Friday Flash: The Business Monkey

It struck me, on my way to the airport, that many life-changing episodes must have begun with this sentence:

Honey, I’m headed to a title insurance conference in Las Vegas.”

The next day when I hopped in a cab in front of the Aria Hotel and Casino to head back home, I had the following dialog:

Driver: “Did the monkey come out?”

Me: “What monkey?”

Driver: “The Business Monkey – did you do any business with him?”

Me: “Do I look like a monkey business type of guy?”

Driver: “You never know.”

Me: “Man, that whole Gary Hart thing seems kind of quaint now, doesn’t it?”

Driver “Who’s Gary Hart?”

Me: “Nevermind.”

Anyway, I made it in and out with minimal damage. And I came home with a renewed appreciation for the people who do the deep, regulation-laden work of pulling the parts of a real estate transaction together at the closing table.

The role of title and settlement services providers is more important than ever as lenders look to tamp down risk and costs and new tech-powered brokerages are pushing for faster, cleaner deals.

Title and closing isn’t boring. It’s sexy. There are quiet innovators in this space that you never hear about. They are the ones who will ultimately make the future real estate transaction happen.

Speaking of tech-powered brokerages, Roofstock, an online service for buying single family homes as an investment, launched this week. They’re backed by top-tier VC’s to the tune of $13 million. The team looks strong.

The promise: make buying investment property “stock market simple”.

Big claim. I don’t think they’re there out of the gate, but the offering is interesting nonetheless.

The homes Roofstock sells are owned by institutions. The price is non-negotiable. All homes are “Roofstock Certified” and come with tons of assurances about the asset, the tenant, the current lease and property management. Pro-grade investment analysis is available to prospective buyers.

Offers are made online and closings take 14 days. There’s a 30-day money back guarantee.

The tactic of de-risking the deal through the certification process on the front end and guarantee on the back might just get enough investors over the hump to make this fly in this segment of the market.  

Would this ever work for Mr. and Mrs. American Homebuyer?

We’ll see.

Should a real estate brokerage have a native consumer home search app?

Sure. If there’s time and money. But I believe real estate companies stand to gain more building native apps for their agents.  

The defining competitive battle in our industry is over agent affection and dollars. The consumer? If you have the agent, you have the consumer. Everyone – brands, brokers, vendors, media companies, mortgage companies – is trying to get agents to play in their sandbox.

If I’m a broker, I really should have a permanent, habit-forming presence on the smartphone of every agent in my company. Maybe it’s an intranet. Pocket listing alerts. An internal messaging app. Or simply an app that sends push notifications with new sales and market updates.

The point is that a brokerage can become a lot “stickier” with its agents in this way. We’re working with a couple companies on initiatives in this vein. So far, it feels like the right move.

From Techcrunch this week:

“Researchers at HRL Laboratories have discovered that when you use transcranial direct current stimulation to send the brain activity of commercial and military pilots into the heads of novice pilots, subjects can essentially learn to fly in a realistic flight simulator.”

Folks, I think we have just found the solution to the quality/professionalism problem in real estate.


Enjoy the weekend.