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How Non-Traditional Real Estate Platforms Are Changing the Game

A variety of digital-centric companies have popped up over the past few years. But what makes them different from one another?

With the era of smartphones making virtually anything available in the palm of your hand, buying or selling a home shouldn’t be any different. In 2017, 51 percent of homebuyers found their property online, according to the National Association of Realtors. While the process might start online in some cases, 87 percent of people still worked with an agent to find their home. And the Dallas real estate market is starting to catch on.

In the past few years, a myriad of digitally driven real estate companies have opened and expanded to DFW. These so-called next-generation platforms use technology to lead homebuyers or sellers through the real estate process to simplify the experience. Essentially, the agents are just there to sign the papers, which allows for a smaller commission than the traditional model. Though all digital at the core, each platform has a differentiating factor that makes it unique—in a space that’s starting to become crowded.

The Hyper-Focused Home Buying Service: Open Listings
Founded: 2015
CEO: Judd Schoenholtz
Impact: To date, Open Listings has helped buyers purchase just over a billion dollars of homes.
With an Austin launch in March and a DFW expansion in July, Open Listings is creeping its way into Texas. The company calls itself digitally native, with every step of the process automated and the agents just there to assist. Through the website or app, those looking to buy a home—who don’t yet have a home selling service—can browse listings, schedule tours, and make a digital offer. After close, buyers will also receive a 50 percent commission refund. “Most homebuyers would rather shop on their own and maintain independence, so we think we’ve come up with the perfect hybrid model of software and agents,” Schoenholtz says. “Our customers tend to be young, tech-savvy homebuyers who want a self-service way to do a transaction.”

The One-Stop-Shop: Door
Founded: 2015
CEO: Alex Doubet
Impact: Door has returned over $7 million in commissions back to clients.
Dallas-based startup Door made headlines last year when it raised $2.3 million as a kick-off to its series A, which ended with about $12 million from investors. Door is a digital transaction platform that covers all major verticals in one: mortgage, title, and real estate brokerage; employee agents who leverage the technology; and a flat rate of $5,000, rather than the traditional 6 percent commission fee. Doubet points to experience as Door’s differentiator, noting that the specialized labor model allows Door buyer’s agents to solely work with homebuyers, and vice versa, for home sellers. “What we’re really focused on is delivering a fantastic client experience and making sure our agents are able to get more efficient as our technology gets better,” Doubet says. “Homeowners in the U.S. spend way too much on realtor commissions and I just don’t think that’s right.” By next year, Doubet hopes to expand Door outside of Texas.

The Simple, Convenient Originator: Opendoor
Founded: 2014
CEO: Eric Wu
Impact: Since founding, Opendoor has worked with 20,000 customers.
Opendoor is technology-based with traditional aspects, and calls itself the “originator” in its field of convenience-based real estate. Sellers don’t have the pressure of listings and showings, because after entering property details on the website, Opendoor makes a cash offer within 24 to 48 hours. Using the mobile app, home buyers can tour homes without an appointment, any day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. “We want to give people the opportunity to move on their timeline,” says Gayln Ziegler, an agent on the growth team in DFW. “Our mission is to provide a great experience and empower everyone with the freedom to move.” In cities such as Dallas, Ziegler also says Opendoor diffuses $1 million a month into the small business community by using local contractors and trades people.

The Data-Driven Super Computer: REX
Founded: 2015
CEO: Jack Ryan
Impact: This year, REX will list over a billion dollars in homes.
REX isn’t in Dallas yet, but the real estate brokerage firm grabbed the attention of publications such as the Wall Street Journal this year with its celebrity listings and fast expansion. As a data and artificial intelligence company, REX creates custom advertisements based on homebuyer predictions. Home sellers are charged a 2 percent all-in fee, and homebuyers are given 50 percent of agent commissions. “We have so much local information that we could tell you about everyone who lives on your block,” Ryan says. “It’s almost impossible for humans to catch up because the computer is getting smarter with every home sold.” REX also has a social mission, and with every 50 homes sold, one is built for children in need.

Many other digitally driven real estate platforms are expanding to DFW, such as Redfin and ListingSpark. As the market becomes more saturated, it seems to be up to the buyer and seller as to which ones will survive.