CINCINNATI -- When Brett Keppler, the owner of Treo Realtors in Blue Ash, negotiates an agreement to sell a house, buyer and seller always ask him the same thing: "What’s next?"
That’s an important question, because between the initial agreement and the closing of the sale, there’s a complicated but repetitive paperwork dance among buyers, sellers, lenders, the federal government and other interested parties.
"The most unsettling thing about the industry is that most agents manage this process in their head," Keppler said. "When they do, things get forgotten," and bad things happen, such as people showing up for closings without necessary paperwork.
Organizing and automating the closing process is the niche that Nekst (pronounced “Next," as in “What’s next?"), the company Keppler created in 2014, hopes to fill.
How does it work?
Nekst is an online dashboard real estate agents use to manage all their properties, to assign different tasks to their team and to give access to clients to let them know what’s going on. It automates much of the process, such as sending out reminder emails for needed documents.
"It takes a lot of responsibility off the shoulders of the agent," Keppler said.
Robyn McGill, a realtor and the office manager for the Kevin Hildebrand team of Comey & Shepherd Realtors in Maineville, has used Nekst for almost a year. Each day, the software sends her all the information she needs to keep up with the process, she said, so she doesn’t have to physically pull a paper file and check it.
The team will do about 290 transactions this year, she said, which is a lot for a four-person office to handle. Nekst has helped her keep things running smoothly all year.
"As far as timelines and checklists go, it’s made life 100 percent easier," she said.
How many customers does Nekst have?
More than 5,000 have subscribed, Keppler said. He declined to disclose revenue figures, but said sales are growing by about 20 percent every month.
The company’s making a profit, according to Keppler, but he’s not yet paying himself a salary. His co-founder and Nekst chief tech officer, Spiro Mifsud, who lives in the same South Lebanon neighborhood as Keppler, does receive a salary, as do one full-time developer and one part-time worker.
Covington business incubator UpTech made a $40,000 investment when Nekst went through its program in 2014. Another person, whose name Keppler didn’t disclose, invested $20,000. The rest -- close to $200,000 -- Keppler invested himself.
What’s next for Nekst?
In January, an iPhone app version called Coversheet, and in February, an Android version with the same name. In March, an overhauled internet version will debut, Keppler said, at which time Nekst will ramp up its marketing efforts.
The company’s also working on integrating the software with artificial intelligence, so that agents can use it to ask their phones to make calls for them, instead of having to look up the number.
One large, new market is businesses that just handle closings for real estate agents. Hiring them to handle your paperwork, Keppler said, is "the only thing easier than using Nekst."
He expects that once the apps and the revised desktop version come out, he’ll have to devote most of his time to Nekst. "My expectation is that within the next 12 months ... the only house I sell might be my own."
But he never wants to leave his real estate business entirely, he said, because it’s a great way to test out new features for Nekst. "I can know whether they are crap or actually useful, instead of having to rely on outside users to tell me what they like and what they don’t like.”
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Starting a new business while running a dozen-person real estate office that does almost 500 sales a year. "I didn’t have the luxury of being young, with no responsibilities," said Keppler, who’s 35. "It’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you need to be."