Friday Flash: Two to watch

The two real estate tech companies at the top of my watch list last year were Opendoor and

Three weeks into 2016, they remain there.

Opendoor is basically Homevestors of America – the “We buy ugly houses” people – but with insane technology and a pretty mind-blowing consumer proposition (e.g., get a binding offer on your home in hours, get inside their listings anytime, alone).

Opendoor raised $80 million back in October and word on the street is that they’re selling a house a day in Phoenix, their launch market. They’ll be in Dallas soon.

Because Opendoor sells homes they have first bought, they’ve stripped away a lot of the complexity and transactional jitter that has derailed other startups. And unlike Redfin, Opendoor has as many listings as it does buy-side deals. They are entering markets from a position of strength. raised a bunch of money, put together an impressive leadership team, and has sold thousands of homes online over the past few years – honest-to-goodness real estate e-commerce. But they were distressed homes, sold to investors. They played in a niche (and a declining one at that).

This week, changed its name to Ten-X and positioned itself to go after Mr. and Mrs. Main Street. Here’s how they explain it on their website:

We give smart home sellers, homebuyers and their agents a brand new way to transact real estate. Our new innovative online platform includes simple listing, negotiating and transacting tools designed to bring transparency, convenience, and simplicity back to the entire process.

Ten-X is all about access. Our Innovative marketing machine invented to pin-point the right buyers for your home at the right time, reaching everyone from your neighbors down the street to buyers from across the globe.

The details are under wraps until March, so we’ll have to wait to see if they deliver the goods.

There’s a lot of noise around online real estate right now. It’s a bit of a technology variety show: some acts are stronger than others. But these two are the ones to keep your eye on… for now.

Consider this obscure announcement: reports that it had 16 million unique visitors last year, mostly from Canada, a country of 35 million people.

Of course, Zillow claimed 150 million unique users last July – that’s about 46% of the entire U.S. population.

Where do all these people come from, and why are they all on real estate sites and apps? Are they lost? Drunk? Drunk and lost?

Seriously, the signal-to-noise ratio in real estate demand generation is way out of whack. It’s something I called the “Broken down lead machine” last year. I think we’ll see someone try and give it a tune up this year.

Something else you should know about these “Millennial” people: Technology has made them miserable.

Remember It was one of those things we all signed up for back in 2010 because those were the days when we’d sign up for anything.

It was kind of an online business card, a place where we could neatly arrange our contact information, social media profiles and a little bit of copy.

Well, got bought by AOL, then bought back by its founders. This week they released a redesigned version of the product. It’s more like a landing page now than a business card. Nice visuals, contact information and a big call to action.

It looks to me like a nice light option for any agent that doesn’t need the traditional “agent website” product.

Inman Connect New York is next week. Brad tells me the crowd is huge, and the program looks great. This will be the very first Connect I’ve missed since 1997 and I’m wondering if I may be missing the best one yet.

Enjoy the weekend.