I was recently introduced to the founders of Closing Time, a collaborative online service for real estate agents, lenders, and home buyers who are navigating the purchase process.  The founders, Jonathan Aizen and Paul Knegten, come from a mix of technology and marketing/advertising backgrounds, and were more recently introduced to the real estate industry as they went through the home buying process for the first time.

Jonathan and Paul were surprised at the transition from the ultra-busy rushing of house hunting to the quiet sit-and-wait of the escrow process after a contract had been signed.  They wanted to be more informed, actively involved, and in the loop online with their various service providers they had been working with to buy a home.  They created Closing Time as a tool to allow that information-hungry home buyer to be immersed in the process of moving a home from “under contract” to “Sold.”

In my experience, there are two general categories of home buyers:

  1. Hands-off:  “Curate my home purchase transaction, call me only when necessary, and bring me the keys when it’s done.”
  2. Hands-on: “If I don’t know what my agent is doing today, I feel like I might be missing something.  Keep me in the loop daily so I don’t get anxious.”

The former is a large group, and will always be a part of the population, but the latter seems to be growing significantly.  Younger, more technology-focused home buyers are very independent, and many don’t realize how much they’ll need to lean on their agent’s skills until the process is finally over.  They’re often not comfortable with just “trusting” that everyone in the process is doing their job.  They want to see and hear about it regularly.

This seems to be the market for Closing Time.

The product is still early in its development, so the original focus was on the San Francisco market, but it’s being developed to adapt to different cities and states based on where the transaction is located.  I created an agent and 3 buyer profiles to quickly run a few transactions through the buying process.  There were modifications for the Seattle market happening even as my buyers were being created.

The process can be initiated by the agent or the home buyer and, in my opinion, should usually be managed by the agent.  A series of straightforward questions about the property, contract, and financing are asked of the user, and a robust set of timelines and checklists are created for the individual transaction.  Buyers are kept informed daily of the items they need to be attending to, what their agent, lender, and escrow company are doing, as well as the things that those other service providers need to do at the same time.

For the information hound, I can see this as a fulfilling experience.  I can relate to those folks who want to understand the minutiae of every step in a transaction.  While there will certainly be some of the hands-off crowd that would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of necessary items to complete a transaction, I don’t believe that portion of the market is the focus of this product.  The value, from an agent’s standpoint, would be to relieve the anxiety of their more-involved clients and streamline their communication with them–i.e. not getting phone calls 2-3 times/day.

There is also a pre-contract portion that an agent can use to get their home buyers in the loop prior to the actual signing of a contract.  This has more preparation material for financing, documentation, etc.  It could potentially be come an early buyer drip campaign that seamlessly transitions to a transaction management at the time of purchase.

The product is new, and the updates and customizations are happening daily at this point. It’s a business that would likely benefit greatly from a partnership with a large brokerage or real estate organization that would allow for instant credibility and a large group’s buy-in to create a base of users.  I’m sure that will be making its way to the front burner soon.