Real estate isn’t just for brokers anymore. Technology is creating an industry that’s consumer-facing, accessible and easy to navigate. From buying a space, to moving in, to even maintaining that space, tech-fueled startups have been fulfilling every nook and cranny of need in the realm of real estate, and it’s all to make the process easier for you, the consumer.
It Started At Home
Before the likes of Trulia, Zillow, StreetEasy, Compass and even Craigslist, purchasing a home was complex, and it inevitably involved a select group of people — brokers and agents — who knew the ins and outs of the industry. As the aforementioned companies became more popular, the process of buying or renting a home became democratized and accessible, leading to a revolution in the residential real estate industry. Not only did the process become easier and more transparent, but because of increased access to information, consumers suddenly had the chance to become more knowledgeable, and thus more powerful, regarding the homes they wanted to rent and buy.
This “real estate information boom,” as we’ll call it, led to an increased standard across the industry. But, where the process for buying and renting a home became easier, many of the other factors involved in real estate were slow to catch up.
Bridging The Service Gaps
Startups, piece by piece, began to tackle many of the remaining pain points in residential real estate. By filling gaps in service that made the consumer experience difficult, startups were able to capitalize big time.
In 2011, ViewTheSpace brought about a new option for getting to know a commercial space before moving into it — which was particularly important in an industry where viewing a space generally meant either seeing it in person or getting ahold of inconsistent videos or photos. VTS offers HD videos of commercial spaces in streamlined, consistent distribution channels. Their spaces include offices and retail spaces, and their service makes the scouting process much easier and more accessible.
Technology is changing every part of real estate, from the way you go about working in your office, to the way you find a home.
Floored introduced a new kind of space viewing when it was founded in 2012. Before Floored, viewing a home on the Internet was limited to pictures and video. Floored took a digital approach to scouting homes. Its software transforms homes, offices — really any piece of real estate — and creates interactive virtual worlds through 3D modeling. Floored’s service has been able to fill a need in both residential and commercial real estate, but its service solves only one part of the puzzle: viewing a space. What about the biggest trend in real estate right now — the sharing economy?
Airbnb arrived on the scene in 2008, enabling homeowners to offload some of their costs by introducing a “sharing economy” approach to living and travel. As the sharing economy began to gain steam, other companies found opportunities to improve the customer experience.
Rentshare came on the scene in 2011 to tackle the problem of paying rent and other related bills, by “crowdsourcing” from various parties who live in the same home. Rentshare makes the process of paying rent easier, and it rids renters of a common problem: having to bug their roommates to pay their bills on time.
But what about the problem of finding a roommate you actually like? Founded in April 2014, Roomi sought to fix that problem by providing a marketplace for roommates, and enabling better connections as part of a co-living community. Co-living is not a novel idea, but the ability to find roommates you actually like with easy-to-use technology is new.
Splacer, which launched in the U.S. in 2015, took the Airbnb approach to a sharing economy one step further. Instead of a platform to discover rooms and homes to spend the night (or a few nights), Splacer offers rentals by the hour or day, geared toward people who want to host events, such as parties, off-sites, barbecues and art shows. Splacer, like Floored, is able to cover both residential and commercial real estate with its service. It’s an opportunity for homeowners to recoup some of the costs of owning a home. For consumers, it’s a chance to find creative event space on the cheap.
Filling The Information Void
Information is key in real estate. Take, for example, a situation where a broker, buyer or potential tenant passes a commercial space that looks vacant from the outside and they want to learn more. In the traditional commercial real estate market, that person would have to take down the details of the space and wait to research the property in their records. Falkon, founded in 2015, endeavored to expedite this process and enable people to instantly research property information and building data. Their free location-based app allows for prospecting, research and lead generation, not only for commercial real estate, but also residential.
Another company that’s looking to fill the information void in real estate is CompStak, which is a marketplace to exchange commercial real estate comps. The company employs a crowdsourced model where you essentially give one comp, and get one comp. Founded in 2011, CompStak was one of the first companies in commercial real estate to use technology to fill the information void.
The Information Boom Comes To Commercial
The real estate information boom began in residential real estate, and it took a while to migrate to the commercial space. It was this disparity in service that led to the advent of TheSquareFoot, which began out of the realization that finding an office was nothing like finding a home on sites like Trulia or StreetEasy.
When TheSquareFoot first started, it was one of the few commercial real estate companies on the scene with the goal of making the office space location process easier — instead of making money. Today there are many more startups doing what TSF has done. By integrating with many of these startups and adding a lot of technology, TheSquareFoot is able to provide full-service office solutions that make finding and working in the right office easy.
Tech-fueled startups are disrupting and segmenting an industry that for decades has been exclusive to a few businesses.
PivotDesk, for example, gives people a place to work at any stage of their company. Clients often use PivotDesk as part of their office space life cycle. PivotDesk is beneficial for two types of consumers: those who aren’t quite ready for an office of their own, and those who have more space than they need. Although companies and individuals have the option of renting an entire co-working space for a month-by-month lease (with places like WeWork), PivotDesk provides on-demand workspace, in a form as simple as one desk. On one side, a businessperson (or a few business people) can rent desks in an established office. On the other side, an established office can make extra cash by renting these desks.
In the sharing economy, the ultimate goal is to waste little space: to keep spaces as full as possible for as much time as possible. That’s where companies like Breather and Splacer come in. Breather is especially useful for companies who don’t yet have a full office. It enables them to find a private place to hold a meeting, or a work environment to get some work done by the hour. Breather is exclusively for commercial spaces, but every Breather transaction includes amenities like Wi-Fi, pencils, pads, candy and even an app-enabled security system.
Technology is changing every part of real estate, from the way you go about working in your office, to the way you find a home. Tech-fueled startups are disrupting and segmenting an industry that for decades has been exclusive to a few businesses that all did the same thing. While startups are capitalizing by optimizing real estate, the real winner is you, the consumer, who now has an opportunity to infiltrate a long-exclusive industry and discover what you want.