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REX Real Estate Exchange looks to artificial intelligence, tech to outflank human brokers

A new technology-driven real estate firm is launching in Denver this month with plans to crack the traditional real estate brokerage industry’s thick walls in a way no other startup has ever managed.

REX Real Estate Exchange, based in Woodland Hills, Calif., will roll out the large siege engines of artificial intelligence, big-data analytics, targeted social media marketing and even robots in its push to lower commissions on home sales to 2 percent from the current rate of 5  to 6 percent.

REX plans to break through the brokerage industry’s defenses by recruiting the people most likely to sell or buy a home before they ever reach an agent. Effectively, it seeks to create its own marketplace.

“We can predict who will be the buyer for your home. We are not relying on the multiple listing service (MLS) to find us a buyer,” said REX founder Jack Ryan, who in an earlier career helped automate stock trading at Goldman Sachs.

Many firms over the years have offered big discounts to sellers, often with lower levels of service, but they held little to no sway on the buying side. Agents resentful of getting squeezed had the ability to steer clients away or refuse to transact a deal or just insist on the traditional commission.

Psychographic data and online behavior helps the firm understand who might be interested in buying a particular house. REX uses predictive analytics to target potential buyers in an effort to get them to show up at an open house or make an offer, and it hones its understanding with each sale.

“We targeted your buyer. They called you. We know your buyer and you can’t stop the buyer from viewing the home,” Ryan said as if talking to a real estate agent.

If an agent lies and says a home is sold, REX will send them notices that the home is still for sale. If a buyer insists on paying their agent the full fee, it will still bring the seller that offer, even though it probably won’t be as competitive. And if potential buyers don’t have representation, or they want to make a change, it offers its own licensed and salaried agents.

Michael and Mina Vlamakis were in a hurry to sell their Long Island home after Michael needed to move to the Dallas area for a new job late last year. An ad for REX popped up when Michael was searching online for an agent — and the chance to save major money resonated with the couple.

“We had never seen or dealt with REX, but they did the same exact thing as a real estate agency and for a 2 percent commission,” said Mina Vlamakis.

Many people are searching for homes directly on Zillow, Trulia and even Facebook, which has made multiple listing services less relevant than before, she said.

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