Agent Office purchased from FNRES by Emphasys Software!

By
Education & Training with RE-ACT, LLC

Well it is official! While Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions (FNRES) is still "taking care of business" until everything is transitioned over, as of October 29th, Emphasys Software is now at the helm of Agent Office! Emphasys is a Real Estate management, financial and compliance software solutions company. It offers a long list of Real Estate related software solutions. 

Personally, I am happy about the potential for this move, obviously pending seeing what happens. Emphasys is a Software company, as opposed to a Title company. Their interest in having Agent Office is to actually make money by making the product better, and selling it. Without getting into specifics, I will just say that FNRES has not exactly been the best thing that ever happened to the Agent Office software application. If you have followed events during their tenure of ownership, you have an idea what I am talking about. 

Moving forward, having spoken with a representative from Emphasys, I am optimistic that this will be a good thing. They have plans to make significant improvements to the product, which will be a long overdue development when it happens. 

Agent Office has been around since 1992, and this will now be its 4th owner. For those of you who have it, the road ahead should be interesting, and probably better. 

Agent Office is currently in Version 10. It is still available through my Web site at a discounted price, in its current version, new. If you want to upgrade from an older version, I can still do that for you as well. There will be no interruption in my ability to provide Agent Office software to you, as I will continue to be a reseller for it, when Emphasys takes over. 

As always, if you have any questions about Real Estate specific contact management or CRM software, that is what I do. I am a broker/reseller for 32 different Real Estate specific Contact Management & CRM solutions. 

FYI - My Real Estate Contact Management/CRM Software Matrix is nearing completion, and I hope to release it in the next 30 days. 

For Emphasys Software's press release - click here!

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Anonymous
Anonymous

Thanks for the info, Gary.  We have used Agent Office for about 12 years now.  There is lots of room for improvement in this program.  I have often considered switching to Top Producer but at this point the learning curve for an entire team is too great.

Nov 17, 2008 10:09 AM #1
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

I normally agree with that. if you already use one, and it does everything you need it to do, or almost everything, you should probably stay with it. Especially of a whole team would have to learn something new. At thispoint you would be best served by staying with AO, and waiting to see what develops.

Nov 17, 2008 10:20 AM #2
Anonymous
Jennifer Heiring

Hi Gary~

I didn't realize there was a transition with the Agent Office ownership until I called them today with a simple technical question. They will not talk with me unless I purchase a $295 yearly support contract. It is so frustrating! You seem very knowledgeable so I am hoping you may know the answer to my question. I am in the checkbook and trying to run a report. I clicked reports, group by category, highlight all categories, print. An error comes up stating invalid directory, details:errors. This has happened to me in the past and FNRES cleared it up for me but I don't remember how they walked me through it. Would you happen to know?

Thank you so much for any help you may have,

Jennifer Heiring

Re/Max Elite

Kenosha, WI

 

 

Feb 03, 2009 09:07 PM #3
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

I hear this kind of complaint commonly, and I just wanted to make a point about it. Below is my answer to your question.

What you are asking may seem like a simple question, but it would likely take at least 5 or 10 minutes to answer, and most likely more. If their support people answered every similar question for free, that time adds up VERY quickly from thousands of users. How do they support themselves financially? Web based products are paid by their entire user base on a monthly basis. That's a lot of money to support their tech-support staff. Conversely with desktop products, their user base pays only once. While they do charge for tech-support, very few people opt to pay for it. This makes staffing tech support for desktop products very difficult, and generates bad PR as a result. It's a difficult situation.

An ironic aspect of it is that none of us would expect to be able to call any other software companies for products as complex as these, and expect help for free.

Please be clear that I AM NOT chastising you personally. I am explaining something I see on a regular basis.

So - to answer your question as best I can without taking too much of MY time (:-)) - you can try running the maintenance routines on the AO database. How to do that is on my site at http://garydavidhall.com/aoutilities.htm .

If that doesn't work, you can try the AO user group at http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/onlineagentusers/

Feb 04, 2009 09:14 AM #4
Anonymous
Ted Williams
Gary, Having spent more than 20 years in the IT (information technology) profession before starting my RE practice, my only fear is that in the name of progress, Emphasys moves AO to a web based system, maybe not right away, but soon. Because as you pointed out a while back, being “web based” is a huge “cash cow” for a company, and does allow for that “unlimited” customer support model. Most software companies given the chance would do that…why not! Remember Top Producer wasn’t always a web based product. Ted
Apr 20, 2009 03:39 PM #5
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

Based on my relatively limited conversations on that subject with them, my understanding is that they WILL eventually probably offer it online. BUT - they also maintain that they will offer both. That was Fidelity's long term goal as well when I spoke with them about ita while back.

That said I do personally believe that everything will eventually be online. I think it will be a relatively long time coming, but eventually. It provides a more stable revenue stream, and it eliminates the issues that sometimes come with desktop software with regards to "playing nice with others" on your computer.

Prices need to come down some and speed and access issues need to be addressed better.

Apr 20, 2009 04:02 PM #6
Rainer
10,646
Scott Schmitz
RealOrganized, Inc. - Greeley, CO

I have to second Gary's comments.

We sell subscription products and non-subscription products and I see this every day.  People simply expect technical support to last forever, even if they purchased a 'product' and not a 'service'.  For example, we have been selling a simple real-estate calculator for PDA's and SmartPhones for the last 6 years.  We get calls from customers who have purchased that software 5 years ago - they usually call whenever they upgrade their smartphone and want to move the software over to the new phone.  We always cheerfully help them out - for free.  We have gotten so much referral business for our subscription products based upon our little loss leader product calculator.  So, we don't begrudge the phone calls.

I think the subscription model makes a lot of sense for everyone involved.  The customer gets technical support and upgrades as part of the package.  If its web based, the software can be upgraded as needed (we push out changes weekly) allowing for immediate bug fixes and improvements.  There's no complicated installation and your data is always remotely backed up.  In these days of viruses, this is a huge benefit.  From a technical support issue, it's so much easier to make sure the software runs on everyones machine.

The subscription model for 'online' products is the best approach, by far.  As far as cost goes, online applications can easily be less expensive over the long haul.  The reason for this are three simple facts:

1. Online services are easier to support and therefore cost less to support

2. Online services are impossible to pirate, so every customer using the software is a paying customer

3. As Gary says, the revenue stream is evened out for the publisher.  This predictability is like money in the bank.  Therefore, publishers can afford to charge less.

I would make one more point.  Customers EXPECT free technical support.  So, when you have to charge them for it, they are disappointed.  So, the business model for products is just not as consumer friendly.

 

Scott Schmitz

RealOrganized, Inc.

May 06, 2009 08:35 PM #7
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

I am affiliated with Real Organized, and you can find Scott's products on my site under Realty Juggler.

Gary

May 07, 2009 07:59 AM #8
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

Point taken Ted. With respect to providing support I would add a component though. One of my favorite CRM's is a desktop product, but it is semi-automatically updated at the rate of maybe 6 - 8 user suggestion implemented per month. The upside is that the product is continually improving. The downside is that sometimes it ends up creatng a glitch that has to be addressed by support, adding to their load. You also mentioned that agents tend to like to call rather than read. I would say that unfortunately you understated the magnitude of the number of agents who want to do that, and that the ones who do, do it constantly. They tell me flat out "I know I could watch the training video, but I don't have time for that".  The more product that gets sold, the more agents you have calling that want their hand held.Those same agents bought the desktop CRM because they didn't want to spend money every month for it. You can't have it both ways in an industry where a large user base is 10 or 20,000 users for all but the two market leaders - TP & AO.

I made statements about desktop support being less than Web based in another blog, and right away one of my affilates popped in and said they answer the phone all the time, and even on weekends. Oddly enough, when you look at my Real Estate CRM Comparsion Matrix, you'll see that they only commit to weekday business hours for support. Additionally, their user base is relatively small, so it's not to tough to be responsive now. I don't make these comments off hand. I've wathced it happen over and over since 1989.

Please be clear that I am NOT saying that desktop software support isn't any good. I'm just saying it's typically a longer response time than Web based products with any significant ongoing revenue.

May 07, 2009 03:25 PM #9
Rainer
10,646
Scott Schmitz
RealOrganized, Inc. - Greeley, CO

Ted and Gary,

I completely agree with the comment about real estate agents being more willing to pick up the phone than to read the manual.  Of the calls we get from subscribers, almost all can be answered directly in the users manual.  When we first started out (in 2004) we used to refer to page numbers in the users manual to try to at least guilt the caller into looking in the manusl.  But we don't even make an attempt to ask clients to refer to the manual any more.  People call with questions and we answer them.  That's really what real estate agents expect.  So, we do it.

On the bright side, often simple questions can lead us to make refinements to our products.  When real estate was hot, we added interest only, piggyback loans and even 3rd loans to our calculators.  (Those were the days!)  Nowadays we are fielding requests in how to better do prospecting. We push out an upgrade every week with between 3 and 5 changes in each upgrade.  You would think that the product would be stable - and thus a cash cow - but its really quite a fast changing environment.  Additionally, there's really no one way that agents operate.  So, we get tons of requests for customization based upon specific work styles.

As Gary likes to point out, there are 30 different products all fighting for the real estate agents pocketbook.  So, none of the vendors can afford to sit on their laurels.  In the past, there were only a few products out there and the vendors called the shots.  Today, realtors call the shots.  if you think a vendor is charging too much, pick a different vendor and switch.  It's a buyers market, for sure.  In our case, we feel that price should never be a sticking point.  So we will match any competitor's price.  I suspect the others will do the same, if asked.

Sincerely,

 

Scott Schmitz

RealtyJuggler Real Estate Software

 

May 16, 2009 08:31 PM #10
Rainer
1,188
David Jackson
Coldwell Banker Ponderosa Real Estate - Paradise, CA

Most of the responses come from sellers of re software.  From a user's point of view they are gouging realtors as much as possible.  I had TP in the DOS days; desktop of course, and support was free.  Then they started charging for support and then they got super greedy when they went online; even to the point of making promises which were unkept.

 

Regards;

 

David Jackson

Sep 17, 2009 10:56 PM #11
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

It seems like you feel that people who are still using TP6i (there are some) should still be getting free support, even though they haven't paid a nickle for many years now. What comparably complex software provides perpetual tech support for free?

There needs to be a HUGE distinction made here. These are VERY specialized products with a VERY small market, and the opportunity to make money is small. With over 40 RE CRM's out there vying for a potential user base of maybe 400,000 users at best, many will end up going out of business. The top three or four own maybe 200,000 of that market share. They're making money to be sure. But that leaves 200,000 to go around. I've watched three go down in the last year. That trend will continue I'm sure.

With regards to TP gouging, have you looked at other non-Real Estate specific product's costs? SalesForce is a great product, but it costs $65/mo./user for the comparable product. And they have a user base that dwarfs TP which costs $40/mo.

I think TP is fairly priced for what you get for a single user. Could it be a little less. Sure. $15/mo. added on for a PDA is debatable and I've told them that.

I am a reseller for 30 RE CRM products and in my Matrix, both desktop and Web based products all fall into similar patterns of cost for what they provide. If it could be done a lot cheaper, someone would do it and claim the lions share of the market in a heartbeat, but that's not happening. There are two products which compete with TP for a lesser price, but they are a lesser product with regards to feature sets. Time will tell if they will be able to match the features and still last at their current pricing.

If TP is gouging, then with all this competition now, they will be forced to come down. We'll see.

 

Sep 18, 2009 10:00 AM #12
Rainer
12,768
Sean Goerss
The Goerss Home Team - Saint Paul, MN

David, I have to agree with Gary David on this - I've been using Top Producer for 18 years and I would GLADLY pay more money for a better product.

Consider $$/mo. for a CRM not just from an expense perspective, but from a return on investment perspective.

In fact, I'm using a non-real estate CRM right now in my OWN real estate business (yes, I'm an active agent) that I pay $299/month for....am I crazy?

Absolutely NOT! I get better email deliverability, customized reports, lead tracking, lead ROI tracking (which can save you thousands and thousands on wasted marketing), highly specilized follow up sequences and triggers, the list goes on and on.

The challenge I see most profitable agents today have (and we consult 100's of them at www.RealEstateTechnologyExperts.com), is not cost, but LOST REVENUE - that's the white elephant in the room that most agents aren't willing to spend time calculating.

Sep 18, 2009 10:24 AM #13
Anonymous
Jim Casey

As a real estate agent since 1986 and a real estate speaker since the early 90's, I have been on both sides of this debate.  As the former spokesman for AgentOffice (originally called The On-Line Agent, Agent 2000) I was responsible for promoting the product and listening to customer questions and concerns.  I learned very quickly that there are two kinds of "tech support" calls: Technical and Educational.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of calls to software technical support lines are not technical, ie: a crash, won't print, error messages, etc.  In fact, most calls are educational in nature such as: "How do I perform a mail merge?" or "How do I get my leads from my website into AgentOffice?" 

The sad truth is that the people who handle tech support calls have never used the program they are supporting and have certainly never sold real estate.  They are ill equipped to answer "educational" questions and are told not to answer them.  This creates a bit of a bad taste in an agent's mouth as most of us (agents) don't have time to dig through the on-line help menus only to find out that most of this kind of support simply explains what a feature is, not HOW TO USE IT. 

Agents can save a lot of money on AgentOffice by not paying for the annual support contract unless they, in fact, have a technical issue.  With propert training you will probably eliminate 80% of the reasons agents call tech support.  That saves you money and it cuts down the "ON HOLD" time we all pay for while tech support tries to answer "educational questions" ahead of us.

I'd recommend getting training on AgentOffice.  It costs a fraction of what an annual tech support contract will be and it will answer questions you didn't even know you had.  Now for the shameless plug: AOexperts.com will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about AgentOffice and about a hundred things you didn't know to ask.

Jim Casey

Sep 21, 2009 11:25 AM #14
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

LOL! HI Jim! I agree that good training will eliminate the bulk of most peoples how-to questions.

I can't let your shameless plug go by on my Blog without reminding people that I also do Agent Office training.:-)

Prior to Real Estate sales I was a computer technician, and then a computer operations manager. I then started Real Estate sales in 1987, and by 1988 was using a DOS Real Estate specific CRM in my own business doing 40 - 50 transactions/yr. by 1993. I then left my own sales career in 1994 to automate top producing agents, using Agent Office and Top Producer. In 1996 I spent the whole year automating the number 1 agent in Philadelphia using Agent Office to aid the staff in doing 140 transactions. I developed it to do automated drip campaigns for follow-up with prospects and post closing follow-up. I also used it to automate the transaction mangement process, incorporating the activity plans to stay in touch with buyers and sellers throughout the listing and closing processes, and fine tuning the activity plans I had used in my own business to make their listing and closing processes more efficient and bullet-proof.

In the early 2000's I taught live Agent Office classes online for 10 people at a time. 2 hour classes once a week for 5 weeks. This enabled me to perfect the content of the classes by getting immediate feedabck from the attendees in an intimate informal environment. After 3 years of perfecting the content of those classes I recorded one of them. So it's a 10 hour CD live class recorded with very little student discussion, covering about 85% of the Agent Office prpgram. The CD comes with a time hack index so you can fast forwarded to whatever subject it is you are interested in going right to. The cost is $99.

It's not as pretty as Jim's because his is professionally produced, but the feedback has been that it is very well thought out and informative showing how to use the program in real life day to day situations.

More information can be found by clicking here!

Sep 21, 2009 12:31 PM #15
Rainer
56,558
Cyndi Carver
John L Scott, Inc. - Issaquah, WA
Issaquah & Bellevue Specialist

I have their SettlementRoom transaction manager and am highly considering adding AgentOffice. You haven't written anything recently about the new web based AgentOffice, which I am pretty excited about. It's nice having my database available whenever I need from my Android. Any comments you can make about AgentOffice?

Jun 12, 2012 08:36 AM #17
Rainmaker
66,981
Gary David Hall
RE-ACT, LLC - Doylestown, PA
Real Estate CRM Sales, Realtor,GRI, e-PRO,RECS

Agent Office Personal Edition is one of about 5 Outlook add-ons for real estate. Actually 3 now, Pat Zabys Relay, and Eurekaware went out of business recently. With a shrinking number of people uisng Outlook as oopposed to Gmail and many other Web based e-mail clients, it may be tough to survive in what may be a shrinking market. It is not actually what is normally referred to as web based. You must have Outlook loaded on the computer to view your data. The data is what is on the web, not the apllication. It must be Outlook 2010, and it is currently for indiviual users and not teams. 

Jun 12, 2012 09:18 AM #18
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