Investment in real estate technology is at an all-time high. In 2017 alone, venture capital firms invested nearly $13 billion in the space. And with a number of new VCs now specializing in the arena (Camber Creek, MetaProp and Fifth Wall, to name a few), that number’s only going to rise in the coming years.
What does that equate to for buyers, sellers and those who work in the industry?
For one, it means more options — more solutions, products and tools that can make everything from buying, selling and investing to fixing, flipping and renting easier and more lucrative.
It also equals more competition for those in the tech space. And so far, that competition has certainly bred excellence.
As Jake Fingert, partner at Camber Creek, put it, “The real estate technology industry is expanding right now with incredible velocity. We are seeing enormous investment opportunities as innovative companies are leveraging new technologies, creating positive disruptive for buyers and sellers in the real estate market. There are, of course, large companies like WeWork, Redfin, and Zillow that have achieved mass market scale, but there is also an exciting new wave of companies that are looking to simplify various aspects of buying, selling and owning property.”
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Here are a few of those innovative companies to put on your radar:
LiveBy, for localized content
According to Clelia Peters, one of the cofounders of VC MetaProp, LiveBy “is an exciting new company that is creating detailed neighborhood content for real estate agents to use with their clients to help them better understand where they are buying.” LiveBy offers hyperlocal, neighborhood-specific content that integrates with an agent’s existing site, as well as their listings or MLS data. It’s basically targeted marketing meets informational resource, giving agents clout with existing clients while bringing in new leads at the same time.
Kelle, an AI personal assistant
Created by KW Labs — Keller Williams’ own innovation hub — Kelle is an AI-based personal assistant designed just for real estate agents. Using simple voice or text commands, agents can get hyperlocal data reports, neighborhood information and more within seconds. It also helps agents manage their schedules, grow their network, monitor business goals and access training and educational resources as well. The app is available on Apple and Android and recently won Inman’s Best Real Estate Technology of the year award.
Agent Neo, an Amazon Echo app
Technically a consumer-facing app, Agent Neo helps buyers and sellers book appointments or showings with local real estate agents in their area. The reason it’s on the agents’ part of this list is two-fold: 1) because it feeds agents leads and helps fill their sales pipelines, and 2) because it can improve on-site tours and showings. If a Neo-enabled Amazon Echo device is located on an agent’s property, agents can pre-load it with tons of property-specific information to inform and guide potential buyers. Those buyers can then ask questions, inquire about things like utility bills and seller’s disclosures, and even get local neighborhood data as they tour the home.
First.io, for getting more clients
This one’s a great tool for agents looking to up their portfolio of listings. The tool connects with the agent’s network, contacts and social accounts and then uses data science to track and analyze more than 700 factors that might indicate someone is ready to buy a home. It then identifies the people in that network most likely to sell within the next six to 12 months and, as Peters puts it, “uses rigorous testing to determine the most effective forms of follow-up” with those connections.
For home buyers and sellers:
AskDOSS, for real estate-related questions
AskDOSS is a Siri-like personal assistant designed just for real estate. Buyers can use it to get deep-dive insights on virtually any property in the country, including things like property valuations, utility bill and tax information, school data and more. It works via voice or text command on both smartphones and smart speakers, and it even includes not-listed and non-MLS properties, too. AskDOSS technically isn’t available at the moment (it just closed out a successful beta run and will re-launch in 2019), but founder Bobby Bryant says his engineers are working closely with IBM Watson engineers to “cover every real estate function and query imaginable for every property in the country.”
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Edgewise, for building new construction
If you’re looking to buy a new home or build one from the ground up, you’ll want this tool in your sights. A unique platform that connects homebuilders directly with buyers, it allows shoppers to select open projects, make offers, customize their future home and even track its progress all online and digitally. The biggest benefit? Because it cuts out the real estate agent middleman, founder Bobby Juncosa says it’s a win-win for both buyer and builder. “The commission savings can be distributed back to the buyer and builder, making homes more affordable for buyers, and more profitable for builders,” he said.
Morty, a streamlined rate shopping service
Shopping around for mortgage rates is important — especially in today’s rising rate environment. But jumping from lender to lender, filling out dozens of applications and fielding calls from one loan officer after another can be time-consuming (not to mention tedious.) Morty aims to streamline the rate-shopping process. Buyers can upload a financial profile, learn about their loan options and then get rate offers from vetted lenders in one single dashboard. Once they choose their preferred lender, Morty helps move the loan through underwriting and closing all online. As Clelia Peters describes it, “Morty aggregates mortgage offers to improve both the rate and the consumer experience when shopping for a mortgage.”
Homelight, for finding the right agent
For buyers (or sellers) looking to work with an agent, Homelight can help. Users answer questions about their goals and preferences, and then Homelight analyzes millions of real estate transactions and databases to find the right fit. They’ll get a short list of potential agent matches and can use Homelight’s real estate experts for recommendations or to schedule in-person interviews. Peters calls it “agent performance analysis” that helps buyers select just the right broker for their needs.
TaskEasy, for keeping that yard in check
Having trouble keeping that lawn neat and tidy for showings? Sellers strapped for time can take solace in TaskEasy — a tool that Fingert dubs “the Lyft for lawn care.” TaskEasy offers on-demand lawn services with the click of a button. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly service, or book one as-needed when a showing is scheduled. No haggling or hassle required.
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For mortgage companies:
Jane.ai, an artificial intelligence support system
USA Mortgage just implemented this AI-based team member, which operates as a sort of support system for the company’s hundreds of loan officers and support staff employees. They can use it to access company data on the fly, whether it’s in email form, located on a network or database or even embedded in a document. As USA’s Ron Mueller told CMSWire, “The mortgage industry is an extremely competitive business and we need our team members engaging with customers, not spending their time sifting through reams of emails and documents. Having Jane on board means that our employees can now find exactly what they need in a matter of seconds instead of minutes or even hours.” The Jane.ai bot operates within Slack, a mobile-based communications app.
Spruce, an online title provider
Spruce is a fully digital title company that can integrate with lenders’ existing platforms and processes. It offers an easy e-closing solution, mobile notaries and e-scheduling, making the entire closing process easier and more efficient — both for buyer and lender. And because its technology cuts out added fees and expenses, Spruce can even cut down on costs, saving about $360 per loan, on average.
Matic Insurance, to ease the insurance process
This is another integrable tool that can save costs and money — and in this case, more importantly, prevent delays in closings. Many buyers aren’t aware (or become aware too late) that they’ll need homeowners’ insurance before proceeding with closing. Because Matic integrates with lenders’ existing platforms, it makes choosing insurance a natural part of the application process. Buyers can get quotes, sign up for policies and send proof of that policy to their loan officer within seconds. The tool integrates with popular platforms like LendingQB, Roostify and MortgageHippo.
Aly J. Yale