Home61 aims to disrupt real estate industry

Startup raised more than $1M from tech investors

Nov.November 16, 2015 01:30 PM

Like many South Florida homebuyers, Olivier Grinda found his experience frustrating. He wondered why paperwork took so long, meetings kept getting postponed or canceled, and why the process was so complicated.

“I was really expecting it to be fun,” said Grinda, 30, who ended up buying a condominium in North Bay Village. “Instead of being fun, it was just super stressful. The transaction was incredibly complicated.”

Unlike many South Florida homebuyers, Grinda is an entrepreneur. The 30-year-old had built several startups in his native Brazil: e-commerce sites like Shoes4You, ClickOn and BrandsClub. So he took that startup background and combined it with his personal real estate experience to create the website Home61, which he likes to describe as bringing “Uber”-like disruption to the real estate industry.

The site lists South Florida homes, including single-family homes and condos, for rent or sale. Once potential clients register for the site and select properties, they’re contacted within 24 hours by an agent to set up an appointment. Agents are usually available between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. every day, Grinda said.

Back-end technology makes setting up appointments, filling out contracts and other paperwork easier for agents, he said. The site also includes features for agents to be rated by clients — which has resulted in several agents no longer working for the company, he said.

Yet, in the hotly contested real estate market, House61 has to compete with such major players as Keyes Company, Coldwell Banker, Esslinger Wooten Maxwell, ONE Sotheby’s International Real Estate and Douglas Elliman, while others new to the market, like Compass, also tout their technology.

Grinda’s idea, he said, is to disrupt the root of the real estate business model, to make the process seamless for both customer and broker.

“We’re seeing us as the new generation of a real estate company,” said Grinda, adding that in the future, he expects more real estate companies will look like his.

But that disruption is difficult to accomplish in the real estate industry, said Peter Zalewski, a columnist for The Real Deal“The industry does everything it can to undermine groups like his, or groups like what we do,” said Zalewski, who also co-founded Condo Vultures, which uses public records to help figure out where the real estate market is going.

In his experience, the industry not only doesn’t like change, but actively resists it, Zalewski said, adding that there is very little difference in how real estate is sold today versus ten years ago.

“I would tell you today’s real estate industry is yesterday’s taxi industry. I would tell you anyone who is trying to disrupt this would be well received by consumers but fought tooth and nail by the industry,” he said.

Grinda, who has had to shutter previous startups, said his goals for Home61 are modest — he’s not looking to corner the market, or be number one. He’s in it, he said, for the long-term.

Since Home61 began in September 2014, the company has expanded from two to 15 agents and has completed almost $20 million in transactions. Grinda said he has raised more than $1 million from tech investors. Investors include Kima Ventures and Olivier Grinda’s brother, Fabrice Grinda, a well-known angel investor.

Business has mostly come through word of mouth, like Home61 customer Florian Hagenbuch, who stumbled upon the site after describing many other broker sites as “web 1.0.” Hagenbuch, who is also from Brazil, and still lives there, wanted an experience where he could do most of the work ahead of time, and just fly in to see the properties.

It worked. He ended up buying two investment properties: condos in North Bay Village and in the Brickell area.

“The expectation is that it’s going to be a messy process,” said Hagenbuch, who described other broker’s websites as static and difficult to search. “From my perspective, it’s basically how real estate transactions should be done.”

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