When Brynne McNulty Rojas moved to Bogotá, Colombia four years ago, she encountered a fragmented real estate industry that lacked a central database for consumers to find or compare homes. Rojas was struck by the magnitude of the problem; she was also inspired by the opportunity.
Rojas and business partner Sebastian Noguera homed in on some of the biggest issues in the city’s real estate market, particularly for middle class buyers. They found a market where the average home took 14 months to sell; that figure drops to 10 months for middle class homes. It was a market that lacked price transparency and where sellers used analog tactics like posting a sign in the neighborhood in a futile attempt to attract buyers.
From these problems, Rojas and Noguera founded Habi, a property tech startup with a two-fold approach. The startup founders built a centralized database of residential real estate prices and trends — essentially a multiple listing service — and then used that information to create an automated pricing algorithm to buy and sell homes quickly and efficiently. The company buys, renovates and then sells homes, generating revenue off the margin. It also offers a tool that lets sellers estimate the value of their homes and a database that buyers can use to search for listings. The foundation of its business is its automated pricing technology, which was built using data from its real estate, financial and government partners.
“You can think of it as an MLS plus Opendoor model,” Rojas said in a recent interview. (Opendoor is the U.S.-based property tech startup backed by SoftBank.)
The Bogotá-based startup has now raised $10 million in a Series A round led by Inspired Capital, with participation from 8VC, Clocktower, Homebrew, Vine Ventures and Zigg. The round included Operator Partners, the new investment group led by Zach Weinberg and Nat Turner of Flatiron Health as well as the founders of Looker. The company has raised $15.5 million to date.
Since launching in fall 2019, Habi has scaled rapidly — and has even picked up speed during the city’s strict lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Transaction volume has increased threefold since March, Rojas noted.
Rojas said its data-driven approach works, allowing the company to sell a home three times faster than the market average.
The company currently covers all of Bogotá. It plans to use this fresh injection of capital to expand to Medellin this month and eventually to other Latin American markets, according to Noguera, who previously ran the digital transformation at Banco de Bogota and co-founded Marqueo.
The founders also intend to eventually expand Habi’s services to become a “one-stop shop for everything related to the home,” Rojas said. In the long term, this might mean connecting consumers with moving, storage, furnishings and other services.