Ben Bacal launches “Instagram of real estate” app Rila

The mobile app will allow agents to upload their listings and market their properties for free

Ben Bacal and the Cannabis House
Ben Bacal and the Cannabis House

UPDATED, June 24, 5:25 p.m.: For many agents, maintaining a social media presence is as vital to their business as scoring the next big listing. Rila, a new mobile application co-created by Rodeo Realty agent Ben Bacal, is the latest attempt at bringing real estate and technology one step closer together.

The free application, which went live Monday, allows agents and consumers to browse properties in certain neighborhoods through a feed, similar to the way Instagram works. Verified agents are able to post their own listings, while consumers are able to add to a property’s profile by posting photos and comments. And perhaps most importantly, consumers who click on a listing will have access to the listing agent’s contact information.

“We’re trying to empower agents to get leads for themselves without having to pay exorbitant fees on these big tech companies that are costing millions of dollars,” Bacal said. “We’re kind of perpetuating our own demise by feeding these Multiple Listing Services that are trying to cut us out of the business.” By appropriating listings and sharing it with platforms like Zillow or Redfin, Bacal says the MLS is running a “data monopoly” and cutting agents out entirely.

Unlike the MLS, Rila allows for crowdsourced, “visceral” content, according to Bacal, who pointed out that any user could comment on a listing in the app.

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The social real estate application is currently free to all users but will eventually offer “premium features” to agents who might want to get insights or boost visibility for their listings. It’s unclear how much these in-app purchases will cost, but Bacal said it will be “inexpensive.” He also plans for the app to generate revenue through ads.

Bacal and his Rila team have staged a spec home in Sherman Oaks with cannabis plants to promote the app. The “Cannabis House” on Greenleaf Street, fittingly, is hitting the MLS Tuesday for $3.5 million. For those who want to learn more about the house, they’ll be able to “see more on the Rila app.”

Rila is also throwing a cannabis-centric open house, equipped with a marijuana trimming station and “cannabis cabana,” to promote the property and the app. Attendees will have to download the app to get in.

Bacal co-founded Rila with Garrett Clyde, who is now CTO. The two entrepreneurs previously worked together at Bacal’s other startup, Roofshoot, a now-shuttered marketing tool that allowed agents to create and share videos of properties on their iPhones.

Fidelity National Title has partnered with Rila, which recently received a $1 million investment from a Saudi investor. The title behemoth is promoting the Rila app in California, with plans to roll it out nationally in the near future.