When it comes to technology and the many ways it can help real estate agents do their jobs
better and more efficiently, Matt Widdows, founder and chairman of HomeSmart International, is a true visionary. Even before he opened his Phoenix-based company in January, 2000, Widdows recognized the need for better technology in the real estate business.
“I saw a lack of technology in real estate, and when it came to brokerages I thought we could do a better job,” he says. For example, when HomeSmart opened in 2000, Internet access was still pretty limited. “No one had mobile access, and the computer technology that we did have was antiquated,” he says. Recognizing the importance of being able to work remotely, Widdows started implementing mobile technology early on, which allowed the company’s real estate agents to do mobile searches while in their vehicles. Over the years, the real estate industry has moved forward and mobile technology is now a big part of doing business, but at the time, Widdows’ ideas were revolutionary.
“Today, we still continue to create our own software that powers our systems and we provide cutting-edge tools that make it easier for our real estate agents to do their work and help their clients,” he says. “I have had my own in-house development staff for eight years, and they develop all our in-house software.”
Propriety software they have written called RealSmart Agent SmartPanel and RealSmart Broker Back Office allow complete business management for the company’s real estate agents — from paperless transaction management to unique listing marketing tools such as YouTube uploads and custom websites for all of their listings. Explains Widdows, “This system integrates into our back-office system that is custom-written to manage the brokerage side of the business, including employee productivity tracking, recruiting and retention, and closing and accounting functions.”
In addition, the branch offices have a 42-inch screen that allows HomeSmart to have centralized reception. “When customers walk into one of our branch offices, they are greeted by a friendly receptionist located at our corporate office who can then intercom the entire office, call the agent that they are there to meet, or even unlock doors remotely,” Widdows says, adding that using a virtual receptionist allows him to maintain a smaller reception staff.
Widdows’ experience with technology goes back more than 20 years. In the early 1990s, he owned a medical computer company that focused mainly on accounts receivable systems for the medical industry. In 1992, Widdows earned his real estate license and “tinkered with real estate on the side” while still running his company. By the mid 1990s, Widdows had sold his company and was working in real estate full time. By 1999, Widdows says he realized he could apply his technological experience to the real estate market and decided to open HomeSmart, a residential real estate brokerage company.
HomeSmart’s use of advanced technology has not only helped its agents provide top-notch customer services to their clients, it has also helped the company grow into one of the fastest-growing real estate brokerages in the country. HomeSmart is the largest real estate brokerage in the Southwest and is among the top 10 largest nationally on the Inman News and National Association of Realtors rankings.
Widdows credits his company’s cutting-edge technology with helping HomeSmart survive the recent economic issues and collapse of the real estate market, and come out even stronger. “The Phoenix real estate market definitely saw a big downturn, but our use of technology has made HomeSmart more streamlined and efficient. Because we are not employee-heavy, we have done very well.”
Matt Widdows’ Smart Moves