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Chad Roffers on scalable tech in the luxury auction space

The CEO of Concierge Auctions explains how they are engineering a reverse bullseye of buyers

HousingWire Editor in Chief Sarah Wheeler recently sat down with Chad Roffers, founder and CEO of Concierge Auctions, to talk about the opportunity that lies in customer interactions — if you have the tech to handle it. Concierge is the largest luxury real estate auction marketplace in the world, with ownership that includes Sotheby’s and Anywhere Real Estate.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Sarah Wheeler: What is your approach to tech?

Chad Roffers: What became clear to us early on is that we would need scalable tech to handle customer engagement over thousands of transactions. Even on just one house — that’s one house to sell but you will have 3,000 to 4,000 consumer interactions, which could quickly outpace anyone’s tech.

But we recognized the bigger opportunity in those interactions. For example, we recently sold an iconic house in LA for $141 million. Subsequent to that, we’ve sold multiple properties to people who came into our ecosystem as observers almost, but have now transacted with multimillion properties. And they were already in our ecosystem.

Of course, our No. 1 objective is to help the agent, homeowner and homebuyer have a great experience. That’s the short-term objective, but the big-picture objective is building relationships and educating a broader pool of people about the merits we bring to the table.

We have a sale in Broward County, the highest residential resale in that county, and that buyer came from a transaction in Hawaii years before. We had data in our platform that served up this person as a potential buyer, even though on the surface they wouldn’t look like a candidate for this house.

SW: So how do you think about buy versus build?

CR: The pace of tech evolution is so rapid and there are a lot of benefits to partnering with best-in-class providers. For example, when one of our best customers comes to us first with what’s coming down the pike. Knowing where the housing market is headed broadly allows us to stay ahead of the curve and make the right kind of decisions around legacy tools we’ve been using. We started using AI tools as early as 2017, we were early AI players and one of the first platforms to use it. Obviously, the AI topic has been the soup du jour for the last 12 months, justifiably. But we’ve been adopting AI for almost seven years.

One of the best books I’ve read on business was Lean Startup by Eric Riese. The premise is: don’t waste time with super-intense business plans around tech: test, implement, measure, go again. As a result, we’ve never been in the unfortunate place of a really long or complex project that gets out of scope, out of budget.

SW: How are you leveraging artificial intelligence?

CR: We’re leveraging AI in two areas. Our No. 1 priority, day in and day out, is providing an excellent customer experience, so short-term we are using AI just to help people get to what they want faster: not having to go through lengthy FAQs, or a phone tree, but serving up the right information at the right time.

No. 2 is a bigger-picture approach. It’s a big world out there — there are lots of properties! We have a global footprint: we’re in 40 U.S. states and 30 countries so buyers truly have a global purview. We are absolutely vested with the broker community, we always partner with a listing broker every single time and we’re never coming off of that. Now we’re leveraging AI to understand in advance of a client contacting us how to recognize the right candidate for them.

We use hundreds of different data points on the sell side on a daily basis. Ultimately, we’re using data to know 30-60-90 days before we get a phone call from a seller or agent that a call is coming. Once a seller has worked with us and is so successful in our category in the luxury auction, having that seller or agent on our platform is a huge advantage. We have data and access to over a million consumers, who are already vetted. We’ve engineered almost a reverse bulls-eye, where we take a property and find the perfect pool of buyers for that, and we can do it in seconds.

SW: What keeps you up at night?

CR: Being complacent in any form or fashion. I think it’s important to have a healthy sense of paranoia. Whenever people get complacent, they lose in the long run. We want to continually reinvent ourselves.

SW: How have you created that culture of reinvention within the company, especially with a global team?

CR: We are active in all these places around the world so we were virtual before it was a thing, it’s second nature to us. We work hard to stay connected with a really diverse group of people. We have diversity in geography, cultural and language — all those things. We have a really intensive all-hands call and a foundational component of that is communicating what we’re changing.

SW: What’s your outlook for 2024?

CR: We’re in an environment that is hyper-competitive. In the past, industries would drive technological change — a consumer didn’t realize they needed something until industry built it. But now, especially in real estate, the consumer is pulling the industry along. The consumers want the benefits of tech they have in other aspects of their lives and they are the ones demanding tech innovations. The people and companies in the real estate industry who are recognizing that and accepting it and getting on with it rather that working like they did 10 years ago are the people who are winning.

As far as a forecast, we have grown very consistently over the last 17 years. We’ve always found a way to grow thought the the material changes or events that happen in any given year. So we’re anticipating a really strong year of growth — we’re up 25% over the prior year, so we’re very excited about that. We’re gearing up for significant growth two to three years out.

We are focusing on our current customers, laying the foundation to be able to facilitate greater transaction volume. There is a lot of change occurring in North America around the MLSs — which creates an opportunity for those who are looking for solutions in a market that is getting less efficient. That’s a big opportunity for us.

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