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4 Hack Reactor Grads + $1B in Luxury Real Estate Sales - An Interview with Concierge Auctions

New York-based Concierge Auctions is the dominant marketplace for buying and selling the world's finest properties. It conducts a majority of its auctions through online bidding via a web application, and, since 2008, has seen growth spanning across 38 US states and 18 countries. With ever-increasing emphasis on tech and engineering support, Concierge Auctions has hired four of Hack Reactor’s graduates.

We recently sat down with Brad Decker, Director of Software Engineering at Concierge Auctions, to find out how his department has been integral in shaping the luxury real estate selling marketplace.

 

H/R: What is Concierge Auctions?
Brad: Concierge Auctions is an online marketplace focusing on buying and selling luxury real estate. Million-plus-dollar properties can sit  on the market for three to five years, leaving owners of these properties sitting on their investments for years. Our platform provides a means to go from the decision to sell to a sale within 60 days. The standard selling process would generate one to two showings per year, but our marketing team is typically able to  generate 25 to 50 showings in a month, resulting in 5-7 bidders actively participating in our online auction.

 

H/R: How is tech important?
Brad: Tech is central to every part of our marketplace. We start by processing data to identify the most qualified sellers, then move those properties onto our proprietary online marketplace. From there, our software runs the actual auction itself.

We start by getting new properties on our marketplace through the use of data analysis and lead generation. The technology that we’ve built to provide this solution to our team is an application that coalesces data from many providers into a single database that we use for targeted marketing. The application itself has gone through many iterations and is currently being extended by a Hack Reactor grad and another very talented software engineer here at Concierge Auctions. The new version uses microservices to make the whole application much smarter and faster.

But the most exciting technology is the soon to be released online bidding platform. Two Hack Reactor grads, along with an amazing UX designer, have spent the last couple months integrating our online bidding platform into our web application. Very soon, registered bidders on Concierge Auctions’ marketplace will be able to participate in the auctions via the website. This is a huge win for our entire team because it showcases what our product team is capable of and also helps to make the entire experience seamless for our users.

 

H/R: What are the best things about being on your engineering team
Brad: I wholeheartedly believe in the open source community. We have adopted a stance here that we will make it a priority to extract our business logic from our code and add that to the open source community. We can also use that as an advantage to look for talented engineers and use the community to advance our own products. What that's led to is a very open source atmosphere on our team. Every process involving an engineer is open to suggestion and improvement. For example, I suggest things as an alternate to my engineering team and we riff off each other to get the best possible solutions. It really matters to engineering because they have a hand in defining day-to-day processes.

We've adopted Google's experiment format, in which 10% of the time in every sprint is reserved for the engineer to conduct an experiment, as long as it benefits the company in some way. In one sprint, an engineer rewrote one of our open source packages and reduced the number of listeners on the window significantly. In another sprint, an engineer rewrote an API to run on node 8 which decreased response time.

 

Concierge Auction's engineers huddle for a morning meeting.

Concierge Auction's engineers huddle for a morning meeting.

H/R: What kind of roles are the H/R graduates playing? What kind of work at they doing?
Brad: We currently have 4 Hack Reactor alum on our team. They've literally touched every product in our company because, as I said earlier, they’re not tied into doing one thing.

 

H/R: How have engineers from Hack Reactor impressed you?
Brad: I really look for a devotion to continuing education in my engineers. The main thing I have picked up from Hack Reactor graduates is the consistency of quality and knowledge that they illustrate. I haven't interviewed a single Hack Reactor grad that has not met a minimum passing bar of knowledge. The caliber of students produced by Hack Reactor has been amazing. In my mind, the decision to join a bootcamp like Hack Reactor is evidence that a student has an interest in self-teaching and putting in effort to increase their repertoire.

 

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help... the time you save by asking for help early on will help you in long run.
— Brad Decker

H/R: You’ve worked with many engineers. What do you look for when hiring an engineer? What separates exceptional engineers from engineers who you consider average or not very good?
Brad: Any engineer that has a background of being self taught shows the specific caliber of a person that does well in a continuously-evolving role. In addition, I look for someone passionate about engineering; not just a job. People that are contributing to open source and are doing side projects in their spare time are the sort of innovators we want on our team. Their passion will leak out and help our company.

 

H/R: What tips would you give to someone who's just starting their software engineering career?
Brad: 1) It doesn't matter what level you are. You'll have feelings of self doubt. Questions like “Am I really a fit for the role I’m about to start in?” will permeate and interrupt your creativity. You will underestimate yourself. Don't let self doubt hinder your performance. Be self confident. Ninety percent of the time, people begin a job being timid and not sure where they fit in. Over time, they build their self confidence, and I will see more and more of a spark from them. If you go into a job realizing you have faith in the education you have acquired, you'll be able to impress an employer early on. 2) Don't ever be afraid to ask for help. I see people who, because of lack of confidence, try to figure out problems or questions on their own and don't ask for help. But honestly the time you save by asking for help early on will help you in long run.

 

H/R: Where do you see Concierge Auctions in the next few years?
Brad: I see the amount of properties coming through our platform increasing tremendously as we continue to expand upon the agent-focused approach in our marketplace. One of the biggest hurdles we’ve had to overcome as a company is the stigma attached to auctions. Many people believe the only reason to auction a property is if it is in distress, and Concierge Auctions has done a great job of showing that that isn’t the case when comes to our luxury marketplace. Our sellers choose auction as a business decision; an accelerate solution to deliver market value on their timeline. Ultimately, they value liquidity and control. The other common misconception is that we cut out the agents’ who may be attempting to sell the home in the traditional way. We actually work with agents and protect their commission, and because of that have grown an expansive network of preferred agents who have worked with us in the past. We are an added tool in their toolbox, and have never auctioned a property without an agent partner, having been born out of the agent community as a solution to create a more efficient way to buy and sell luxury property.

All of this to say, as we increase our agent outreach to prove Concierge Auctions as a viable alternative solution that will only help the agents get their commissions sooner, we anticipate the number of properties on our marketplace to increase dramatically!

On the humanitarian front, we started the Key for Key® giving program. For every house sold on our platform for the duration of this year, we donate a house to a family in need. We’ve provided new homes to a little over a dozen families so far, and anticipate over 100 homes built this year alone. We see Concierge Auctions doing more in the future to give back to the world and help families in need.