“Million Dollar Listing” alum co-founds social app to break down proptech barriers — automating inbound marketing, eliminating agents’ dependence on pricey platform advertising, connecting customers with agents for seamless access to quality listings
LAS VEGAS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Fredrik Eklund, founder of Douglas Elliman’s top-producing team, the Eklund | Gomes Team, and alum of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Listing” franchise, announced he is the co-founder of a new groundbreaking social app for real estate called REAL. Eklund joined forces with Thomas Ma, an entrepreneur and licensed real estate agent from Hong Kong with notable success in proptech and start-ups, because they saw how large proptech platforms were diminishing agents’ roles and control.
The high-speed app offers an Instagram-style platform combined with a WhatsApp-style chat feature, enabling agents to promote themselves for free rather than having to advertise to attract followers interested in connecting with them.
“The pandemic changed how we communicate; everything is digital and much faster,” explained Fredrik Eklund, co-founder and chief visionary of REAL. “National – and even global – real estate is becoming one big market as people are moving around more and searching globally. Agents are getting licensed in many different states and there’s a complete crossover happening, especially in the luxury market. Current real estate apps, like Zillow, do not provide quick answers and MLSs are slow. I run a large team and see all facets of the market, in all price points, and how quickly it moves. People want to use their mobile phones for this, they want it to be fun, and they want it to be FAST. At the same time, they see what people around them like and look at. Consumers are smarter today. They don’t want to see what listings Zillow pushes because agents have paid for those hidden ads. They want to see what’s truly popular socially.”
Advantages of REAL:
- Followers – sellers and buyers – can see agents’ reviews of highly curated listings and get a feel for their personalities, styles and tastes through their individual profiles on the app.
- They can also see what’s popular in the market and benefit from the app’s advanced AI technology to conduct highly specific, expedited searches tailored to their specific needs. For example, families seeking a home with a swimming pool and patio can search for all residences with those criteria in a specified community or zip code.
- It reflects Ma and Eklund’s shared vision of an app with real-time, built-in social networking capabilities allowing for quick and seamless information about listings and promoting connections and communication between agents, buyers and sellers.
- It allows agents to post a preview of properties not yet on the market among the listings on their profiles.
- Through its network of agents, it allows users to build a contact list of a global family of agents with which to communicate – something unique to real estate that platforms like Zillow do not offer.
- It stores data in its WhatsApp-style platform with a contact list so connections are made and retained. This is an incredible asset for agents wishing to touch base with contacts at appropriate times and it helps to replace the hassle of excessive follow-up correspondence, something that has plagued the industry historically.
- The chat feature enables agents to keep up with their followers, knowing when it’s best to contact them and when it’s not. And followers can reach out directly to REAL’s agents.
- All of this is free for everyone.
The potential of a large business and financial impact for an app of this nature is why Eklund joined forces with Ma, known for leveraging his learnings by bringing insights from Hong Kong to the U.S. market. Ma understood the challenges, the significant time and the investments agents put toward developing leads and securing listings. He also understood how the shift toward proptech platforms meant agents were being asked to advertise their own services with little to no return on investment.
Ma explained: “REAL launched on the app store 11 months ago, has 147,500 downloads to date and that number is growing. Traditionally, agents are referred by someone, your friend or relative, your acquaintance, or even a friend of a friend. The agents you’re introduced to don’t really know who you are, your unique tastes, your lifestyle, or your needs to facilitate your home search. We wanted to give talented agents an opportunity to share their stories, their knowledge, and their experience, and give them control of what listings and recommendations they bring to their audience. Users – agents, home buyers and sellers – can then choose to follow or connect with those agents based on compatibility and personality to fit their specific needs. Fredrik’s extensive real estate experience and his journey to becoming a leader in the industry gives him unique insight into the challenges related to building a network as an agent. He knows the importance of acquiring a following to foster and retain connections. We could not have asked for a better co-founder and chief visionary for our company.”
Fredrik Eklund’s Eklund | Gomes team currently has 91 agents across 13 markets and five states and the majority of those are already using and enjoying the REAL app. REAL currently has a team of 14 programmers.
REAL is the first and only social app combined with messaging for real estate that puts agents back in control of their business. For the first time, agents can generate free leads without expensive online ads, labor-intensive emails, or extraneous and ineffective cold calls. REAL helps agents build professional relationships online with interested prospects, keeping them connected and enabling the agents and their prospects to engage with one another at any time. They can do this all through REAL’s social platform designed exclusively for real estate. REAL agents curate their feature images, content and chat topics to reflect their expertise and knowledge. When future buyers and sellers browse REAL’s online magazine, they view content curated by agents and follow those whose interests align with their own. REAL was co-founded by Hong Kong real estate entrepreneur Thomas Ma and Fredrik Eklund, co-founder of Douglas Elliman’s Eklund | Gomes Team and former star of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing NY & LA.”
About Fredrik Eklund
With record-breaking sales and socks as colorful as his personality, Fredrik Eklund has become an icon in real estate and on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” series, appearing as the only cast member to star in both the New York and Los Angeles versions. Co-founder of The Eklund | Gomes Team, co-founded by John Gomes, the dynamic duo have secured over $15 billion in closed sales over the last decade and have become a staple of New York, California, Texas and Florida real estate. Consistently ranked on industry hot lists, including The Hollywood Reporter Power Brokers and Variety’s Real Estate Elite, Eklund | Gomes continues to sit on the top, bringing in $4.5 billion in sales in 2021 alone. In 2022, they notched the priciest sale of the year for New York at 432 Park Ave., for $70.5 million, and are taking their momentum to Nevada where they are expanding this summer.
About Thomas Ma
Thomas Ma, who hails from one of Hong Kong’s leading real estate developer families, became successful in his own right when he ventured into tech. Ma became an active business leader in proptech and subsequently brought his passion and in-depth understanding of real estate from international waters to the U.S. market. He saw the industry shift toward large proptech platforms, presenting steep financial hurdles for agents and decided to develop a new way for agents to showcase their listings. This led to him co-founding REAL, giving agents back control of their listings to generate leads and maximize their online presence. Prior to launching REAL, Ma created HOJOJO. The rental marketplace and leasing management system helped corporate landlords maintain every aspect of their rental properties — from receiving offers to collecting rent payments. Now, as the CEO of REAL, Ma is leveraging his past learnings to introduce an emerging technology to the U.S. real estate industry.