Elite AgentReal Estate Tech & Social

Tech startups making waves

In the wide, wide world of real estate technology, it can be difficult to know which platforms are here to stay, which we will soon say goodbye to, and which solve real problems for consumers and agents. Elite Agent’s Kylie Dulhunty profiles three US-based, tech-driven real estate startups making waves in the industry.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict the price a home would sell for?

Don’t you wish you could pay your selling agent a set fee based on the listing price of your home instead of the sale price?

Do you yearn for a real estate assistant to help you wade through the millions of property listings and find you the perfect home according to your individual, detailed needs?

As a renter, do you long to know how many people have applied for the same property and what they’ve offered, and wish you could do away with hefty security deposits?

Now you can.

In the US, tech-driven real estate companies Reali, OJO Labs and Rentberry are giving consumers and agents the power to do just this.

Rentberry, a transparent rental application and price negotiation platform that allows tenants to bid on rental properties, is available in more than 50 countries, including Australia.

In a nutshell, here’s what makes each platform tick.

REALI Have you ever wished you had a crystal ball when you were buying a house?

Have you longed to know what the final selling price will be, if your budget is even in the ballpark or entirely off base?

California-based real estate startup Reali provides buyers with that exact power with PricePredictor.

Powered through artificial intelligence, PricePredictor is a machine-learningbased model that produces probabilities of winning a home at various price points.

Reali CEO Amit Haller says PricePredictor Is a unique feature in the Reali app that helps buyers understand the true selling price of a home.

“It uses AI and real market data to potentially save consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars when deciding what offer to place considering their budget,” he says.

“We’re not just looking at the value of the home, we’re actually predicting what the ultimate selling price will be with about 97 per cent precision.”

Launched three years ago in San Mateo, Reali is one of many overseas tech-based real estate companies giving traditional models a real shake-up.

Amit and CPO Ami Avrahami founded Reali in a bid to rebuild the real estate system from the ground up.

It came after two decades buying, selling, renting, building, managing and investing in almost every type of residential and business structure.

“During this time we learned a thing or two about the real estate system and came to the following conclusion – it had to change,” Amit says.

“When working with real estate agents to sell our properties, we did not receive consistent quality of service and on top of that, we were paying exorbitant fees and commission.

“Reali is a new system, engineered around real information, real communication, real technology and real agent expertise.”

Reali is a full-service real estate company with a team of licensed agents and tech-driven tools, including an app, that builds efficiencies into the buying and selling process.

A major point of difference is Reali’s flat-fee model, which offers cash savings to sellers and a cashback to buyers instead of commission.

“In traditional real estate the buyer’s agent is paid about 2.5 per cent in commissions by the home seller,” Amit says.

“When you work with Reali to buy a home, we charge a flat fee based on the closing price of the home and rebate the rest to the buyer as a cash bonus.

“On a $1 million home our flat fee is $15,000, and the buyer gets $10,000 as a cash rebate, instead of the agent keeping the entire $25,000.

“Our seller flat fee ranges from $2,450 to $9,950 based on the listing price of the home.”

The Reali app provides transparency every step of the way with users able to chat to their agent, track their offers, book ondemand tours, get free property reports and real-time updates and manage documents.

Two other innovative moves from Reali include Reali Cash Offer and Reali Trade-In.

Reali Cash Offer enables qualified buyers, those approved by Reali Loans, to make a cash offer with as little as no deposit.

“We make a 100 per cent cash offer on their behalf, they can close faster and save up to two per cent on the home price because they are buying with cash,” Amit says.

Reali Trade-In helps clients looking to sell and buy simultaneously.

Reali buys the new home with its cash and clients move in when they are ready.

Reali then cleans, stages and sells the existing home with no cost to the client.

When the home sells, the client uses the proceeds to buy their house from Reali at the same price the company bought it for, regardless of market fluctuations.

Bidding on a home that’s for sale is not a new concept, but what about bidding on a rental property in an online portal?

That’s exactly what Rentberry, a transparent rental application and price negotiation platform does.

Founded in 2015 in San Francisco, Rentberry now unites tenants and landlords in more than 50 countries worldwide.

It also automates rental tasks such as making an offer, e-signing rental agreements, submitting personal information and sending a maintenance request.

Rentberry CEO Alex Lubinsky says the first version of the platform went live in 2016 intending to make renting a property more transparent and more efficient.

“Every real estate platform out there had limited functionality where you could only search for a property, look at pictures and read a description,” he says.

“Then you were left doing a lot of manual tasks, including filling out applications, mailing paper cheques or making calls and emails to a landlord, without a guarantee of getting a place or even having any idea of how many other applicants there were.

“Our goal was to automate all of this and create a rental ecosystem where renters and landlords could conduct all of the rental tasks in one place.”

Alex says Rentberry offers tenants a transparent rental auction where they can submit custom offers as well as see what the current highest proposal is and the number of applicants for a property.

Despite fears of massive bidding wars that push weekly rental prices sky-high, Alex says this isn’t the case.

At times tenants secure a property well under what a landlord may initially want.

“Only the market can decide what they are willing to pay for a property at any point in time,” he says.

“Just because a landlord wants to get $2,000 per week does not mean the market is willing to pay $2,000.

“They may, however, be willing to pay $1,500 per week so the process, from a landlord’s point of view, can save a property from sitting vacant for many weeks.”

The auction process doesn’t simply mean the highest bid wins.

Landlords can also take into account tenant’s personal information as well as reviews they have received on the platform.

“An applicant may offer the highest bid and they’re a 20-year-old who goes to college and likes to party while another applicant is 35, has a wife and a full-time job,” Alex says.

“At the end of the day, a tenant may get a property despite bidding less, because they are a better quality tenant.”

Earlier this year Rentberry also launched a crowdsourced security deposit system powered by blockchain, with its own crypto-currency called a BERRY token.

Named the Co-Signer Network, the system allows tenants to put down just 10 per cent of the rental security deposit and to seek crowdsourced funding for the rest.

The crypto-currency platform circumvents the traditional banking route and saves tenants having funds frozen in a security deposit.

It also pays the members that fund the deposit interest on their investment.

A tenant must be verified before they can start a campaign.

“If you’re a quality tenant who has never damaged a property, why should you have to freeze a significant sum of money in a security deposit,” Alex says.

“As a tenant you can put down 10 per cent and the rest is paid by community members who can be your family, your friends or just someone that likes your profile.

“In return those individuals get interest you pay them.

“So if a security deposit is $3,000, you put down $300 and then community members pay $2,700.

“On a yearly basis we estimate an interest rate of four to five per cent, which works out to about $130.”

If at the end of a lease, a tenant has damaged a property, a landlord can lodge a damage claim.

The tenant pays for the damage out of their BERRY wallet or asks Rentberry to review it if they don’t agree with the claim.

Alex says Rentberry has also just joined forces with a $10 billion real estate company that owns a lot of shopping malls.

He says the Rentberry platform will expand to include the commercial sector.

Meet OJO, an artificial intelligence digital assistant that is drastically changing the way people search for, buy and sell a home.

Branded as “high-tech intuition”, the OJO Labs-developed real estate assistant uses real-time data to answer searchers’ key real estate questions and deliver them customised results.

CEO John Berkowitz says OJO Labs was founded in 2015, in conjunction with David Rubin, with a mission to “empower people to make better decisions through the use of machine and human intelligence”.

“OJO is a highly-personalised, text-based conversational AI real estate assistant.

“Consumers set their home search criteria within their profile on the interactive web app and OJO will work to send tailored listings directly to them via text.”

Buyers can ask OJO to recommend properties that shorten their commute to work or have white kitchens.

They can also ask what a particular home would cost to keep per month or when it was renovated.

“Consumers interact with OJO on their own terms, asking meaningful questions that will advance and narrow their search to only the homes that fit their preferences, saving time otherwise spent scrolling through alternative online home portals and preventing stress that comes from speaking with a real estate agent prematurely,” John says.

“Unlike other home listing and search platforms, OJO will connect home buyers and sellers with a partner real estate agent when they have indicated readiness to move forward.

“The real estate agent will pick up where OJO left off, knowing exactly what the home buyer is looking for without having to start from scratch.”

The Austin-based tech company has generated more than $70 million in VC and partner investment, and in October last year acquired the largest MLS data aggregator in the US.

OJO is free for consumers to use and available in 45 markets in the US.

“For real estate agents, OJO works with them to gain meaningful leads that are actually looking to transact in the near future,” John says.

“Leads come directly to agents without having to spend on marketing and advertising, and, unlike other platforms, agents never have to pay for OJO leads.

“These program factors help agents save hundreds of dollars per month, so they can invest more into their business.”

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