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Fredrik Eklund, Julia Spillman and John Gomes (Getty, iStock)

Threatened by Tech, Agents Turn to App

Douglas Elliman’s Eklund-Gomes team partners with software firm Agent Image

Agents are trying to take back the power as virtual tours and contact-less showings threaten to displace them.

Front and center is Julia Spillman, Douglas Elliman broker and CEO of the Eklund-Gomes Team, who is leading an effort to develop an app that she said would put agents “back into the driver’s seat.”

Spillman said that as the pandemic shut down the residential brokerage business she became “really nervous” as agents and consumers began using technology platforms that don’t necessarily require an agent’s involvement.

“We have to insert ourselves into the equation,” she said. “I had to find a way that my agents were going to be in a lead role still.”

To do it, she is turning — somewhat ironically — to technology: The Eklund-Gomes Team has joined forces with California-based web design firm Agent Image to develop an application allowing agents to assemble all virtual assets for a property in one place.

The effort actually began in February, before the coronavirus was widely considered a major threat to Americans and a month before lockdowns commenced.

Agent Image, a 300-person firm, pitched Spillman on a new platform where agents can aggregate links, videos and custom content they create for a property in one application to show to clients as a digital experience, presentation, email or printout.

The app integrates existing technology, such as Matterport virtual tours, and allows agents to customize the app to display their personal branding to clients. It will also have a built-in video chat capability.

As Brian Shorr of Agent Image put it, the app brings together technologies that agents are already using on various platforms and “put it in a branded wrapper.” Jon Krabbe, co-founder and managing partner of the California-based firm, said the app “justifies” the work of agents by giving them a platform to gather disparate assets and create a uniform experience.

The development costs are being paid for by Agent Image. The Eklund-Gomes Team agreed to give feedback and beta-test the app in exchange for exclusive use of it this summer. Come fall, Agent Image expects to roll out the unnamed app to the industry as a whole.

Agents will have to pay a monthly subscription fee, which has yet to be determined.

Spillman said the app was born partly out of fear “that the industry wouldn’t step up.” She said she has felt “disappointed” by the array of technology available for agents to work remotely and believes the new app will ensure agents stay at the forefront — something that she doubts would happen on its own.

“[The pandemic] is going to change the way we do business,” she said. “We’d be very naive, I think, to think that business is just going to go back to normal.”

Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]

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