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Why real estate brokerages are NOT startups

(BROKERAGE) Brokerages are popping up nationwide that are sleek and modern, but also misinformed as they call themselves startups. Let’s talk about the technical definition.

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real estate startup

Businesses that are just starting out often refer to themselves as startups (which is inappropriate given that startups are funded differently, scale differently, and have completely different KPIs). Take real estate brokerages, for example. An increasing number call themselves startups, but when you look at the definition of a startup, can you really call yourself one?

Small businesses and startups have very different definitions (and there’s no shame in being a small business or an “innovative brokerage”). Let’s discuss.

1. Startups have a different goal altogether.

Typically, startups are about growth. They’re designed from day one to scale extremely quickly. Small businesses are often limited by a target market or geographic location. There’s nothing wrong with that, but they aren’t scalable the same way an international software brand is. Think about scaling in terms of a beauty salon versus MatchCo, an app that uses technology to create a foundation just for you. A franchise does not a startup make.

2. Startups generally seek outside funding to accelerate growth.

Startup founders often give up equity shares to generate funds before becoming profitable. Small businesses are typically self-funded, bootstrapped into profitability, and owned by one or a select few. A small business venture is typically less risky than a startup, too. The idea behind a small business venture is profit, and you want the business to last. Startups are structured to be sold or acquired once it hits critical mass – a “startup” is temporary.

3. Startups disrupt the industry.

Think about these companies – AirBnB, Google, Dropbox, Facebook, even Apple, a long time ago. In their early days, they were startups. It was risky to invest in these companies as they were trying something new (not iterating on something like the real estate practice which is one of the oldest professions in America), but they have outshone their competitors. They disrupted the marketplace. That’s what a startup does.

And it doesn’t always work. Sonitus Medical attempted to disrupt the hearing aid market. They raised almost $90 million in funding before the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decided the product wouldn’t be covered. The company held an auction and closed its doors. Brokerages have experimented with paying salaries, going paperless, or having all agents working remotely – these are all fabulous innovations and iterations, not disruptions.

The takeaway

We’ve been on the forefront for over a decade of ushering in the era of indie brokerages, paperless real estate brands, and counter-culture companies, but brokerages are simply not startups, and this is not up for debate. Iteration is not innovation.

Don’t call yourself something you’re not – be an “innovative broker” and rock it, because you’re not a temporary company seeking to scale so rapidly that you’re acquired for your indisputable disruption.

And finally, don’t fall for real estate brokerages pitching themselves as “startups” when they’re misinformed and really mean they’re simply, and beautifully “modern.”

Dawn Brotherton is a Staff Writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Real Estate Brokerage

Former WeWork exec launches specialized real estate startup studio

(REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE) A real estate startup studio by a former WeWork executive is using technology to reinvent real estate, starting in Asia.

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Two pairs of hands at a real estate startup meeting table with post-it notes.

Former WeWork executive Dominic Penaloza is reinventing real estate in Asia by launching Asia’s first PropTech innovation studio. Called REinvent (“RE” is short for “real estate”), this “real estate startup studio” focuses on tech specifically for the real estate industry.

Consisting of a mix of 45 technology and real estate industry veterans, REinvent is an in-house, full-time, and full-stack technology development organization. All designers, engineers, real estate operators, etc. are based in offices in Singapore, Shanghai, and Taipei.

REinvent is backed by four of Asia’s largest property companies. JustCo is the leading co-working company in Asia-Pacific, which is backed up by these big property owners in Asia, Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, multi-national property developer Frasers Property, and one of Japan’s leading real estate companies Daito Trust.

According to the company’s website, REinvent’s mission is to “reinvent real estate using its core competencies of technology product development, business model innovation, and venture building.” Through its “innovation studio”, REinvent hopes to create a repeatable process that creates a “large and profitable standalone PropTech business.”

So far, REinvent has two ventures in its portfolio. Switch is an on-demand platform for workspaces. With over 2,000 workspace desks across 25 different locations, individuals and businesses can book a space to work in and pay by the minute. Also, the company offers what it calls “Switch Booths”. These private work pods look pretty cool. They look like you could be in some sort of sci-fi and outer space container. And, when you’re not in the office or at home, they might offer you the right amount of peace and quiet needed to jump on a quick call.

The company’s other venture is SixSense. This software is like “Google analytics for space.” Using artificial intelligence, SixSense gives you data-driven insights so you can better optimize and utilize your space. But, it doesn’t just offer spatial analytics. The software also provides a social distance detection service. It can automatically measure if social distancing rules are being complied with, and it can send out overcrowding alerts to teams in real-time.

“We believe the future of real estate is when people will consume it as a service. This would unlock the world’s most precious asset so that more people can use it in more ways, adding a new dimension to the relationship between the landlord, tenant, and non-tenant,” said Penaloza, CEO of REinvent.

So far, the company seems to be headed in that direction.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Applying for a home? Robots and automation may decide your fate

(BROKERAGE) The next background check you have run may not be in the hands of another human being. Is this automation helpful or harmful?

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Man signing application may only be seen by automation

Leasing approval for your next apartment may not reside in the hands of a human being.

Automation has become an integral part of the decision process for landlords when it comes to deciding who to accept as tenants. Screening tools such as ScorePLUS from CoreLogic use a “statistical lease screening model” that calculates a score and determines a potential tenant’s overall risk. CrimCHECK, another product from CoreLogic, can be used by landlords to search a database of more than 80 million booking and incarceration records across 2,000 facilities. This type of software helps landlords and large apartment complexes streamline their processes and reduce manual reviews of leasing applications.

Housing advocates, however, view such automation as more of a problem than a solution. According to advocates when screening tools bypass human “judgment calls”, those decisions fail to take into account critical details and attempt to solve complex choices with a simple pass/fail algorithm. Eric Dunn, director of litigation at the National Housing Law Project, says that nuance is lost when landlords solely rely on automated screening tools and don’t always capture extenuating circumstances around a possible tenant’s record.

Large automated systems often have inaccuracies as well. Monica Webly, the deputy director of litigation at the Legal Action Center, has said that such checks are “notoriously” inaccurate. For example, a record might end up including information from someone with a similar name, leading to a denial in a renting application for a tenant.

“I’ve looked at more criminal records reports than I could count, and I would say that well over half the ones I’ve looked at had some kind of inaccuracy,” Dunns said.

Companies like CoreLogic have faced lawsuits over such inaccuracies. In 2015, a South Carolina man sued the company after he was flagged by a CoreLogic tool as a registered sex offender due to someone with a similar name. While the man was eventually able to resolve the issue, the process took weeks and cost him the apartment he was applying for as a result.

As automation increasingly becomes a part of our everyday lives, scenarios like the above will become more common. Although software like CoreLogic can help landlords process information faster and reduce human error, it comes with its own set of downsides. How to strike the right balance for things such as leasing applications, is the million-dollar question.

At least not all automation has such drawbacks.

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Real Estate Brokerage

7 red flags that could scare off potential home buyers

(BROKERAGE) While houses are selling quickly right now, there are some things that will almost definitely turn a home buyer off.

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Open home and kitchen that home buyers will be considering.

The process of buying a home is incredibly overwhelming – as is the process of selling a house. There are so many aspects that potential home buyers are investigating when they enter a spot that’s for sale.

Without realizing it, many sellers can be hurting their chances of selling by overlooking simple things. The Ascent recently determined seven things that scare away potential buyers. Let’s dive in.

We all know the market is hot right now and houses are selling like crazy, but there are certain things that just cannot be ignored.

  1. Listing an unrealistic price: Be realistic about what your house is worth and don’t be misleading. People can easily search the worth of the houses around yours and do some digging to find out if what you’re listing is representative of what the house is worth.
  2. Skipping the deep clean: This is never a good idea – especially this year. The cleanliness of your house is akin in the buyer’s mind to the overall upkeep and maintenance of the house. They assume that if you don’t clean, you don’t care.
  3. Personalization: Since you’re moving, try and pack up some of your family photos and leave up less “personal” items (or color choices) to better help the potential buyer envision themselves living there.
  4. Expecting payment for features that are high maintenance: Things like pools and hot tubs don’t always return their value. Many home buyers aren’t interested in keeping up with that maintenance and it’s unreasonable to charge them for the assumption that they’ll keep up with it.
  5. Believing “It’s okay if this doesn’t work”: If your shower head is broken, the A/C is messed up, or a ceiling is cracked, you should do all you can to replace or repair it before listing your house. If you can’t, don’t expect anyone to pay the full listing price.
  6. Being nose-blind: Like those Febreeze commercials tell us, it’s common that we go nose-blind to our surroundings simply because we’re so used to them (i.e. a smoker doesn’t notice their house or clothes smell like smoke). Go back and check off deep cleaning, and then ask someone you really trust to come in and tell you how the house smells to an outsider. Trust me, this will be one of the first things a buyer notices.
  7. Leaving pets home during showings: Due to the unpredictability with strangers – or the potential allergies the strangers may have – it’s best to make arrangements for your pets to be elsewhere during showings.

At the end of the day, you have to look at your house from an outsider’s perspective. Getting feedback and opinions from friends and family can help this process.

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