The U.S. real estate market has spent the summer booming despite an economy hit hard by the pandemic.
HomeLight CEO Drew Uher told Karen Webster that home sales have been pushed into high gear by incredibly low mortgage rates and a radical re-centering of people’s housing priorities amid shelter-in-place orders.
“We're basically seeing one of the most robust housing markets that we've ever seen,” Uher said.
He said that all of a sudden, people are feeling like they need a lot more living space, from dedicated home offices to larger pantries in their kitchens. After all, many Americans are being told by employers that they never have to come back to the office if they prefer to stay remote.
Uher said that as a result, many Americans are considering some big lifestyle changes — although the housing market’s robustness is a bit uneven. Buyers are flooding markets all over the country, but sellers are proving to be more reticent to a degree that new listings are lower than Uher said he would have expected.
Adding to a shortage of listings, many buyers are new to homeownership, while others are in the market for second homes but aren’t selling the properties that they currently own in major metros.
Uher said some homeowners contemplating moves that would normally entail selling their properties — especially suburban ones — face uncertainty that’s likely acting as a headwind to their pulling the trigger and listing their homes.
“I think there's just a lot of upheaval in terms of how we're using our homes, and the market is definitely changed,” he said.
Why HomeLight Bought Disclosures.io
Uher said HomeLight’s goal is: “How do we find a way to help buyers, sellers and agents move through this shifted market in a way that is certain, simple and satisfying?”
Increasingly, the answer to that question is ultimately to build an end-to-end comprehensive transaction for the company’s clients. As part of that strategy, HomeLight announced the acquisition of Disclosures.io, a listings-management software provider.
Uher said that company currently holds about 80 percent market share in the San Francisco Bay area and Northern California. He said acquiring Disclosures.io will boost the HomeLight platform with its mastery at distributing the information packets that are a standard part of the property sale process.
In San Francisco, Uher said, home sales run a bit differently than deals do in most parts of the country, as it’s standard practice to provide a really detailed information packet about properties ahead of consumers making offers. He added that HomeLight thinks such a process should become the industry standard nationwide, as it makes sense in terms of smoothing out the sales process for all sides.
“If the buyer doesn't have that information, what happens is that the buyer makes an offer that the seller accepts and then hands over all of the disclosures about the property,” Uher said. “Then the buyer finds out the roof is leaking and comes back requesting $15,000 off the price.”
Providing such information up front is better for sellers who are less likely to be forced to lower their prices, and better for buyers who presumably want to move as quickly and easily as possible. Uher added that it’s even better for agents who can assess the market’s interest level in a given property based on how quickly potential buyers are accessing disclosure reports.
“And if they get an offer, it's advantageous for the seller to let all of the other interested buyers know that there's an offer so [sellers] can create a multiple offer situation,” he said. “Without a listing management platform like what Disclosures.io has built, there's really not an efficient way to do that.”
Uher said that’s why buying Disclosures.io represents a massive upgrade to the HomeLight platform. But he said it’s only another “puzzle piece” in “stitching together that end-to-end, comprehensive transaction platform for our clients.”
Building An End-to-End Transaction Portal
Uher said HomeLight’s overarching goal has always been to build an agent-centric digital platform to make the home buying process smoother, more certain and more seamless for literally all participants involved in the process. That includes the agents because for all of the anecdotal tales of frustration people have with individual agents, a good one really makes a tremendous difference to how the entire home buying journey ends up.
“When it comes time to transact the largest financial transaction of your life, having advice from an expert is worth its weight in gold,” Uher said. “When you're in that incredibly meaningful moment when there's a lot of emotions on the line, there's a ton of money on the line and you're either buying or selling a home, you want to get it right.”
Uher said the aim of HomeLight is to build out its platform so sellers and their agents have a comprehensive “soup-to-nuts” solution, from signing a listing agreement online to managing showings to ultimately accepting a purchase offer.
Buying Disclosure.io brings HomeLight one step closer to that end-to-end digital solution that ultimately makes the process work both faster and smoother for everyone, he said. That includes the buyer who wants to buy a house, the buyer's agent who wants the transaction to close, the seller who wants the best offer in the shortest period of time, and the seller's agent who wants to eliminate any obstacles that get in the way of a buyer and seller doing business.
This end-to-end platform is the future of real estate, Uher said, and it saves time and money for everyone involved.
“The goal is to eliminate the uncertainty in the transaction,” Uher said. “We want to create a real estate transaction that [requires] no contingencies because there is no uncertainty.”