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Ember's app for buyers reflects its approach to simplifying co-ownership: Tech Review

Agents who work with luxury buyers seeking to secure a share of an Ember home should be aware of how this unique purchasing model operates
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Although not a technology company in the traditional sense, Ember has developed a mobile app to facilitate owner operation, communication and service needs.

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Ember is a tech-forward co-ownership real estate company with a mobile app for homeowners.

Platforms: iOS app; Android pending
Ideal for: All brokerages, teams and agents

Top selling points:

  • Engaging calendar UI
  • Clear, fast date reservation
  • Stay tracking
  • Built-in “anti-date monopolization”
  • Simple, secure property access

Top concern:

I’d like to see a way to certify that the owner is the one entering the home, or at least has granted formal permission for use. The only way co-owned homes could get negatively associated with short-term rentals is by owners sharing them with less-than-responsible friends or family members. Once the access codes to the home are shared, the risk of “pop-ins” and inadvertent overlapping stays goes up.

What you should know

Ember is another entry in the co-ownership market, a small but growing segment of the market that profits from selling shares of luxury homes. Properties are secured by Ember under an LLC and sold off, typically in 1/8, but up to 1/2, shares with corresponding occupancy equity, furnishings and professional care and management. Although not a technology company in the traditional sense, Ember has developed a mobile app to facilitate owner operation, communication and service needs.

Agents who work with luxury buyers to secure a share of an Ember home should be aware of how this unique purchasing model operates, thus I thought it would be worthwhile to explore the primary interface between your client and Ember, the seller.

With an Android app on the way, Ember’s iOS app is, overall, a relatively streamlined method for coordinating how co-owners work together to manage who stays in the home and when. The company is noticing a trend of owners securing shares in multiple homes, so the app displays a list of each property with which a user is associated.

There’s cool, tile/card UI that sharply consolidates app content and features, making adoption quick and logical.

The company wants to “absorb complexity and deliver simplicity,” according to chief experience officer Jeff Lyman, who demonstrated the product for me. Their take on software design certainly exemplifies that approach.

Because the app is primarily designed to juggle stays in each home among multiple parties and likely their friends, the performance of its calendar functionality is paramount.

Users are allowed six and a half weeks per year with a 1/8 share and no more than 14 days at a time to ensure availability, and the calendar visibly confirms the limitations and alerts users should they mistakenly aim for more days. The app allows for bookings with as little as 24 hours notice.

Professional cleaning comes with a small additional fee with an Ember home, but users can choose to self-clean.

Access to each home is made evident upon log-in, with clear lock access information, Wi-Fi network logins, pet policy reminders and all contacts for the local concierge team. I use Airbnb a lot, and I wish its app was more like Ember’s.

With the former, access information simply isn’t as easy to find. I often have to scroll, tap into a content field and hope the owner entered it correctly or didn’t forget to tell me the codes were changed. Having a central source for how to enter and use a home’s systems is a better solution.

Owners can track previous and upcoming stays, any cancellations and how many stays they have left.

Remember, co-ownership models make the most sense for vacation homes because the use periods emulate common occupancy habits for second homeowners. I live in a resort townm and at one time, had only vacation homeowners for neighbors. I never met one of them over a two-year period.

Maybe Ember, and its chief colleagues in the category, Pacaso and Kokomo, can actually make vacation homeownership make sense for those who only spend a few weeks per year in their homes. I don’t want to see these companies be “competitors.” There’s a worthwhile idea here, and plenty of big, glamorous homes to go around.

If these companies can continue to avoid removing median-priced housing stock from their respective markets (so far, so good), continue to pay agents for bringing them buyers and provide business to local service providers, I’d like to see this innovative form of ownership continue to evolve.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

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