How do you find out about new startups in Palo Alto, the Heart of Silicon Valley? By driving around and seeing wrapped cars parked in strategic places. As I was driving, I couldn’t take a photo of the car for you loyal readers but I did go and look up the startup. It’s called Reali and it’s a real estate app, available only on iOS for now so that I cannot give it a proper review, but it seems intriguing.
Reali’s premise is that houses can sell themselves. For sellers, it installs a smart home lock to allow potential, vetted buyers to walk through the house, and beacons placed throughout the house for additional information. Buyers walking through have a chance to take an unhurried walk through the house, without the pressure of an agent. It’s win-win for both buyers and sellers.
Beyond the very significant reduction in fees, no minor advantage, there are a few areas where I think Reali is going in the right direction.
The sign. I usually shy away from being too critical, but the lawn signs used by real estate agents are practically useless. So many times I’ve driven by an interesting house with a “for sale” or “for lease” sign, noted the agent and street, then failed to find the house on their web site. With Reali’s app, potential buyers can get all the necessary info right away. And don’t tell me to pick up the sell sheet usually found in box tacked onto the post. A, I’m driving. B, it’s usually empty.
- Reducing friction. Today’s sales model is based on a relationship with a real estate agent and requires making at least one phone call (assuming that the conversation switches to text after that. People, especially, but not only, millennials, hate making phone calls. And what do you see on every “for sale” sign, even in some cases more prominently than a URL? A phone number. Reali needs less interaction and even that is done via chat, not a call.
- Transparency in the offer-making process also seems more transparent. Buyers can enter a bid into the app and see exactly where they stand in relation to other offers. There are no secret realtor calls going on.
- Spontaneity. If a user has the app, sees a lawn sign, they can go right into the house, right there and then.
- Personalization. One of the tricks of the real estate game is to help potential buyers envision themselves living in that house. Playing the potential buyer’s favorite music makes the walk-through more welcoming.
It’s not that technology hasn’t been beneficial to real estate and realtors, but even though there are numerous listings and information on various sites, the process still involves making calls and wasting time to wait for an agent to be available to show the house, or to hold an open house. In luxury markets like the San Francisco Bay Area, the only area Reali is currently operating in, houses probably do “sell themselves.” Additionally, app-loving buyers, who are already used to always-available, on-demand services, will love the convenience, immediacy, and transparency Reali offers. It will be interesting to see how Reali grows and how it can work in less tech-savvy markets.