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Vital questions about Sunroom’s on-demand rental tours

(BROKERAGE NEWS) As Favor’s founders launch Sunroom, we have unanswered questions that will reveal the company’s intentions once answered.

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Popular delivery startup, Favor, was acquired by Texas grocer HEB in February for an undisclosed sum, freeing up the founders Ben Doherty and Zac Maurais up for their next venture. Enter Sunroom which makes property rental tours on-demand.

Sunroom seeks to improve the property rentals process – renters can search available properties, select the addresses they’d like to tour, and then order a “tour guide,” which is a licensed Sunroom agent that is paid an average of $20 per hour, kind of like Uber for property rentals.

The company currently serves Austin but has expressed publicly that they intend to expand.

Property managers pay Sunroom if a qualified tenant is placed, and renters never pay for the app (just like apartment locators, a common practice in Texas). At launch, the company differentiated itself as a tech contender with a $1.5M round of seed funding from heavy hitters like Tim Draper of Draper Associates, and Joshua Baer of Capital Factory.

Maurais told AustinInno, “We knew we wanted to do something inside of the rental market because it’s so massive and affects a lot of people. I’ve had bad landlords in the past and have been renting for the past decade. So I understand first hand.”

He also said that renters can keep application info saved in the app for their next rental experience, “almost like you’re building out your renter’s resume.” Perhaps the long game is building an alternative credit rating for renters? Now that would actually be interesting.

Technologists are inquisitive by nature – put a bunch in a room for a weekend hackathon and with technology, they’ve solved a problem that they hadn’t even thought about prior to the weekend. Thus, the industry is prone to inherently believe they have the answers to everything, and they’re accustomed to make decisions quickly and move nimbly which is something I personally admire.

But if you go to any tech meetup (we’ve hosted one monthly for 10+ years), and mention real estate, their beautiful brains flip into action mode, and there is an instinct that they can fix real estate. As a whole. What sucks about real estate? Not sure, but they know it sucks, and they can fix it.

That combination doesn’t mean they’re stupid or evil, just that they’re fixers. But it also means that endless attempts at “disruption” come from technologists rather than industry insiders with technology experience. And most efforts inevitably fail. Or they pivot into a modified version of the traditional model they sought to innovate in the first place (like Redfin).

Speaking of Redfin, that’s what first comes to mind when we see Sunroom (regarding how they potentially pay agents). But what also comes to mind is the model the founders created with Favor (compete with a national brand locally where they have a soft spot, seek acquisition by a large company to suit their tech needs).

So the future of Sunroom relies heavily on the answers to the following questions that we have sent to them multiple times, without answer:

  1. The 8 agents you have licensed under your broker, are they the only agents on demand?
  2. Who gets the commission on the rental, and what is the split for the $20/hr agent that showed the property?
  3. Do consumers sign any locator representation agreement with you?
  4. Are the agents on salary, hourly, or commission with a bonus of hourly pay for touring properties?
  5. Ben and Zac are now licensed agents – do either of you intend on being the broker when eligible? How’d you find the current broker? What’s the plan there?
  6. Do you guys intend on expanding beyond Austin? Which cities are next, and what does the growth plan look like?
  7. Has Redfin’s model been of inspiration for your model?
  8. What am I missing in why you’re so disruptive?

Further, what does the fiduciary relationship look like? Does Sunroom represent the renter or the property manager, or are they attempting dual agency? Are the agents employees or do they remain independent contractors? See how things can get hairy?

We’ve seen a bajillion startups come and go where outsiders try to get a cut of a commission via a slick app that implies representation, and even more than that seeking to manage the contract portion of rentals, and even MORE that offer showings on demand, but where I see disruption is in the pay model for agents (and the potential to cut agents out of the rental market), but until Sunroom answers basic questions, we simply won’t know.

Stay tuned – they’re either the first exciting disruption to hit the real estate market in so many years, or they’re another group of technologists that see a profit opportunity.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s why they should

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but they absolutely should.

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It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh, personally and professionally. Help your organization by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re heading, or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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Real Estate Brokerage

COVID-19: Huge list of resources to quickly help you and your clients

(NEWS) NAR has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for Realtors, homeowners, and insights on how the stimulus bill will impact the industry.

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As the COVID-19 crisis continues to rattle the globe, many of us have far more questions than answers. Realtors are trying to figure out how to be socially responsible, stay healthy, and maintain their business.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has collected several resources to help you and your clients stay informed of industry happenings during these difficult times.

Click the following headlines for the full lists.

Resources for property owners

This guide collects resources curated by trusted sources like the American Land Title Association, bank regulators, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide property owners with guidance during the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the resources provided include:

  • A real-time list of county record office closures
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans
  • Information from major banking institutions regarding their policies and customer outreach
  • Information from mortgage insurers
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) foreclosure and eviction moratorium

Guidance on tech-driven alternatives to open houses

As more states head into lockdown or shelter-in-place situations, open houses are a no-go now and for the foreseeable future. While many are concerned about what this means for their business, there are options available as long as you are willing to get creative and embrace technology. In order to help facilitate this shift, the NAR has created a set of guidelines to help members navigate this situation in a way that is safe for them and their clients.

How stimulus recovery will affect the industry

A $2 trillion economic relief bill just passed the U.S. Senate and is expected to pass through the U.S. House and Presidential office without issue. The NAR has been hard at work to make sure that self-employed and independent contractors will see relief from this stimulus package.

What are Realtors doing to help their communities?

Realtors are a vital part of their communities; they know the neighborhoods and small business owners whom they see every day. During the COVID-19 crisis many realtors across the country are doing their part to help the most vulnerable people in their communities.

This is a constantly evolving situation as every state is being faced with tough decisions that affect the health of the citizens and economy. We encourage realtors to stay safe and continue checking resources as the situation progresses in their area.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Project Hatch: Advice directly from successful people

(BUSINESS) Project Hatch shares stories of major founders around the world in an effort to help others grow professionally and “found” their dreams.

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Even if we’re at the tip top of the professional food chain, there is always something that we can learn from those who came before us. Additionally, there is always something that can be learned from peers (or mentors if you’re continuing the career-ladder climb).

This is the intent of Project Hatch, which is designed to tell the stories of founders in order to inspire others who are looking to go down that path. “The best way to learn how to build a company is from those who have done it before,” according to Project Hatch’s official website. “Project Hatch features case studies and analysis from the view-point of founding teams.”

Examples of case studies include some current heavy hitters, such as Tyler Handley – founder of Inkbox, Alex Zaccaria – founder of Linktree, and David Ciccarelli – founder of Voices.com. Their stories include where they are and how they got there.

“So for us, the primary drivers of growth have typically been performance marketing and the associated word of mouth and the organic and return off that. So Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snap and we’re experimenting with TicTok right now,” – Tyler Handley

“We created a solution to a problem that we thought was unique to us; but it turns out millions of other people had the same problem. One of the key moments of validation for us, was early on, when the platform was uploaded to Product Hunt,” – Alex Zaccaria

“Exactly two years ago, we raised $18 million USD from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital out of San Francisco. As growth stage equity investors, they were attracted to a large and growing market for voice and audio products,” – David Ciccarelli

The case studies include four key areas that are broken down for major industries. These include: ecommerce, media, agency, and SaaS. With ecommerce, you can learn how to create scalable stores; with media, you can find out how media giants receive hundreds of millions of views on different social platforms; with agency, you can learn how to be more innovative in order to standout in today’s competitive market; and, SaaS offers the most passive form of online income when done correctly, so they feature those who have done it (and are making $600k per month!)

Project Hatch boasts over 15,000 monthly users, over 33,000 monthly page views, and 111 monthly interviews. The site also includes run downs of celebrities’ net worths (so, be sure to look through that if you want to feel bad about yourself).

This is a solid platform that offers something interesting for everyone at any point in their career. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, since there is so much professional advice out there, don’t go overboard looking into so much of it that you forget to do your own work.

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