eXp Realty is one of the world’s fastest growing and most successful real estate companies. It became famous for not investing in any actual offices, instead choosing virtual reality offices that allow its agents and brokers to interact and socialize from anywhere in the world. Glenn Stanford, CEO, and founder of eXp Realty founded the company a decade ago after the real estate market collapsed in 2007. At that time, he was unable to buy or rent office space. Therefore, he figured that focusing on a system which allowed his team to work remotely will help the company avoid any disaster in case, another real-estate crisis occurs.
eXp Realty relied on services like Google Docs and spreadsheets, project management solutions like Trello and communications app like Slack to help its workforce work together without actually sharing the same space. Three years ago, the company took this collaboration system to another new level by creating a complete campus with offices, meeting rooms, auditoriums, lounges and much more, and all of it was done in virtual reality.
The virtual campus is called eXp World. It’s a software which can be downloaded and accessed by the employees anywhere in the world. It was developed by video game developer VirBELLA and is very similar to the famous Second Life online world. In the Second Life, guests enter the world as avatars. They walk around the campus, enter various facilities and interact with each other. The main focus is on work and brainstorming. However, VirBELLA is also adding fun stuff as well. For example, the ability to go on boat rides on a virtual lake or enjoying a drink at the bar.
At the beginning of 2018, eXp Realty had nearly 6500 brokers, but the total number has now crossed 12000. They are operating in 300 markets across US and Canada. The company was recently listed on the Nasdaq stock market, and their first-day market capitalization was over $1 billion. The company doesn’t own or lease any physical space than what the law requires. The company has a small leased space in Bellingham, Washington which acts as headquarters but is a storage space with file cabinets. eXp Realty exists only in the virtual world.
The irony is that the purpose of the company is to sell real-world properties, houses and office buildings to people. Scott Petronis, chief technology officer of eXp Realty, said, “The virtual campus is a big part of our growth engine. If we were to have the constraints of physical offices, the growth we’ve had simply wouldn’t be possible”. Having a virtual campus in the virtual world rather than in the real one has many major advantages. eXp Realty can hire any talent that they want irrespective of their location. The only thing that the employee will need is an internet connection using which they can interact with their colleagues and the company management using avatars. Petronis said, “Our people can collaborate and feel like they are really there together. They can have this experience like they are at an office, standing at a whiteboard, and can really have what is almost like a face-to-face conversation”.
There is a lot of cost reduction as no physical building is required. A brokerage company needs offices and training spaces for its employees, and the cost of leasing such spaces in the real world can cause a lot of money to the real-estate brokerage business. eXp Realty can have any space that they want by having VirBELLA write some code and rent more cloud space. eXp Realty CTO said, “Typically for a brokerage business to grow, you need to go and find an office, fill it up with agents who bring in the revenue to pay for that office before you can go and build another one. This is why you don’t see a lot of national real estate brokerages because the cost is so incredibly high”.
Every time they want to make changes in the design of the campus, they can do it in a few clicks instead of hiring a construction company and waiting for months for the changes to take place. Petronis said, “We built eXp Enterprise with the entrepreneurial agent in mind. Agents can access their data when they want and how they want. eXp World offers a unique cloud technology solution that allows agents to gain instant, live support from eXp’s agent services, technology, and finance experts from wherever an agent or team is located”. eXp Realty is light years ahead of other real estate companies as well as many other companies in general as well. It offers a glimpse into the future which is not very far away.