Boston Pads Gets Ready to Take its Winning Formula Beyond Beantown
Bridging the gap between technology and real estate is a long-standing challenge for both software developers and real estate professionals alike. But what if you were a tech expert who also ran numerous leading real estate brands in a highly competitive marketplace? Unlikely scenario? Not if you’re Demetrios Salpoglou. Here, the founder of technology solutions provider Boston Pads, and CEO and broker of record for the No. 1 apartment leasing team in New England for 15 years running, explains how the marriage of technology and real estate has kept his agents consistently ahead of the pack in the competitive Boston market…and why he’s ready to start taking his platform nationwide.
Maria Patterson: Demetrios, let’s start with a little about your background. It’s not your typical real estate journey…
Demetrios Salpoglou: Yes, I’ve had a bifurcated career. When I graduated college in the early ’90s, there was high unemployment in Massachusetts, and my father suggested I look at real estate. So I started in real estate, and then Windows 95 came out. I was enamored with it. I paid $2,200 for a first rendition of a Windows 95 computer and fell in love with technology. I was doing real estate by day and reading tech and financial mags at night. It was incredible to see the initial tech bull run and all the companies growing at amazing rates. I was offered a job in software development sales and decided I had to give it a shot.
MP: That was right in the middle of the dot-com boom, right?
DS: Exactly. I was learning a lot about high tech and was watching some of my friends’ companies go public. Dot-coms were going nuts, and no one knew where the internet was heading…it was like the Wild Wild West. Overnight millionaires were being created at a pace unseen in modern history. Back then, if you had a marginal business model on a napkin, you could get funded. Something called within me to start my own internet company. I figured I could retire by 30. But the countless dot-coms, including mine, quickly turned into “dot-bombs,” and I decided to come back to real estate.
MP: What was it like coming back to real estate after being immersed in the tech world?
DS: It was like coming back from a five-year intensive internship in technology. But then I looked at real estate and saw that hardly anything had advanced in the industry. I then realized I could do things that other real estate companies couldn’t, based on the skills and knowledge I had learned in the technology arena.
MP: Such as?
DS: When Google first came out, it was very easy to build websites that were search engine-friendly, so we built website after website and bought hyperlocal real estate and apartment domain names. We now own nearly 800 real estate-related domain names; Boston Pads is one of them. And we continued to develop content-rich enhancements of neighborhood-specific domains, such as Allston Pads, Brighton Pads, Beacon Hill Pads, etc. Many of these websites feed us new landlords and unique, updated listings on a daily basis.
Our team ranked hundreds and hundreds of No. 1 keywords for specific niches, like Cambridge real estate, South Boston apartments, North End property management, etc. Any time we could buy “pads” or “apartments” or other great domain names for major markets across the country, we did so with intention. When landlords see a local domain name that matches the general address of their property, they tend to either fill in our online forms, email us, or call in to provide their rental and sales listings or property management inquires. Logic in listing and organizing data creates momentum.
MP: Wow, hyperlocal is the name of the game now. You were really foretelling the future back then…
DS: Yes, we were light years ahead of everybody in hyperlocal real estate searches. Then came the national real estate portals. This caused some confusion for many people, especially when it came to apartment searches. There were tons of data points being aggregated at a national level, but the results were inaccurate or outdated at the local level where it matters most.
The fact of conflicting apartment data with improper rental values is even more acute. Many of the portals are simply too big nationally to be highly effective locally. Trust and accuracy all go back to being local, picking up the phone and meeting the property owner to go over a winning game strategy. Property owners want to work with people that they know, like and trust. Our framework provides for all the underpinnings of a large, well-run tech company with that hyperlocal trust and human feel. It’s a marriage of the best of both worlds.
MP: How would you describe what Boston Pads has become today?
DS: Boston Pads is a technology and information portal that features the largest collection of real-time apartments and homes for sale in the Greater Boston area. We provide resources to buyers, sellers, landlords, renters and property managers alike. We produce real-time listings the second something is listed, and we’re pulling it down the second it’s off the market. We are also updating the property prices in real-time. We syndicate real estate agent ads to more places than anywhere on the internet, and that includes a heavy dose of widely dispersed social media. We help update listings for agents, giving them the freshest data and marketing power possible on multiple fronts.
And the Boston Pads technology platform is scalable and providable to other real estate offices in other cities. We give them better infrastructure to deliver real-time data, which makes local agents more legitimate and improves their professional image.
We also power the largest apartment leasing team in the Greater Boston area, represented across five leading real estate brands: Boardwalk Properties, Nextgen Realty, Jacob Realty, Douglas Paul and USWoo. We’ve rented more apartments than anyone in the history of New England.
MP: So, you’re a real estate and technology expert…
DS: We are fully immersed, half our day in technology, and half in real estate. We’re not just software guys who don’t know the real estate business. My business partner of 16 years, Yuan Huang, was a coder, software developer and project manager. We are deep in the trenches with great agents, and we continue to innovate ahead of the curve. Because we “get it,” we seem to attract agents who are smarter, who also inspire us to try more ideas. It’s that momentum thing that people talk about.
The bottom line is that you can’t run a thriving, successful real estate company unless both you and your team have a strong technology, marketing and sales background. It’s an unavoidable truth as we approach 2020.
MP: And clearly, the technology you’ve developed must be a huge factor then in your real estate success…
DS: We have six full-service real estate offices using these technologies. We have more than 80 real estate-related websites and 74 Facebook pages and 66 groups. We tweet out listings and send apartment videos to YouTube. We’re posting real-time listings and syndicating data at levels no one can match. We have technology in place that automatically takes down rented properties and adjusts their pricing in ads as it happens. The efficiency for agents using the bostonpads.com suite of offerings is off the charts. Phones constantly ring with great leads. Agents spend less time marketing and more time shaking hands with customers, acquiring keys from landlords and closing deals.
Our stats are amazing: We have 166,061-plus listings; 358 luxury buildings; 87,294 luxury units; 15,253 landlords; 78,767 regular “mom-and-pop” landlord units; more than 55,439 galleries of properties; 719,749 pictures and 9,857 videos that are in our proprietary database.
MP: What are your goals in terms of your technology moving forward?
DS: We’re looking to grow and cover more geographic areas through brokers and agents utilizing our platform, strategic partnerships and acquisition of real estate offices. We have great domain names available for real estate companies anywhere nationally. We can craft custom-branded messages and website resources for them. Our software can make any local player look like a big fish in a small pond. Stay tuned for some game-changing technologies that are under incubation as we speak. We are completely self-funded, with zero debt, so we can make decisions quickly. Currently, we’re not beholden to any venture capitalist, so we get to experiment a lot and spend a tremendous amount on research and development.
MP: You’ve obviously got a unique model. On the real estate sales side of the business, what makes you stand out from the competition?
DS: The way Tesla reinvented the car, we’re reinventing real estate to a large degree. We are built around what we call the four Ts: Technology, Training, Trust and Teamwork.
In terms of technology, we have the best overall technology and training systems hands down—bar none for investment sales of multifamily properties and buildings in Greater Boston…and nationally for apartment leasing.
When it comes to training, we have the most comprehensive apartment-leasing program in the country. I am a certified teacher, trainer and guest lecturer at several leading real estate schools. Philosophically speaking, we believe that all professional real estate training should be provided free of charge as it makes our industry stronger. We invest the time and resources in training for our agents so that we can fundamentally grow and make money together.
In terms of trust and teamwork, we’ve built a collaborative database that’s built on speed, sharing information and helping each other close deals. We’re beating the internet, because we’re sharing information within this incredible group that is collaborating at an unparalleled level.
A landlord once told me he thought of us as the New England Patriots of real estate and apartment leasing. He said each year, we figure out a way to win big no matter what the season brings.
MP: How is this different from other real estate companies?
DS: At most real estate companies, agents must watch over their shoulders. They’re constantly worried about people stealing their potential rental and sales listings. The agents operate on a small island even with the illusion of a big brand backing them up. But when it’s show time, when it’s time to close, they can’t get the help to reel in the deals.
Our environment is an open teamwork structure where the agents readily exchange information so that the property owners, agents and the consumer are treated to the best experience and outcome. We believe in honesty, transparency, grit, speed and hard work.
MP: Those type of production stats must help drive agents to your firm…
DS: We have agents who have come from other offices whose closing numbers double and triple because we have the most and best listings. It’s like this: When you can access far better properties than you could before, you automatically become a better closer. Greater options equal greater results.
That’s why we have such long-standing and loyal customers and agents with us. They know they’re exposed to something special and not duplicatable. There’s a code, there’s a credo here…a synergy. Here, there is also an underlying theme of “cooperatition,” where everyone is openly cooperating toward the greater good and making much more money in the process. We believe we have an ethical obligation to best serve our community and our customer base first.
MP: So, what are your next steps for the future?
DS: There are a lot of great paths to take. We currently have an incredible platform that can help anyone in any local market become a dominant player, so we’re ready to license our technology or look at strategic partnerships. All of that’s in play.
We are currently building transformative technologies that will make agents even more money with less effort. We are looking at additional sources of capital for the new, emerging technologies that we develop.
Looking into 2020, we will continue to improve our infrastructure, processes and success. We’ve had 15-plus straight years of revenue growth. Now we’re ready to hyper-accelerate. Our team is ready to bring on more offices and agents. We will make real estate better than it’s ever been for everyone.