‘We want to be the Shopify of real estate'

by Neil Sharma on 22 Sep 2021

Converging E-commerce and real estate hasn’t always been simple because of the latter’s exorbitant price points but a Calgary-based company has done it.

Proptech platform Ownly will power a digital marketplace for the real estate industry where people can purchase homes. The company purports to be the first of its kind—it says there are a couple of newer companies south of the border lagging Ownly by 15-18 months—and has onboarded three homebuilders in the Calgary area, with another four slated to join in the coming weeks.

“It’s very disruptive to the entire industry. We think the time is now,” Jason Hardy, co-founder and CEO of Ownly, told CREW. “This is the way consumers want to be able to shop, as evidenced by everything else we shop for and buy today. You get price transparency online but the last holdout is the real estate industry, which isn’t transparent about pricing and what’s included in the details.”

Hardy says the pandemic accelerated demand for such services because, in addition to embracing virtual tours, homebuyers were educating themselves at home and then attending Zoom meetings with sales reps very prepared.

“Homebuilders in the single- and multi-family segments saw a 300-400% increase in website traffic during the pandemic, but they had no means to allow customers to shop,” Hardy, who worked 19 years in real estate and land development, said.

The company has integrated other platforms like UTour, which allow customers to book a private viewing of a home 24/7 with or without the presence of a sales agent. Customers can also get online mortgage preapprovals as well as identity and credentials certification the same day, ensuring the entire process from start to finish occurs on Ownly, for which Hardy has lofty goals.

“If you look at all the integration pieces, we’re venturing to become like. Shopify. We want to be the Shopify of real estate,” he said. “When we describe what we’re doing, people don’t get it. We talk about the automotive industry, which introduced online shopping 22 years ago in 1999. Twenty-two years later and the real estate industry still hasn’t embraced it. Shopify has been successful because more than 90% of retail transactions online are powered by Shopify and you don’t even know it. We will do that with real estate.”

Shane Homes Group of Companies joined Ownly in August and Melanie Gowans, the company’s GM of sales and marketing, says leads and consumer engagement have been strong. Moreover, Shane Homes is receiving calls from real estate investors all over the country.

“It’s very new. We’re being very transparent, which comes with being vulnerable when we do this, but we’re essentially putting as much information out there for everyone to see, including our competition, and it’s been heavy lifting for the marketing department because it’s a unique value proposition,” Gowans said.

Shane Homes, which builds everything from condominiums to custom estate homes, could even benefit from a slightly faster sales cycle, Gowans says, because customers are more prepared than they have ever been.

“It would be faster because they’ve already done so much research on their own and they’re coming in very educated and very qualified,” she said. “We have to do less educating, so the time from lead to sale will definitely be quicker.”

Hardy believes that the future of home buying will be “frictionless,” although he concedes that presentation centres might not completely disappear.

“With e-commerce, it isn’t an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when,’” he said. “E-commerce is in its infancy as it relates to real estate but the future of real estate is 100% frictionless. I think the long-term shift will move towards completed model homes and completed units, but the actual presentation centre will become less and less necessary. If you want to meet a trusted advisor, they will be able to assist you virtually or in-person; the choice will be in the hands of the consumer."

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