule viewings with prospective buyers and get real-time information on what is happening with their sale, 24×7. This level of control and transparency makes for a much better client experience than what sellers are used to.

We also use technology extensively to make our staff more efficient and to enable them to deliver a better service to our customers.

3. Why the shift from the traditional way of operating a real estate organisation?
Traditional estate agencies usually have a three-tiered hierarchy: 1) the franchise owner (franchisor) 2) the franchisee, and 3) the individual estate agent. And in order for each to make a profit, a customer is charged 5% – 8.5% commission to ensure each of the players get their share.

Traditional estate agencies also have built-in and costly inefficiencies like expensive office locations, large print marketing campaigns, and branded cars. These are great for branding, but offer little value to the customer.

At Leadhome we have re-engineered the whole process, using a combination of expert agents, modern technology, and a centralised business model to lower costs for customers while optimising customer service. The cost savings are passed on to customers in the form of a low fixed fee. This is done to simply offer better value for customers.

4. Briefly, describe how your system works?
Simpli uses the latest technologies to improve clients’ experience when selling property. The platform not only automates many of the steps in the process, such as scheduling viewings, it also provides sellers with the information they need to make sure they get the best results and avoid nasty surprises.

By automating much of the process and providing sellers with essential information, Simpli frees up the precious time agents and clients have together to talk about more complex matters, such as strategy and making sure of the best outcome. Simpli allows clients to manage the process, time and have transparency of the selling and buying process which allows them to make informed decisions.

5. What do you think other players in the industry can learn from incorporating technology in their operations?
Many businesses are still very reliant on industrial-age thinking – processes are manual, the business structure is very hierarchical, and decisions are taken slowly.

One of the most significant differences between large, established businesses and startups is the number of people who need to approve any given decision. In a startup, this number is small, whereas in corporates, this can be a large number of people, each of whom is looking for reasons why a decision may disrupt their own day-to-day work, rather than looking for ways to make it work. Businesses need to turn these mindsets around and cultivate a culture of rapid change – experiment, explore, fail, fail fast, adapt, learn and iterate. When people are accustomed to regular, iterative changes, then each individual change (even big ones) doesn’t seem so scary.

Businesses need to change their culture to match the dimensions and dynamics of digital disruption. Culture is driven from the top. If an organisation wants to change its thinking and way of operating, then the C-Suite needs to lead that charge, and empower the people further down the hierarchy to innovate, to think disruptively, to be rewarded not for doing things the way they’ve always been done, but for doing things differently in a way the benefits the organisation. This type of behaviour is not generally rewarded in corporate environments – indeed, it’s often penalised – and that needs to change if those companies are going to compete.

6. How is technology disrupting the real estate industry?
While property portals have made a big improvement to the buyer experience and fundamentally changed how properties are marketed, very few estate agency businesses have invested in technology to improve the seller’s experience. New startups like Leadhome are changing this, providing a much better experience and better results to sellers, while at the same time drastically cutting the costs of selling.


Fundisiwe Maseko