Innovation is booming in this country and new startups aren’t bashful about bringing fresh ideas to market — even when they shatter the comfortable nature of the status quo. In the world of real estate, there are a few specific startups trying to change the game.

Real estate startups to keep an eye on

Did you know that real estate, lending and leasing accounts for the single largest sector of the United States economy with an impressively large GDP value added of $1.898 trillion? In fact, it accounts for a whopping 13 percent of the entire national GDP.

When you have a piece of the pie this large, it makes sense that entrepreneurs, tech companies, investors and innovators flock toward the real estate industry. But when you sift through the mess and look for companies that are actually making a difference, only a few stand out.

1. SimpleShowing

In the past year or two, several iBuyer startups have emerged, bringing innovation to consumers who are selling their homes. But what about the consumers who are buying homes?

Last month, real estate startup Open Listings garnered a substantial amount of media attention after being acquired by Opendoor for an undisclosed sum, but it’s SimpleShowing — which has the potential to become its biggest competitor — that is flying under the radar and grabbing the attention of those in the real estate industry.

SimpleShowing is best described as a hybrid tech-brokerage firm that’s redefining the way people tour and buy homes. Whereas the normal commission structure says that the buyer’s agent receives 3 percent on the sale of a home, SimpleShowing wants consumers to understand that that fee, while paid by the seller, is baked into the price of their new home.

SimpleShowing provides consumers with online tools to help them shop on their own without relying so heavily on an agent.

When customers book a home showing through SimpleShowing and end up buying the house, they get to keep half of the commission that would have gone to a traditional real estate agent (up to $10,000). The Atlanta-based company has already raised $500,000 from investors and is expanding into Florida markets as well.

2. AskDoss

Real estate search engines are a dime a dozen — you can find any number of sites that will direct you to listings and help you find properties for rent or sale. However, there aren’t many real estate search engines that are intuitive and easy to use. AskDoss hopes to change this.

AskDoss is an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that wants to become the Siri or Alexa of the real estate world. It’s a virtual assistant that radically simplifies the home search process by allowing users to verbally ask questions and search inventory. And when buyers are ready to make a decision, they can be instantly connected with a qualified professional in their area.

For real estate professionals, AskDoss instantly becomes a channel for generating leads. It connects agents with pre-screened and qualified leads at no cost. In other words, it’s a win-win for agents and their clients.

3. Rentberry

Rentberry is a unique, long-term rental platform that encompasses numerous aspects of the rental process, from hosting open houses to paying and collecting rent.

What really makes Rentberry successful is the transparency of the platform. Rental applications, price negotiations, security deposits, maintenance requests — it’s all out in the open for renters, agents and landlords, so there’s no room for relationships to turn sour.

To date, Rentberry has raised more than $4 million from high-profile investors from 11 different countries. The company also recently launched its first initial coin offering (ICO), with which it plans to raise another $30 million.

Rentberry is currently active in the U.S. and has plans to expand into Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

4. WeSmartPark

Airbnb turns your house into a rental property. Uber lets you use your vehicle to haul people around town. WeSmartPark turns that empty garage spot you own in an expensive city into a smart, monetizable parking space.

WeSmartPark is currently operating in four major markets — Barcelona, Madrid, Santiago de Chile and New York City. It has more than 160 parking locations and 3,000 spots. These spots serve in excess of 75,000 drivers.

The hope is that it will soon expand further throughout the United States, with cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles being prime markets. No longer will poor parking be a factor for buyers and renters.

Shaking up the real estate industry

The real estate industry has never been satisfied with sitting still. And when the market is booming — as has been the case over the last several years — innovation seems to get kicked into overdrive.

As these four startups show, the status quo is never safe. Something new will always come along to challenge, simplify or evolve the ideas and processes that are currently in place.

Larry Alton is the CEO of Alton Enterprises in Olympia, Washington. Follow him on Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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