I finally watched the new Lion King. As the father of six kids, ages 5 to 15, I listen to way more Disney than Post Malone. You know you’re getting old when you remember seeing the animated version of The Lion King in the theatre like it was yesterday. It was actually 1994. Karl Malone was a big deal and Post Malone wasn’t born yet.
Coincidentally, it was 1994 when I got my first taste of entrepreneurship. A family friend sourced some unique picture frames that would rotate through a stack of 4x6 photographs. It was like a digital frame before digital frames were cool before digital frames weren’t cool. My cost was $8 apiece and I sold them for $15. Not a bad profit for an eighth-grader. Since then I’ve been involved in startups and venture capital at every stage and stop of my career.
I’ve experienced some success mixed with a healthy dose of disappointment and failure, which invariably comes with the entrepreneur’s journey. I’ve learned that success isn’t always the best teacher, so I’m grateful for the learning, despite the pain and the price. It’s also fueled my desire to create, solve big problems, and win. Rafiki in The Lion King taught Simba, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” But this story isn’t about talking primates and felines. It’s about why I decided to join a real estate technology startup called Homie.
“I Laugh in the Face of Danger”
When I decided to move back to Utah from Colorado, I made a list of 15 startups that intrigued me. Homie was on that list. It was April of 2018 when I first sat down with Homie’s founders and management team. I liked them. They were deeply committed to their cause with a complementary blend of experience and skill sets. I walked into the Homie office a bit curious, I left converted. Two weeks later I had made a decision to join the company as Homie’s new head of marketing — all without ever updating my resume or meeting with another company. Quick? Yes. Daring? A little. Exciting? Heck, yeah. Like the fearless, and maybe a bit naive, young Simba said, “I laugh in the face of danger.” Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart after all.
“A Story Worth Telling”
I love storytelling. I ran an agency and production company for several years. Marketing is simply structured storytelling. Rafiki said, “Any story worth telling is worth telling twice.” I don’t pretend my personal story is any more interesting than the straight-to-DVD sequel of The Lion King, but Homie’s story is worth sharing. It’s a big idea worth understanding. When I first heard about Homie’s mission I wanted to shout it from the rooftops (and maybe on some billboards).
Every industry from travel to communication to shopping has been transformed by one simple fact. We all have computers in our pocket more powerful than my 1994 desktop computer with a Pentium processor. Every industry has been affected by this reality. Every industry, that is, except real estate.
Don’t get me wrong — over the past 10 years, the way we search for homes HAS changed dramatically and we all have access to the same information as our real estate agent friends. But one thing that hasn’t changed over all these years is the 6% real estate commission. Commission rates in every industry, from travel agencies to stockbrokers, have dramatically decreased over the past decade. Real estate commissions in other developed countries are half as much as what we fork out in the United States. It’s time for a change.
“A Great Responsibility”
Homie represents a new way to buy and sell homes. It’s a consumer-centered, technology-first, fully transparent real estate business. It’s a perfect blend of automation and experts. It’s technology where you want it and experts where you need them. It’s not a DIY or FSBO platform. It’s a more efficient, less costly, full-service real estate model. And the greatest part? Our sellers save $10,000 on average. That’s enough to attend The Lion King 1,250 times. That’s a lot of popcorn.
We believe it’s our mission to protect consumers’ equity. Mufasa said it best: “It… will be yours to protect. A great responsibility.” We believe it’s our great responsibility, as entrepreneurs, to help protect the equity of homeowners across the country. Period.
“Change is Good”
While the mission to eliminate commissions is meaningful and worthwhile, the bigger Homie vision was something that got me even more excited than 50% margins on fancy picture frames. The vision the Homie founders shared with me on that day in April of 2018 had me pushing all my chips in like I was just dealt a pair of pocket aces.
The Homie vision isn’t just about lowering crazy commissions. It’s about combining all the services you need when you buy and sell a home. Lower commissions are long overdue, but what every consumer really wants is greater simplicity in the overly complex experience of buying a home. They want less friction and hassle.
I knew this. I have sold two homes, bought three homes, and moved four times over the past three years. I know firsthand the stress of searching for a house, making offers, dealing with a lender, finding a title company (what is title insurance anyway?), hiring an inspector, and price shopping homeowner’s insurance. It’s a lot of calls. It’s a ton of emails. The communication between companies is clumsy. And the cost incurred for all this transacting is more than a nice new car (maybe even one built in Germany).
The Homie vision of creating a truly frictionless experience by delivering real estate services, mortgage, title and escrow, and insurance all through one single, simple platform makes so much sense. You really can cut out the cost and complexity.
The most exciting part? We are actually doing it and it’s working. Consumers are winning. As Rafiki said to Simba in The Lion King, “Change is good.” Change is indeed good. Especially the change you keep in your bank account. To Simba’s confident comment, Rafiki simply said, “Yeah, but it’s not easy.” Well isn’t that the truth? It’s certainly not easy to disrupt an industry that collects over $225 billion in fees and commissions annually, and here’s one reason why…
“It’s Not Easy”
There are 19,000 licensed real estate agents in Utah and 45,000 in Arizona. Many are my friends and some are my family. I love and respect them for serving home buyers and sellers. Notwithstanding the high commissions, the Realtors I have worked with have been hard-working professionals.
Unfortunately, Homie has taken our fair share of backlash and criticism from the incumbents and the industry. We get that. Taxicab drivers never liked Uber until they became Uber drivers themselves (and yes, we are hiring). So here’s my pledge to all my real estate friends: I will commit to being respectful and open in our approach at Homie. We won’t back down from our mission or temper our brand personality, but we will make it easier and easier for you to work with us. You have an open line to the Homie team and we are listening.
The past 18 months have been a ride. We’ve grown from 70 to over 200 employees. We’ve launched two new business lines and expanded outside of Utah, with plans to launch new cities in 2020. We’ve more than doubled our market share in Utah and raised $10 million of new capital to fuel our growth. What we are most proud of is that customer satisfaction and NPS (net promoter score) has never been higher. We’ve done all this while saving consumers over $45 million in unnecessary fees and commissions. I don’t take credit for the success, but I’m so grateful for the opportunity to undertake the work of real disruption with Homie’s management and marketing teams.
Hakuna Matata, Homies. Real estate is finally the way it should be. And like Mufasa said, “Don’t let danger control you. Embrace a challenge — you never know where it will take you.” That’s why I’m a Homie.