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The Solved Problems Of Real Estate Tech

For obvious reasons, this blog tends to focus a lot on the opportunities in real estate technology. This is great food for thought for all the entrepreneurs out there, but I think it’s equally as important to consider the solved problems in real estate.

Since I’ve entered this world I’ve talked to and advised many real estate tech entrepreneurs, and I always feel bad when I see excited entrepreneurs tackling “problems” in real estate with solutions only a little bit better, or in some cases exactly the same, as what exists.

As the founder of a hybrid brokerage, I obviously have some bias in this, but most of the derivative ideas I’ve seen pursued exist in technology designed for traditional real estate agents. Here is the (non-exhaustive, non-ordered) list of real estate process and services that are already very well served by existing technology, but I still see entrepreneurs pursuing anyway:

FSBO: I’ve spoken with hundreds of people selling FSBO, and I have yet to meet someone who wants to try selling on their own who has been unhappy with their FSBO site of choice.

Real Estate Web Presence/Lead Gen: WordPress and Placester have made it simple and cheap for any agent to get an SEO-friendly, slick looking website.

Showings: Showing are a pain, but solutions like ShowingTime really streamline the process. The bigger opportunity is actually getting agents to adopt the tech that already exists.

Real Estate Data/Listings: It’s hard to imagine a significant enough improvement over the portals right now to overcome their brand advantage, but some startups are still trying. Many don’t even realize that they’re trying to displace Zillow and Realtor.com, and are going to be in for a rude awakening when they do.

So what area do I think are still unsolved? If I had those answers I wouldn’t be writing this post and I’d be making a ton of money. There is one area that clearly, clearly still needs some tech advances:

Closings: Brad Inman offered $25k to any company that could deliver a “closing in a box” at Inman SF in August 2015. Virgent only works with sellers, so we have it a little easier when it comes to closings, and even for us it’s a huge hassle. I’ve heard many times how much more complicated it is for buyer’s agents who are trying to coordinate lenders, appraisers, and inspectors as well as keeping their clients informed.

What other “new” products have people seen that are already well served by technology?

About Ben Kubic

Ben Kubic is the co-founder and CEO of Virgent Realty, a technology-driven brokerage serving home sellers in Atlanta. In its first month, Virgent was featured in Inman News and Product Hunt, and Ben sat on the Hybrid Broker panel at Inman Connect 2015 in SF. Ben received his MBA at Harvard Business School and his B.A. and B.S. at the University of Maryland.

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  • Real Estate Web Presence/Lead Gen

    Placester, Zillow, Curaytor, Virtual Results.. I’d love a summary by someone who has recently evaluated all their WP options. I haven’t done a deep dive in terms of how the offerings compare since I worked at Virtual Results (left late in 2011).

  • Well said, Ben. There’s so much money flowing into RE tech that it seems to be getting in front of the phase of discovery in the competitive landscape. FSBO is one of my favorites. It’s all been done before.

  • The tech for the closing in a box isn’t hard. It’s the incentives and user acquisition to convince everyone involved with the transaction to use one platform. The starting point to that solution, is probably some form of email parser so that everyone can interact with it by responding to emails.

    • Benjamin Kubic

      I agree with you the tech abstractly isn’t hard – I can visualize it in my head. What’s challenging is to make it work without forcing a change in user behavior from parties, since people hate doing that. For example, inspectors are used to just emailing a report, and they probably won’t flip to uploading it on some website for select clients. The product would need to auto-parse an email attachment, recognize it’s an inspection report, and then store it and send it out to the appropriate parties

  • graymoment

    Closing (transaction management) software is probably the oldest category of tech listed here, and there are several companies doing a great job of it, but like every other category listed here, there’s plenty of room for innovation.

    The pain point that I see is getting best in class components to integrate with others. Universal platform standards, API integrations… now there’s an area that would help innovation. Imagine if everything talked to everything. There would be much less friction in implementing better pieces of technology, and the evolution of Web software could progress at a much faster pace. Things like Google Polymer show there is hope.

  • Ken York

    I’m a new the industry and I come from the software world. As an outsider looking in I find real estate professionals are overwhelmed by a continuous stream regurgitated ideas—website builders, CRMs, email marketing management, CMAs, and document management solutions. Every brokerage has told me they supply a myriad of technology solutions but the agents don’t use most of it. The reason is the solutions require complex setup, daily management, and they really don’t have a provable ROI. I’ve realized through my interactions with the industry there is pace to real estate business and that technology needs to “move at the speed of real estate” and within its natural flow to gain long-term adoption. Technology needs to address the right now—close the listing, sign the buyer—and facilitate the next sales effortlessly.

  • Thanks Ben
    For such a good piece to study.

    As i am not a tech savvy and i am too old to use such things to help in Estate.
    But from this post i do think that i have to put my hands on tech.

  • JimWhatley

    Hey Ben, The thinking by the smart guy who figure this this stuff out, is amazing but if you look at the field of the players. They are tring to make equipment for a one size fits all. I’m not sure it will be posiable unless it is maluable. Each state has it one rule regulations and termanology. I tried a system that looks great but because it was set up on diffeant states contracts and terms. I spent a lot of time translating to my assitant what was that in our words. What I think is it needs to be set up similar to “If this then that” Were when something new happens (cause it does) I just add a new ITTT. There is the art of the Deal but the problem is the fart in the deal. There is almost always one and you just dont know when it is coming and who will let it rip.

  • Ken

    Hello,
    I recently made an offer for a house I liked and shortly before closing, we noticed that there was a lien on the house that was obviously not disclosed by the seller’s agent. I lost the money for inspection and bank appraisal.
    My question is, does the seller’s agent have any responsibility to disclose any liens on the house to a potential buyer?

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