Success story: VBO Makelaar
‘Our market starts to understand how valuable data is, especially if you enrich it.’
VBO Makelaar is an industry organization for more than 1,100 Dutch brokers, appraisers and rental specialists. She enables her members to ‘build a sustainable relationship with satisfied clients thanks to innovative and practical concepts.’ This innovative character is reflected in the collaboration with Matrixian Group, as data has also been an indispensable role in real estate for years. An interview with director Hans van der Ploeg about the Great Datasprong Forward, which led to beautiful products for his supporters. And about the importance of proportionate effort within a sustainable partnership.
‘’I can hire a mathematician or econometrist myself, but he or she will be doing something on an island that nobody understands. At Matrixian Group they work in fixed teams; much better.’
How long have you been working together with Matrixian Group, and why?
“Five or six years. As a branch organization for brokers and appraisers, we collect a lot of data ourselves, among other things about objects and visitor behavior on our website. We also try to enrich that data, to distil products from which brokers and appraisers benefit again. But our primary task is advocacy and information, not data analysis. That means that you ultimately miss a lot of expertise. Matrixian Group has that knowledge and expertise in house. ‘
Which expertise are we talking about?
‘We have a lot of raw data, which you only benefit from when you let go of technical computing power. So you need mathematicians and econometricians. It is tempting to accept them, but then they are here on an island – between forty colleagues who do not understand what they are doing. Matrixian Group has them in service and they work in teams there. Together we have built a product with which our supporters can assign a model value to just about every residential object in the Netherlands. With a high reliability percentage. Very useful. “
Sorry, just in between: what is a ‘model value’?
‘Suppose you live on postcode 1234 AB, house number 1. Then I can tell you from here what your house is worth. Pretty accurate even. We call this value determination at a distance, based on a number of characteristics, model value. It remains a tool, because I still think that the valuer is the only one who can determine the real value. But with this system he can do his job even better. ‘
‘You can put fences around your own data, but that will block your progress. This time is about sharing and awarding.’
Does Matrixian Group get your industry?
“Yes, and they understand me. I have been an entrepreneur since I was seventeen, and I value speed and dynamics. They think the same way. Moreover, they are able – and willing – to think out of the box. With these characteristics, you produce a result faster than when you first have to plow through six scientific reports. In addition, Matrixian Group also serves customers in related industries, such as the energy sector. Of course they also have a lot of data that we can use – and vice versa. It is very interesting to see which data can be combined, so that together we can make products that make everyone happy. I think this time is about sharing and awarding. You can put fences around your own data, but that will block your progress. ‘
‘Together with Matrixian Group we have developed a wonderful test system that consumers really benefit from, and so do our members.’
Are there more advantages?
‘That data and knowledge sharing yields all kinds of alternative products, for example for the WOZ practice; the property tax. Together with Matrixian Group, for example, we have developed a wonderful test system that allows brokers to advise their customers via a simple test whether it makes sense to object to your WOZ assessment. You first send an appraiser on the road to write a report, then you lose a few hundred euros – without you knowing whether it will even yield a cent. With such a model value, the same valuer can estimate your chances in advance. These are developments that consumers really benefit from, and so are our members. ‘
What does the future hold for your profession?
‘I keep a close eye on technological developments. Of course I have certain ambitions, and see that you can do a lot more with Artificial Intelligence. For example, a year ago in New York, I spoke to an entrepreneur who built a similar model value system. He asks the customer a few questions in advance, for example about the state of the roof, the kitchen and the bathroom. And whether they can upload some photos. There he enriches his data so sharply that he can say: ‘If you want to sell your house now, I will offer this amount’. For that I buy it from you immediately, on the spot. This development means that the revenue models of brokers and appraisers will change completely. ‘
Does this mean the end of the brokers?
‘VBO Makelaar is open to innovation, we welcome innovation. You can, as a consumer, sell your house with the current technology yourself. Today, just via your computer. Handy, but the question remains always whether you have made the most of it. Look, and there comes the new, essential role of the broker around the corner. The value model says € 200,000 based on the available data. As a broker it is therefore your job to get 210, maybe 220 for it. There are all kinds of ways for this, such as smart marketing and good negotiation. In my opinion you really need a consultant who, without emotion, looks after your interests. I certainly do not say that the role of broker is played out, but that data enrichment has drastically changed our lives compared to ten years ago. Then you only had the appraiser, you could not ignore that. Now we have model value reports. But that appraisal work will remain, at most, in a different, slimmed-down form. ‘
Simply because some thing can’t be measured?
‘Such a model value comes about thanks to a large number of data sources, but do you know a lot if there are actually stones on that address? No joke, really happened: a board member of us had to visit a building on behalf of the bank to determine its value. He stands in front of the building, calls that bank and asks: “What exactly do you want me to value?” Answer: “Well, just that building.” He again: “But there is only a front facade, the rest is gone ! “The model value of that object was four and a half tons! I understand that are excesses. But it proves that you often have to have someone check in person if that calculation model is right. For the protection of the consumer alone. ‘
‘Ten years ago I did not have Facebook. There is so much data available now so that we can develop smart products together with Matrixian Group. Yes, that costs money – but not. Overall I say: a great success.’
What has the collaboration with Matrixian Group brought you so far?
“Ten years ago, data was still a neglected child in our organization. We collected data, but unstructured. It was such a mess that we have thrown everything away and have started seriously again with Matrixian Group. That is also the biggest gain in recent years: the market – and not only ours – has come to see how much value data represents, and what you can do with it – especially if you enrich it. I think that is a great outcome, which really comes from our collaboration. ‘
Did it also cost a lot?
“Yes, such a collaboration costs money. But call me something useful that is free. You have to look at what it brings you. We have jointly enriched, enhanced and improved our data. Then to build beautiful products with which our supporters benefit. A big investment, certainly. Be it so, overall I think it’s a great success. ‘
‘Our association has been growing about 7 to 10 percent for four years in a row. We would never have achieved that without doing something with data. ‘
Data isn’t everything you say?
“Well, it is not the only success factor. As an association, we have had a net membership growth of 7 to 10 percent for four years in a row. We certainly would not have achieved that if we had not done anything with data. We have developed products with which we relieve brokers and appraisers; a reason in itself to become a member of FEB Broker. But apart from those ultimate tools, our willingness to innovate is the main driver of our growth. Together with the fact that our brokers are on the board. In short: we are open to change and know how to sell a house. ‘
‘It is not just about what you know, but also what you want to know. And that need only increases. Certainly in the government, as long as houses explode because of poorly maintained CVs. ‘
Is your ‘data limit’ not yet reached? Can you know more than you already know?
‘Data in our field is incredibly transparent and well stocked. In the architectural field there is still room for a good database. Would you add that data to the current model values, then you really know almost everything about every building in the Netherlands. The government wants that, especially as long as there are still houses that explode because the central heating boiler has not been maintained for twenty years. It is not only about what you know, but also what you want to know. And that need only increases. If we do not build such a system, someone else will do it and you will be sure that you are empty-handed. ‘
‘We employ an expert who acts as a connecting link and understands what Matrixian Group does.’
Matrixian Group strives for long-term relationships, VBO Makelaar too?
‘Absolutely. It has to click, otherwise you are quickly played out. Even though that other party still has so much data knowledge: you do not come to business if you do not enter into a relationship. Moreover, your joint knowledge becomes richer as you work together longer; it is a kind of flywheel. Durability therefore yields. Furthermore, you must be able to trust each other, not get in the way and tell the truth. Luke and I can disagree passionately. But after a meeting we shake hands and say: let’s think about it for a week, then there will be a solution. And finally, the word says it all: working together. We employ a technical expert as a connecting link. This way we prevent someone from Matrixian Group from working for three weeks to explain what he means. You have to help someone to help you. “