The ongoing shift towards flexible working arrangements, coupled with historically low interest rates, has allowed many Americans to migrate to the lower costs of suburban areas in search of a better quality of life. That is the Americans who can afford it or those lucky enough to become a homeowner.
Although saving rates have gone through the roof during the pandemic, people will still find it extremely hard to afford a home. In fact, the savings challenges of American millennials put most of the years away from being able to afford their own home.
However, despite these and many other considerable economic and market challenges, a residential property boom driven by a pandemic-induced transformation in buyer trends has been considerably bolstered by fintech.
Simplifying The Business Of Real Estate
The processes involved in securing a mortgage and buying a home have long been considered antiquated. And until recently, since the mortgage itself was invented, there have been very few innovations that have improved a young American’s introduction to homeownership.
Now though, in a sea of emerging private technology companies, some startups are targeting the myriad of real estate business inefficiencies head-on. These companies are developing innovative technologies that are redesigning the business of real estate, profoundly altering the experience of both buying and selling property — dramatically simplifying processes and thus opening up the market to a whole new generation.
It’s true that the U.S property market is currently experiencing a surprising frenzy of activity given the pandemic conditions. Yet, consistently low inventories coupled with high demands are pushing prices up and imposing such pressures on the industry, that the fear of the bubble bursting is warranted.
Based in San Francisco, this cloud-based software company made this year's Forbes Fintech 50 list and is currently processing more than $4 billion in consumer loans and mortgages every day, working in partnership with 285 financial institutions.
Through Blend, prospective borrowers can connect tax returns, pay stubs, and online bank statements, thus speeding up the process of mortgage approval through some of the nation’s largest lenders, such as U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
Also based in San Francisco and featured on Forbes Fintech 50, Divvy homes have modernized the traditional rent-to-own model, digitizing the process, buying homes for those who can’t afford a standard mortgage, and thus becoming their landlord.
An upfront fee of 1-2% plus a portion of the monthly rental payment can be allocated towards a down-payment if the tenant decides to buy the property at a later stage. After three years, tenants will have accumulated as much as 10% in equity.
Enabling tech-based leasing solutions in New York City, this fintech incentivizes departing tenants to give more notice of their intention to leave, thereby assisting landlords in reducing vacancies, by connecting departing tenants with those wishing to move in next.
This approach relieves parties of expensive broker fees and gives movers an opportunity to sign their next lease up to 90 days in advance, therefore avoiding the stress of trying to cram finding a property and moving into the typical two-week turnaround. Doorkee currently operates exclusively in NYC but has firm plans to roll out nationwide following an expansion into other major metro areas this year.
An emerging trend prevalent in the commercial real estate sector involves bringing blockchain technology into the picture by tokenizing properties. An Ethereum-standard (ERC20) property token is created to represent shares in a real estate holding, and the total sum of all tokens generated equals the total value of the tokenized/securitized property in question.
Currently more prevalent in overseas markets, tokenized investing recently gained attention when Liquefy based in Hong Kong tokenized $600 million of a luxury hotel in London. With financial backing from the royal family in Dubai and registration as an Amazon Web Services Technology Partner, this company is powerfully demonstrating how blockchain technology can significantly alter the real estate world as we know it.
The era of COVID-19 has brought about a significant thirst in consumers for transaction liquidity, and this company, based out of Boston, offers an online platform that facilitates fully digital real estate closings.
By enabling consumers to legally sign and notarize documents remotely, Notarize has been responsible, to date, for facilitating the online sale and purchase of over $30 billion in property, and is now utilized by more than 3,000 agents.
This real estate marketplace for investors also made the Fintech 50 this year and enables anyone from a brand new investor to a global asset manager to buy into single-family rental properties. Launched in 2019, Roofstock takes professionally managed homes and sells partial stakes to investors for as little as $5,000 per share.
With a mission to make homeownership ‘simpler, faster – and most importantly, more accessible for all Americans,’ Better has digitized the mortgage process entirely while eliminating the need for fees, commissions, and lengthy branch appointments.
Currently operating in 44 states and the District of Columbia, Better was ranked as the best 2020 startup by LinkedIn, hiring over 1,500 employees within 6 months, and with plans to add another 7,000 over the next year.
Financial technologies have been holding Wall Street’s attention for some time now. Companies pursuing innovative technological solutions for streamlining economic transactions are radically altering the financial services landscape and thus, the real estate business, too.
Despite the savings challenges for millennials, the top end of this generation is currently making up the largest percentage of home buyers at 37% (and younger millennials at 14%). There has never been a more important time to modernize the transactional business of real estate to accommodate new generations.
Between that and streamlining processes in an industry already under immense pressure, fintechs are providing solutions that are certainly revolutionizing the way we do real estate business, and may just be its saving grace.