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Technology is reshaping the way people think about homeownership but real estate agents will still be part of the picture, according to executives at Easyknock, Flyhomes and Zillow who are on the cutting edge of changes in residential finance.
Speaking at Real Estate Connect Las Vegas Thursday, Ryan Dibble, chief operating officer and a founding member of the Flyhomes team, said the company was founded by real estate agents who saw how stressful closings were for buyers and sellers.
“When we were starting to Flyhomes, there was this whole narrative about venture-backed companies or technology companies in general, like, ‘We need to rip the people out of it,'” Dibble said. “And we’re like, ‘That makes no sense. If you’ve done any deal in real estate, you [know] you have to have people to guide buyers and sellers through the process.'”
Seattle-based Flyhomes provides end-to-end homebuying services through subsidiaries including Flyhomes Brokerage, Flyhomes Mortgage and Flyhomes Closing.
“Everything that we do on the technology side is about how do we automate the things that don’t add value for the customer?” Dibble said. “We automate things that don’t add value, that don’t allow the agent or the loan officer to create more value for the customer. But our view is that this is a human-centered business.”
The Flyhomes Cash Offer provides short-term loans that allow homebuyers to make cash offers to sellers before refinancing into a long-term loan provided by Flyhomes or another lender. Homebuyers don’t have to work with a Flyhomes Brokerage agent. But if they do, they earn a brokerage credit that’s intended to offset incremental closing costs on their short-term loans.
“Sellers care about four things — they care about price, they care about terms, they care about certainty and they care about speed,” Dibble said. “Our cash offer closes 100 percent of the time, it is as certain as you could imagine, it solves that need for customers. We close them in ten to 14 days.”
Flyhomes, which landed $150 million in Series C funding last summer that has paved the way for expansion into new markets, also offers “Buy Before you Sell” financing that helps homeowners move into a new home before they sell their old one.
“It gives the buyer the certainty of the budget, right?” Dibble said. “I don’t know how much my current house is gonna sell for. So Flyhome is able to backstop that price and give them that certainty that they are approved for that budget, and they will get into that new home long-term.”
Libby Cooper, Zillow Group’s vice president of operations for mortgage, says consumers often go to Zillow to find a house before they’ve lined up financing or an agent. Although Zillow launched its own lending arm Zillow Home Loans in 2019, Cooper said it will send borrowers it can’t help to a network of partner lenders and to agents who pay Zillow for leads.
“Zillow was built on transparency,” Cooper said. “If we can’t help them, we have a network of lenders who we think can. But what we really want is to be able to finance these customers with Zillow Home Loans. We want to be able to educate them on products, we want to be able to educate them on their affordability. And then when they’re ready to buy, we also can partner them with an agent and then the agent can help carry that to the finish line.”
EasyKnock founder and CEO Jerred Kessler said the proptech’s sale-leaseback programs are helping more renters qualify to become homeowners and giving existing homeowners the freedom to stay in their homes after they are sold.
EasyKnock got started by buying homes from people with credit issues and allowing them to stay as renters with an option to buy back their homes. Its expanded product includes MoveAbility, in which EasyKnock buys homes and leases them back to their owners for up to 12 months.
“We’re inertia breakers,” Kessler said. “We work with agents we pay full commissions. We work with lenders we buy their turndowns to help their customers. So we work with all these different folks to break the inertia in the process.”