The real estate industry has entered a new era—one that’s making the transaction easier and more user-friendly and transparent.
During the Emerging Business & Technology Forum at the 2021 virtual REALTORS® Legislative Meetings Tuesday, three proptech founders shared how the technology they’re developing can help real estate professionals improve their business during this low-inventory market while also adapting to the post–COVID-19 world where virtual interaction has become the norm.
Knock Home Swap
“The last 20-year time period when real estate was evolving coincides with how we as consumers buy goods online,” said Sean Black, co-founder and CEO of Knock, a company that helps homeowners buy their next home before selling their old house. The online shopping evolution started with Amazon, then moved into the food and ride-share sectors. Then companies like Airbnb and Instacart exploded.
Black, a founding team member at Trulia where he worked until it was acquired in 2015, said his years with the listing portal taught him that if buying and selling real estate were “cheaper, faster, and easier, at least twice as many people would do it.” Today, 300 million people are searching listing sites for homes each month, but the transaction process has not changed much.
“Our goal is to help people move more freely,” he said, “so we sort of turned the transaction upside down.”
Now it’s first-time home buyers and sellers who are powering real estate’s growth. As people who grew up with laptops and smartphones, they expect more digital convenience and transparency, Black said. This coincides with an era where home buyers face uncertainty over the success of their offer, as they’re often competing with multiple offers.
Black’s mission with Knock, selected as a 2021 participant in NAR’s REACH technology accelerator program, is to help the 99% buy homes the way the 1% buys homes: with cash.
“The problem is that the rest of America is cash-poor and equity-rich,” he said. “We today have $20 trillion in equity built up in our homes.”
Knock Home Swap, backed by First American Financial, uses data to help clients calculate the value of their current home, then gets the homeowner approved for a Knock mortgage on a new home before they even list. This allows clients to make a competitive, noncontingent offer on another home. Knock also lends them the down payment and money to fix up their old house using the equity they’ve gained. The cost to the client is a 1.25% convenience fee on the purchase of the new home. Sellers can still be represented by an agent of their choice.
Consumers also can benefit from an average 1% to 3% discount on the home they’re buying because they’re a sure thing for the seller, Black said, and their old home usually sells in 90 days or less.
“We take that whole roller coaster ride and make it much simpler, much more certain, a lot less stressful,” Black said. “[Sellers] have transparency into the transaction that no other lender would be able to give them because no other lender is involved in as much of the transaction as we are.”
Currently, 80,000 agents have access to Knock Home Swap for their clients in 40 markets across 10 states and participation is quickly expanding.
This immersive 360-degree tour and floor plan provider represents the largest network of real estate photographers in North America, with more than 1,700 active providers on the platform, the company says. It has created more than 250,000 single-property websites that cumulatively receive 13 million page views per year for about 50,000 real estate agents.
UrbanImmersive’s tours can accommodate 1,000-square-foot condos, 10,000-square-foot houses, and 400,000-square-foot commercial sites and can be created using any 360-degree camera, said Jeremy Bowman, vice president of sales.
“Your client can start the 3D tour outside of the house, view the entire interior, and then jump into the backyard to view the outdoor living space—maybe there's a pool or a deck that you want to showcase—that can all be done within one 3D tour,” he said.
The company’s residential packages include 12 months of hosting, and the 360-degree tours can be downloaded as a gift for a home buyer or seller, Bowman added.
A fully editable white-labeled floor plan can be added to a 360-degree tour to showcase the layout and flow of the home.
The company’s new product, UIMeet3D, extends the platform to provide a floor plan of the property in the top left corner of the screen. It also shows, in real time, other people viewing the tour and where they are within the property. Home shoppers can view the tour with family and friends while chatting or videoconferencing.
“It makes it an enjoyable and fun experience,” Bowman said. “Agents now have the ability to visit a 3D tour with their potential clients and continue to build that relationship with them.”
Agents can hold digital open houses with 360-degree tours or give guided tours through the space. A link to the tour can be emailed or shared on social media to attract more visitors to an open house or to invite a client to a private meeting, Bowman said.
Real estate pros get real-time notifications with a text message or email that someone has joined their tour, serving as a lead generation tool. Agents also have the option to set up an artificial intelligence bot within the tour to greet users as they arrive. The bot could greet visitors with comments like, “Hi. Thank you for joining the tour. Would you like more information? Would you like to view the property in person?” Bowman said.
The tour will give potential buyers a better sense of a space before they visit a property in person, and save time for agents, who typically show 15 properties over a weekend, Bowman said.
“That means less traffic through a home with more qualified buyers who are actually visiting,” Bowman said. “People are more hesitant to have visitors after what we've been through over the past 14 months with COVID-19. So UiMeet3D gives your client that peace of mind.”
Agents can hire a photographer through their network or do it themselves with a 360-degree camera and the UI Capture App available on the iOS and Android mobile platforms.
The mission of Accept.inc is to “level the playing field so that everybody has an equal chance at homeownership,” said Adam Pollack, CEO and co-founder.
Launched in 2016, Accept.inc is a proptech lending company that makes a cash offer without financing contingencies with the terms the agent negotiates on behalf of the buyer, then holds the home for the buyer while their mortgage is finalized, at which point Accept.inc sells it to the buyer for the same price the company bought it for.
Because Accept.inc is a mortgage lender, it doesn’t charge buyers, sellers, or agents any additional fee to upgrade to an all-cash offer, Pollack said.
“I don't think it takes an Albert Einstein to figure out that a cash offer that can close in three days is a whole lot better than waiting 47 days to know if a mortgage is going to go through,” Pollack said.
During the mortgage approval process, the lender arranges underwriting as buyers provide the loan officer with financial information. But Accept.inc does the underwriting upfront to make sure the buyers can afford the loan as it assumes the risk of buying and holding the home for the clients, Pollack said.
“From the agent’s perspective, you will also know upfront whether or not your buyer can afford a loan and can afford to purchase, so you're not wasting time again doing home tours for people who can't actually afford financing,” he said.
Once clients are approved, they can shop with the power of an all-cash offer, Pollack said. After an offer is accepted, they typically close with the seller two weeks later. Accept.inc then holds the home for the buyers, typically for from 10 to 14 days, to complete final loan documents, have the property appraised, and close on the buyer’s loan, which is when they get the keys.
In multiple-offer situations, Accept.inc’s offers typically beat out six other mortgage-contingent offers on average, Pollack said, despite not being the highest bidder. Their offers are typically about $8,000 less than the next-highest financed offer. Accept.inc has paid more than $9 million in commissions to agents, he added.
“The market is so competitive right now, and to actually win with a financed offer is really difficult,” Pollack said. “Right now, it takes around 10 offers with a financed offer to win here in Denver.”
Accept.inc makes its money as a mortgage lender, just like any mortgage bank, so there are no additional fees to consumers for the cash-offer service, Pollack said. The company also has an in-house title company. It saves money by paying its loan officers a salary rather than a commission. “That's how we're actually able to not have just a better product and a cash offer but also give a really competitive rate,” he said.
The company has helped VA loan borrowers, but cannot yet help FHA buyers since the FHA has a title flip rule that requires a minimum of 90 days before reselling a home. Pollack said the company is seeking an exception to that rule.
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