Two Toronto-area startups are betting that a combination of technology, regulatory changes and consumer behaviour have created the conditions necessary to finally bring about a transformation of the country’s traditional real estate model.
Regan McGee, chief executive of startup Nobul (which he describes as a marketplace platform where potential buyers and sellers get bids for service from realtors), says that, in recent years, accumulation of anti-trust and competition regulations in the United States and Canada have pushed the industry to a tipping point. “They created an environment where a company like us could exist. [Before now] it would have been really hard. This is the way everything is going,” he said.
“The industry is changing, and I could feel the change coming,” says Vicki Schmidt, co-founder and broker of record for Justo, a new twist on the online discount brokerage.
These two companies are just a few of the real estate-focused startups popping up or expanding across the country, but they have one thing in common: The market opportunity they sense is to put more negotiating power, and perhaps more cash, in the hands of the real estate buyers and sellers. That could also put pressure on the traditional commission structure and service offering from agents.
Justo’s idea is mainly a tech-enabled update on an old idea: the discount brokerage. Founded by Daphne De Groot, an Israeli immigrant on a startup visa (who has dabbled in real estate developing, reality television and marine biology in an interesting career path) who partnered with Ms. Schmidt to try to build something more like the real estate model in her home country.
“In Israel, when you go buy a house, you have something like Kijiji. You go on the site, you pick a house you like, you just buy it directly … you don’t do it with an agent, just a lawyer and that’s it,” Ms. De Groot said. “When I tried to do it here myself, I had no access to any of the data: who bought the house, when, comparables.”[Read Me…]