Why is it so difficult to buy a house in the modern day? While we can cite various reasons, from economic to personal and even cultural reasons, the bottom line for many is that buying a house is a pain in the neck, especially when it comes to fees. When the company Homie started back in 2015, it addressed this head-on. They asked, “If the customer is looking to buy or sell a home, why is it so important they give their agent a 6% commission?” then came up with a modern slant on the traditional model.
Homie was created on the proviso that with so much access to information and resources as well as technology, modern real estate transactions, from buying and selling a home to the final hurdles, should be easier for the average person, but this wasn’t the case. Homie saw a gap in the market and is slowly building its empire to become one of the key real estate agencies across America, having already risen through the ranks to be the number one agency in its native Utah. But why is it so successful? What is it about Homie? It is becoming an organization that isn’t just helping the average person to buy or sell a property, but it’s becoming a talisman for what the average person can do while taking advantage of what the technological advances are in today’s world. Let’s open the door.
The History of Homie
In 2015 Johnny Hanna, Mike Trionfo, and Mike Peregrina had a vision of using real estate technology to streamline the process of buying and selling a home. Their products and services serve to create a modern faction of what real estate transactions should be. Homie passes the savings on to the customer by way of removing fees and commissions. The goal is to give homeowners and buyers the transparency to control the entire process without the stress that comes with buying a home.
Mike Peregrina suffered directly at the hands of the housing crisis in 2008—and lost everything in the process. Waking up one morning, he decided it was his calling to disrupt the real estate economy and went back to college to learn the ropes and start a career, before starting a career in finance as an investment banker put him on the path towards real estate. Upon seeing what Airbnb and Lyft were doing in terms of their shared economy, he felt the need to bring this to real estate. He got introduced to Johnny Hanna, whose background in real estate software proved pivotal, and from there Mike Trionfo joined the mix to form the trifecta of real estate power in Utah known as Homie. The business was founded in 2015 and in March 2016 the product was launched. Within 18 months Homie became the number one broker in the state of Utah. With an $18.5 million valuation from a seed round and funding after its initial launch, it is on the path to US domination.
Homie is a Utah-based, discount real estate brokerage offering listing savings to sellers and buyer refunds to buyers and is currently available across the state of Utah, as well as locations in Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; and Denver, Colorado. In addition to Homie’s real estate services, they offer additional in-house services, including home insurance, mortgage broker services, and a marketplace consisting of local service providers such as plumbers and security.
The Crux of Homie
The real focus of the Homie process is that online tech is the best approach to help everyone. The transaction process removes the middleman, ensuring that the savings are passed on to the customer.
Buying a home with Homie
From the customer perspective it’s all about the online entryway using either their website or the Homie app. Registered customers can see all homes that meet their criteria (and not just the homes that are exclusively sold by Homie). When the customer knows what they can afford, they can begin to make offers. This is done through a home agent that negotiates on behalf of the customer. But this would be as far as traditional real estate agents go. The real estate industry demands a hands-on approach, and this is where Homie takes it further. The Homie agent guides the buyer through each step of the contract and provides the customer with access to professional help such as attorneys to ease the negotiation process. There is also the addition of lower mortgage rates and fees through the home loans offshoot.
Selling your home with Homie
The process of selling a home is never an easy one. Dealing with a local real estate agent should, in theory, take the stress out of the equation, but this isn’t always the case. While a traditional agent will help the customer with listing the property and providing pricing assistance, Homie goes one step further and provides legal help for the negotiations and a mobile app so the seller can keep up to date—and all for a flat fee. The personalized approach of Homie is where they are different. But customers also expect to be compensated for their efforts; in comparison to traditional brokers, Homie, on average, sells properties for 1.2% more and helps customers save $10,000 in comparison to a traditional agent.
Homie understands the difficulty of selling or buying your home in today’s world. Whether the customer is looking to list their home or find their dream property, the key is accessibility, which is where technology gives Homie an edge. While most real estate agents have a website and rely on this for communication, using an app takes it to the next level. It’s a personalized approach using technology, which, by its very nature, can threaten to depersonalize the customer journey if done incorrectly. But the process aims to make the act of buying or selling a home easier than ever before. Technology is the forefront of how homes are sold and bought for Homie, but that’s not to say that they are a slouch in the human department. A personalized agent makes the process simpler, and with access to experts to reduce the stress of negotiations and contracts overall, Homie has created a new approach to real estate management.
What Does Homie Do Differently?
Buying a property with Homie is similar to the services and support with a traditional realtor but with a few differences:
- Homie offers a rebate of up to $5,000 when customers purchase a non-Homie home. People who purchase a home from a Homie seller are ineligible for the rebate.
- Customers work with a team of specialists, not one agent, including tour agents who accompany customers to showings and open houses; real estate agents who assist with offers, negotiations, and paperwork; and a mortgage coach who helps customers shop and apply for the mortgage.
- Homie also offer additional mortgage and insurance broker services.
Homie’s Approach to Customer Service
Homie works towards cutting out exorbitant commission fees, thus benefiting the customer. But how do they do this? Homie offers a flat fee to customers. It is $1,500 in Utah, which goes up to $2,500 in Las Vegas. When the customer pays a real estate agent, it’s usually a 6% fee. This means that if the customer purchased a $250,000 home, the fee would be $15,000. The initial upfront costs with Homie are $199. This goes to pay for signage, images, and listing. Upon closing the deal, the customer pays $1,299. While this is a bargain to the customer, it can yield a few pros and cons:
- Sellers get a complete service for a flat fee.
- Qualifying buyers can get up to $5,000 back at the point of closing.
- Homie streamlines the buying experience by offering in-house mortgage and insurance broker services, as well as an in-house legal team to offer assistance with contracts and negotiations.
- There is a $199 cancellation fee if a customer terminates their contract.
- If the customer sells to a Homie buyer, there are additional buyer’s agent commission fees.
- The agents are salaried, so they may be less motivated to sell your home.
- The Homie-2-Homie offshoot deals lead to “dual agency,” which can cause a conflict of interest for buyers.
- You get no rebate if you buy from a Homie seller.
What Does the Customer Think?
The average customer reviews are the following:
Google 4.3/5 (out of 543 reviews)
Facebook 4.2/5 (out of 386 reviews)
Zillow 4.8/5 (out of 34 reviews)
Yelp 3/5 (out of 15 reviews)
In total, Homie has an average rating of 4.3/5 rating based on 978 customer reviews on Google, Facebook, Zillow, and Yelp, and Homie’s third-party reviews have a weighted average of 4.3/5 stars across the same platforms.
Individual feedback has been glowing. The Homie website showcases a variety of positive reviews, and some of the key takeaways for customers include the following:
- Having a phone number with direct access to all of the facilities (the number one feature).
- Having instant communication.
- Saving money.
- Revolutionized how the home purchase should be.
- Incredible agents and resources.
- Easy liaising between Homie and the buyer’s agent.
- Gave sellers the opportunity to present their home instead of leaving it to a buyer’s agent who had never seen the property.
- Autonomy for the customer.
- A quick turnaround: some homes sold only 2 days after listing and closed only a few days after that.
- A very personalized service. One such example: the attorney stayed up with the clients all night, emailing contracts, texting and calling, resulting in a final offer acceptance late into the night, with the attorney staying with the customers through the entire process.
Homie’s Company Culture
From the perspective of an employee, it may seem that the process is a long and arduous task to guarantee 100% customer satisfaction, but the culture of the company is just as important, which starts with hiring the right employee. Co-founder Mike Peregrina has spoken of hiring people that see the world the same as the customer does and people who know about “delighting the customer.” He speaks of having the best interest of the customer at heart but also defines culture as hiring great people and surrounding them with a great team, especially at home. Mike speaks of his wife as being a support network, which certainly helps to humanize the perception of the business, especially in real estate where the competitive, dog-eat-dog and families-come-last ethos reigns supreme.
He also speaks of other successful companies being known for having a really good culture, but he believes that Homie doesn’t necessarily have “a culture,” which separates them from other high-growing tech companies that demand more output from their workers.
Homie’s Core Values
For an employee, the core values of Homie are vital, and employees sit on the committee that helps define them. Some of these values include:
- “We’ve Got Your Back Loyalty,” which means that Homie stands behind its employees.
- “Fight for Your Right Balance,” meaning that work should not be all-consuming.
- “The Status Ain’t Quo Disruption,” which empowers employee decision-making.
- “Check Yourself Humility,” which celebrates progress over perfection and focuses on gratitude.
So many different real estate companies operate on the idea of commission. The real estate industry is so cutthroat and focused on the art of selling rather than the culture, which can skew people’s morals. But Homie is working to challenge the status quo. As you can see with their core values, the idea is that Homie has your back, and this creates a support network incredibly unique in the real estate industry.
Working for Homie
Working for Homie is putting your career in the hands of a company that is working hard to evolve with the times. Real estate offers a culture that predominantly focuses on money first and foremost—and the thoughts and feelings of the client second. As Homie offers something that the customer doesn’t find in a traditional brokerage, this is something that can be intriguing to traditional real estate agents looking to work in a new environment. Working for a company like Homie is like working for a startup. Homie is new to the real estate industry, which means that it has goals and ambitions to shake up the industry while operating on the fringes. This is a considerable benefit to those that want to work somewhere different.
Homie currently has a wide variety of open positions across their five sites. These cover accounting, finance loans, marketing, real estate, title (including escrow assistance), and, of course, technology. This covers a wide variety of opportunities for anybody looking to join the Homie team. Even for those who have no experience, there are often entry-level positions. Real estate can be viewed as a singular career path, but as Homie is focusing on technology and using modern components to enhance the overall experience, this requires a significant amount of support. There are also a wide variety of opportunities for those looking to break into real estate: their current needs include buyer agents, closing coordinators, and listing agents throughout the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada, as well as their native Utah site.
The Pros and Cons of Working at Homie
Working for Homie is, for many, an opportunity to work with a constantly changing industry.
- A great working atmosphere that helps employees feel they have a purpose.
- Numerous workplace perks, including free food.
- A great team that focuses on employees feeling very close and forming long-lasting friendships.
- Prompt payment.
- This really makes a difference to people: Homie is solving a real problem endemic across the buyer world.
- They may overpromise to employees.
- Pay is, in some areas, below average.
- Minimal benefits, as the agents get a flat fee rather than work for commission like traditional real estate brokers.
- Career progression isn’t great, and most will be in their positions around a year and may move on if they aren’t dedicated to the customer journey.
How Homie Is Going from Strength to Strength
The goal for Homie is to expand to more cities. It is raised $23 million for geographic expansion with Series B funding. And since its launch in Las Vegas in March 2020 (making it the fourth Homie base), Homie is expanding at an exponential rate. From the perspective of a customer client or potential employee, it is shaking up the market through its unconventional approach. While this has met a few detractors, predominantly in the real estate sector, the company has claimed to have saved customers more than $55 million in commissions. With a revenue growth of 150% between 2019 and 2020, the future is bright for Homie.
What Is the Future for Homie?
Not content with what they have achieved so far, they are priming themselves for even more expansion. A Homie spokesman recently said the company is looking for new locations and is currently looking at Seattle, Washington, and Nashville, Tennessee, as potential new locations for the Homie brand.
The expansion of Homie loans, Homie Title and Homie Insurance highlights their focus on creating a one-stop, end-to-end real estate experience, which is an experience many buyers are demanding in the modern market. And the numbers say it all: With $1 billion in real estate transactions in 2019 there is no sign of Homie stopping. And if this isn’t enough, the awards bestowed upon Homie include the following:
- The “Growth Category Winner” in Venture Madness, 2019.
- Utah Technology Council’s “CFO of the Year” for Mike Peregrina in 2018.
- Startup CEO of the Year for Johnny Hanna by the Utah Technology Council in 2017.
- The “People’s Choice Award” at Silicon Slopes Summit, 2017.
- The Best Disruptive Technology award by Tech10 in 2016.
As the National Association of Realtors has come under intense scrutiny via civil lawsuits and an inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice, Homie is riding high on a wave that is helping homebuyers and home sellers complete their transactions for a fraction of the cost. Homie is competing with a powerful business model that is entrenched in history, but Homie is going against the grain and taking on the bigger market. The size of that market and potential upside is the biggest challenge Homie will ever take on, and while there’s a lot of history that can threaten to derail Homie’s vision, the fact that it is focused on benefiting the consumer with a model that saves money while still getting value demonstrates that Homie is blazing a trail, using tech to provide a comprehensive experience to the consumer. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, or become a part of Homie’s culture, what’s apparent is that they are creating a new way to do business in real estate.