Massaging the pain points: Jason Finneyfrock, real estate hacker

'I could see the pain points in a real estate transaction and the ways that computers and the Internet could and would solve them'

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Senior software engineer, BoomTown

Time at BoomTown: 7 years

What he does: “There’s not many parts of (BoomTown) I haven’t had my fingers in at some point, but chiefly I do programming work from server side to client side, system architecture and product design. I also help BoomTown become a learning organization, and one that bucks the trends of management and process.”

Age: 37

Location: Charleston, South Carolina

Social media: Twitter and YouTube

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I’m from Virginia originally and fell into programming through a relative working at a dot-com during the boom of the late ’90s. After that imploded, I was the lone programmer for a transportation nonprofit in Washington, D.C., and then moved back to Charleston, South Carolina, and hooked up with current BoomTown CEO Grier Allen, who showed me an idea for real estate software.

Having just sold and bought a house, my feet were wet. I could see the pain points in a real estate transaction and the ways that computers and the Internet could and would solve them. The action was moving online, and people would be doing more and more searching and filtering from the couch. Agents were beginning to computerize their lead information and use that leverage to grow their business. But searching for houses online was not very good at the time, and leads fell through the cracks far too often with the systems agents were using. A better house search and lead management system — where the two were joined at the hip — seemed like a winner.

You’d think that starting a real estate software company right as the housing market was tanking would be bad timing, but it was great for us. During the boom, leads fell from the sky and you didn’t have to be all that efficient. But once things dried up, you really had to dig and work the leads a little differently, and BoomTown turned out to serve buyers and agents really well.

Tech is fun and it moves quickly, so it suits me well. I love to learn, solve and build, and it’s great seeing the impact we’ve made on our clients’ lives and perhaps the industry in general, which is also rapidly changing. So seven years, a couple office moves, and lots of code later, we’re still full-throttle and trying to build helpful software that’s ahead of the curve.

I’m currently working on expanding what we can do for seller leads. This is a healthy frontier, and we’re working on ways to generate more leads without having to to do more work or spend more money. We’re big fans of doing more with less.

We also are working on some cool features that will help our clients build more trust with their seller clients and help them move a house faster with our system than they might with a competing one. These concepts are constant challenges in the industry, and we’re working on some innovative ways to solve them.

frockstation

Favorite Twitter account?

@StudioRob

Favorite food?

Barbecue.

Favorite book?

My favorite book right now isĀ “The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness.

Favorite city?

Charleston, South Carolina.

Favorite band or singer?

Stevie Wonder.

What do you hate about technology?

It’s steadily killing our ability to interact with each other face to face.

What is one thing you would like to fix about the real estate industry?

The data is still too fragmented and protected. If it were open and in one place, or at least much easier to access, some very interesting analysis could take place. As it stands, real estate tech shops have to all invent the wheel separately, each doing the same basic thing. Getting life cycle data about a property, like closings and tax info, is also a pain point that would open up some interesting avenues as well if it were more common.

Do you think technology can change the industry?

Big time. Laptops, smartphones, Internet data exchange all have dramatically changed the way agents and buyers meet and communicate. That’s not to say the personal side of it is gone — it’s just a different playing field these days.

In or out of real estate, is there one problem, large or small, that you would like to solve?

The personalized Web. Our collective apps and websites are right on the cusp of tailoring themselves to each person based on their preferences and activity. The combo of learning algorithms, easier data storage, and Web apps that are much more flexible in the content they show is exciting to me. I’m hoping to do as much of this as possible in the coming years.

What motivates you?

The pace and frontier mentality of the Web. The constant change can be a blessing and a curse, but the ability of a small number of people to come together and really use the computer and Web as leverage and do what used to take many more people and capital is fascinating to me. New ideas and tools are sprouting up so fast you almost can’t process them all. Maybe we need an app to help us process all the newness. :)