It’s been a rough year for real estate in Texas.
A flood of foreclosures and bankruptcies has left thousands of homeowners scrambling for ways to stay afloat, and an economic downturn that was supposed to bring back millions of jobs has left the state without a major industry.
But one agent in Austin, Texas has found a way to keep people afloat: a brand-new, one-of-a-kind, and completely free online service called Estate Agent.
The service, which opened on May 20, allows anyone with a phone to send out an inquiry for a $100 deposit.
“The real estate industry has been suffering a lot lately,” says Eric Miller, the founder of Estate Agent, who launched the service just before the holidays.
“It’s been rough.
People have lost jobs, and the economy has been in a tailspin.”
Estate Agent’s mission is to give agents the ability to reach out to people who aren’t necessarily looking for realtor services, or the services they use to get to know people.
Miller says that by creating a new service that gives people the ability see their own portfolio as well as the portfolios of other agents, he hopes to keep his clients and other real estate professionals informed of what’s going on in the market.
“What people want to know is: ‘Do you need me to get an appraisal done?'” he says.
“We have an entire industry that’s been dying, and we’re just helping people who are in need of a quick and easy way to find real estate advice.”
Estate Agents can now reach out with a simple inquiry to Estate Agent for a deposit of $100, which the company charges a $5 fee per transaction.
For those who are looking for a service to provide, Estate Agent offers a range of services, ranging from a simple, one click service to a full-blown suite of online and mobile tools for all types of real estate.
Estate Agent is the first real estate agent platform to offer both live and on-demand real estate services.
The company has built the service around a simple concept: the need to find the best agents.
Miller likens the process of seeking out a new real estate service to finding a car.
“You’re driving down the road and you’re like, ‘Oh, I have to get a rental car, I need a ride.’
But if you don’t have any cash to pay the car company, then the ride doesn’t work,” he says, adding that it’s a similar situation when it comes to finding an estate agent.
“I think a lot of times people are kind of in a position where they’re kind of looking for an agent that they know and trust, but they don’t necessarily know what to expect or what their options are,” he adds.
“So that’s what I’ve done here is have a little piece of information, like, if I want to take this service or if I need help, I can call up the estate agent, and they can sort of give you a little bit of information.”
If you’re looking to hire a real estate professional for your next home purchase, Estate Agents is one of the best places to start, says Miller.
“If you have a new house in your backyard, you’re going to want to get that right away, right?
You’re going see what kind of landscape you can afford, and you want to make sure you’re doing the best possible deal with the property,” he explains.
Miller is hoping to continue building the service into the real estate marketplace.
“Every day that we’re not able to work on it, it’s taking a toll on our business,” he acknowledges.
“Our biggest competitor in the realty industry is actually the big names, but there are a lot more small companies like us out there.”
The company plans to offer a suite of services for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s looking to start their real estate career.
Estate Agents has been a virtual success for Miller.
The site has seen 200,000 transactions in the past 12 months, and has had more than 10 million visits, says Jason Golledge, a partner at the real-estate brokerage firm, Real Estate Associates.
“This is the most valuable property we’ve ever sold, so it’s just a testament to the service that we’ve created,” he told VICE News.
“When people ask about us, people think we’re the best in the business, but we’re really not.”
Miller says he’s confident that his business is about to take off, even if it takes a little while.
“People have started to see our service as a viable alternative to traditional real estate companies,” he tells VICE News, adding: “If it takes me a little longer to make my mark, it may be because I’m not doing it the way I want.”
Miller is not the only one hoping to see Estate Agent take off.