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Don’t market vacant homes. Be HomeKynd: Tech Review

Don’t market vacant homes. Be HomeKynd: Tech Review

Proptech columnist Craig Rowe reviews virtual staging solution HomeKynd, an app that empowers users to integrate its tools with listing pages, among other benefits.

HomeKynd is a virtual staging solution

Platforms: Web; fully mobile responsive
Ideal for: Listing and buyer agents; property managers

Top selling points:

• Brokerage listing page embed
• Interior design-selected furnishings
• In-app purchasing
• MLS-compliance
• Consumer-facing UX

Top concern(s):

Only that most virtual staging offerings are part of larger visual marketing and photo-enhancement systems.

What you should know

If you’re not already a virtual staging convert or simply remain a skeptic, I don’t think HomeKynd or any of its competitors will knock you off the fence. You just keep faxing those offers and ignoring the NAR settlement.

However, if you’re familiar with the benefits of virtual staging — no buying furniture sets, burdening sellers with placement/removal, less risk of home damage and fewer days on market — then you probably already know how to use HomeKynd. The interfaces for self-staging environments, as opposed to those services that do it for you, are pretty similar. This is a good thing. This means that competition has room to emerge in the space, like with CRMs or transaction management applications.

What I want readers to notice about HomeKynd is its enterprise level of service and its listing page integration. The former allows entire brokerages to establish accounts and best practices for staging rooms in vacant homes. Because HomeKynd has a number of different styles from which to select, team leaders and marketing teams can ensure agents don’t use the same items from house to house, for example. They can also better report on what homes sell faster because of being staged and even what furnishing brand gets the best results. Remember, staging is a marketing asset; use what it gives you.

The latter, the listing page integration, is a super-smart way to engage buyers directly with the listing and even suggests that, when posting the home, it can be beneficial to leave a couple of rooms vacant to entice the home shopper to start designing. It’s all about getting them to picture themselves in the space.

I’ve long had an issue with staging. Admittedly, I viewed it as a tool for less-than-stellar sales professionals. This likely comes from time selling investment property, where bad carpet and a cabinet hanging by a single hinge didn’t really matter. Thus, it’s possible I wasn’t as good at sales as I thought; maybe it was the revenue stream doing the heavy lifting. I digress.

Kate Ritter, HomeKynd’s founder and lead designer, reminded me during a webinar that people have a hard time visualizing all that a home can be, especially when the canvas is blank. This is why interior designers exist and why contractors draw up plans and show us flooring samples. Her comments hit.

Buyer agents, too, can use HomeKynd. Buyers choosing between a few homes can use it to see what room may look better with the layout they’re aiming for. The software allows still images to be exported and sent in a few clicks, so other parties involved can have a say about the finished project as well.

The software allows for easy upload of captured rooms, but it would be cool to see an option for pulling in images from an MLS ID. Items can be placed as needed, rotated and scaled, and with 22 major brands on board, the options are pretty widespread.

Later this year, HomeKynd will be shipping a fully realized consumer version of its application with an AI engine for faster room designs and existing item removal.

The before and after samples I’ve seen look terrific. And, as HomeKynd is relatively new to the real estate space, there’s a lot of potential to grow alongside, especially for indie brokerages and teams.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe

Craig C. Rowe started in commercial real estate at the dawn of the dot-com boom, helping an array of commercial real estate companies fortify their online presence and analyze internal software decisions. He now helps agents with technology decisions and marketing through reviewing software and tech for Inman.

Equity Angels names first 4 startups for its advisory services

Equity Angels names first 4 startups for its advisory services

Equity Angels was launched in early 2024 by 2018 Inman Person of the Year Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk.

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, July 30-Aug. 1, 2024, the noise and misinformation will be banished, all your big questions will be answered, and new business opportunities will be revealed. Join us.

Technology startup accelerator Equity Angels has selected its first cohort of companies for its strategic advisory services, according to a May 28 press release sent exclusively to Inman.

In early 2024, Equity Angels was launched by 2018 Inman Person of the Year Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, chief growth officer at NEO, and Katherine Winston, founding member and head of marketing at Plunk.

The two teamed up to build a program that provides professional mentorship, fractional executives and fundraising preparation for companies started by entrepreneurs from diverse demographics. Both women serve as managing partners of Equity Angels.

Four companies make up the cohort, each addressing a unique corner of the proptech space. It includes agent and broker financial services firm Upfront, home furnishing visualization solution The Studio Home, recruiting and retention company Maverick Systems, and Billions, a startup that strives to improve operations for high-performing teams.

The mission of Equity Angels is to prioritize those founders and missions that are less represented in the current proptech space, such as Maverick Systems’ Diana Zaya, whose father immigrated to the United States from Syria after being raised in a minimalist “mud hut” home.

Top row, from left: Upfront co-founders Mukund Venkatakrishnan and Pierre Calzadilla, Maverick Systems founder Diana Zaya Bottom row, from left: The Studio Home founder Nicole McGuire, Billions co-founders Amber Milks and Andrew Becker

Zaya was inspired by her father, who achieved a degree in engineering. Her company offers a way to better use data to understand how brokerages can benefit from strategic recruiting.

Mukund Venkatakrishnan co-founded Upfront with Pierre Calzadilla after starting his first company at 17 and a real estate brokerage at 20. Calzadilla boasts an impressive tenure building teams at Trulia, RealScout and Local Logic.

“With such a diverse and seasoned group of founders, we’re all learning so much from one another,” said Equity Angels founder Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, in a statement. “We’re honored to be working with such inspiring founders and look forward to helping grow their businesses through our accelerator program.”

Nicole McGuire’s company, The Studio Home, partners with builders to digitally envision interior spaces for buyers, a need she recognized while working in her family’s 80-year-old construction firm. Users can purchase the rendered packages after personalizing their space.

Billions’ Andrew Becker founded The MacDonald/Becker Real Estate Team more than 10 years ago and, from that experience, built a software solution to support and encourage increasing revenue, agent count and brand footprint.

Becker teamed up with enterprise technology leader Amber Milks to launch the company, which also brings into the fold methods for client communications and a better transaction experience.

Founders Winston and Burrell-VanWormer referenced a 2022 McKinsey report that found “in 2022, Black and Latino founders received only 1 percent and 1.5 percent respectively of total U.S. venture capital (VC) funding. Women-founded teams received 1.9 percent of VC funds, and only 0.1 percent of VC funds went to Black and Latino women founders.”

The Equity Angels program will also provide participants with access to fractional C-Suite leadership through high-level executives to “develop and scale their businesses at sustainable rates.”

Winston said in the press release that in addition to the year-long cohort participants, the accelerator has accepted “a few founders” into its fractional executive program.

“We’re impressed by the caliber of visionaries that have applied for our first-year programs,” she said, adding that the fractional executives are working with new companies “to provide guidance and advisory work for startups building new solutions to very big problems in the industry, including the housing affordability crisis.

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Email sequencing is the latest upgrade for Nimble CRM

Email sequencing is the latest upgrade for Nimble CRM

Nimble, a software company that specializes in customer relationship management for “soloprenuers” and small business teams, has shipped a new feature to its customer accounts — email sequencing.

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, July 30-Aug. 1, 2024, the noise and misinformation will be banished, all your big questions will be answered, and new business opportunities will be revealed. Join us.

Nimble, a software company that specializes in customer relationship management for “soloprenuers” and small business teams, has shipped a new feature to its customer accounts — email sequencing.

In a May 29 press release, the company said the new feature is aimed at long-term lead nurture and relationship building.

Email sequences are automated responses that can be based on specific dates and times, responses to previous messages, actions contacts take on a website or a link within a message. They offer the advantage of rapid, relevant follow-up for new leads and existing customers, and have become a critical component to marketing plans across the real estate space.

Users can create a number of templates for a range of response scenarios, so custom messaging is always armed and ready, critical in a real estate market where buyers are hard to come by and sellers are demanding.

In the press release, Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara emphasized the time savings and productivity enhancements email sequences provide.

“By streamlining key operations like LinkedIn prospecting through automated follow-up emails, it not only conserves time but also enriches interaction quality,” he said. “This innovation boosts productivity, enhances lead management and fosters meaningful customer interactions, enabling our clients to expand their outreach efficiently and effectively.”

Nimble’s email builders enable quick segmentation, too, ideal for agents who need to parse buyers based on budget levels, or when prospecting sellers in different communities. They can also be used for cold outreach with new email addresses, allowing different automated follow-ups for unique reactions to the initial message, and also offer an ideal method to re-engage contacts who have gone silent.

Responses are linked to each message sent and collectively used as business intelligence for the life of that contact, recorded and integrated into the CRM.

“Nimble automatically stores all interactions with prospects, including emails, calls and meetings, which aids in personalizing communications and improving response rates,” the release stated.

In April, Nimble announced a partnership with PhoneBurner, a “power-dialing” system. The partnership will specifically benefit prospecting efforts, which rely on consistent and often high-paced outreach.

Power dialers are effective ways to reach a lot of people in little time, and do so in an organized way, enabling timestamps, database updates and voicemail drops. The dialer also eliminates the dead air at the start of a call, reducing the rate of immediate hang-ups. The press release stated that PhoneBurner can help people reach up to 80 people per hour via voice.

Nimble has been serving the real estate space for more than a decade and was first reviewed by Inman in 2012, then again in 2015.

Email Craig Rowe

HAR partnership caps RentSpree’s busy spring

HAR partnership caps RentSpree’s busy spring

RentSpree distributes its product to empower residential agents in their work with clients who may not yet be ready to buy, and to provide them software advantages to offer investor clients or to use in their own rental portfolios.

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, July 30-Aug. 1, 2024, the noise and misinformation will be banished, all your big questions will be answered, and new business opportunities will be revealed. Join us.

The Houston Association of Realtors (HAR) is the latest MLS to offer to its members software from RentSpree to help sales agents work with renters. This is the third such partnership the ApplyLink creator has announced in as many weeks.

The partnership was announced in a May 23 press release. The second-largest MLS in the Lone Star State, HAR has 48,000 members and a reputation for pursuing innovation in the space. It’s also the eighth-largest MLS in the country, according to the release.

RentSpree distributes its product to empower residential agents in their work with clients who may not yet be ready to buy, and to provide them software advantages to offer investor clients or to use in their own rental portfolios.

Mario Arriaga, chair of the HAR MLS, said in a statement that with renting as competitive as it is, ensuring a smooth leasing process is ever more critical.

“This partnership equips our subscribers with the technology they need to find qualified renters quickly and efficiently, while offering tenants a seamless and secure application experience,” Arriaga said.

Rentals in the single-family sector are up more than 27 percent in the Houston region, according to HAR rental data. The current number of rental homes stands at 5,403.

“Leased listings also rose by 3.8 percent, totaling 3,762, while the average lease price climbed 3.1 percent to $2,285,” the release stated.

RentSpree’s ApplyLink is a portal to engage lease applicants and track their progress through the cycle of occupancy, assisting the agent in screening and communications with all parties and, generally, shrinking a number of critical business tasks at the core of finding and securing a tenant. It also integrates directly with any existing tools HAR members may be using to support operations.

RentSpree announced partnerships with REColorado and UtahRealEstate.com in May. The HAR partnership brings its MLS provider count to more than 60.

“Teaming up with HAR is of great significance to us as it helps expand our services in the pivotal Texas rental markets,” said Michael Lucarelli, CEO and co-founder of RentSpree, in a statement. “Our integration not only streamlines rental processes for HAR members but also plays an important role in enhancing efficiency for agents, applicants and owners within these key regions.”

HAR has been embracing the importance of sharing real estate market data and listing availability with its market’s consumers for more than two decades. Even as far back as 2013, Inman reported, “The consumer-facing listing portal operated by the Houston Association of Realtors since 1997, HAR.com, has generated 4.7 million leads for HAR members and facilitated 1 million home sales valued at $190 billion to date.”

HAR still publishes a detailed list of monthly and yearly website and app statistics, available here.

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Sidekick’s AI to assist Miami agents in latest MLS deal

Sidekick’s AI to assist Miami agents in latest MLS deal

Miami Association of Realtors is the most recent MLS to link up with Sidekick, an AI productivity solution spun out of Avenue 8, an independent brokerage based in California.

At Inman Connect Las Vegas, July 30-Aug. 1, 2024, the noise and misinformation will be banished, all your big questions will be answered, and new business opportunities will be revealed. Join us.

Miami Association of Realtors (Miami) is the most recent MLS to link up with Sidekick, an AI productivity solution spun out of Avenue 8, an independent brokerage based in California.

A May 20 press release from the software company said that Miami’s market is an ideal location to push the product’s benefits, which heavily emphasize completing more in less time using text-based queries and conversational commands to circumvent consistent interaction with an actual front-end design, or software interface.

“Our partnership with Miami to bring Sidekick to South Florida is an incredibly exciting milestone,” said Michael Martin, co-founder of Sidekick, in the statement. “This partnership broadens our influence and enhances our ability to support real estate agents with AI. Equipping agents with tools to enhance their productivity helps to push the industry forward into the future while creating value for agents at all levels.”

Sidekick is less than a year old, having been rolled out in November 2023 to help tech-forward Avenue 8 agents, which number around 400, quickly create CMAs, marketing collateral, listing presentations and execute other critical business tasks in minutes rather than hours. It can also send emails as well as read and manage calendars

At its heart, Sidekick functions as a virtual assistant, a sign that the cottage industry of off-shoring actual people to handle business activity, popular in real estate, may be facing upheaval.

Martin made clear his team’s plans to make Sidekick publicly available. Like most AI-based products, it merely needed time to learn. In Miami’s case, Sidekick will absorb its market statistics, specific property types and other pertinent data points as it’s asked to perform. Given the level of activity in Miami, it should learn quickly.

“It is critical that agents demonstrate value across two vectors: specific knowledge and speed,” Martin said in a November email to Inman. “Many have the former, but the latter is a constraint. Even if you’ve been working in the industry 20 to 30 years, the ability to quickly generate, analyze, and assemble information across a variety of modalities is incredibly challenging. It’s not about having a personality or a face or a name — it’s about functionality and speed.”

Martin explained that Sidekick can create spreadsheets on mortgage options that may appeal to a subset of buyers, and then turn that data into an Instagram post, for example. The AI can also leverage computer vision to quickly create listing descriptions and is programmed to not hallucinate, meaning it won’t “guess” at what’s in an image.

Teresa King Kinney is the CEO of Miami Realtors, and called the relationship “exciting” and another example of the organization’s dedication to serving its agents’ customers.

“This reinforces and advances Miami’s commitment to innovation by providing our members with the absolute best in leading edge technology to better serve their buyers, sellers and investors and make a difference in their real estate business,” King Kinney said.

Miami Realtors is the second major MLS to partner with the AI product. Inman reported May 6 that San Francisco Association of Realtors also agreed to supply Sidekick to its 4,000 members.

Miami Realtors was founded in 1920 and serves 60,000 agents.

Sidekick’s developer, Avenue 8, boasts agents across the Bay Area, Greater LA, NYC and Palm Springs. It told Inman there are plans to open more offices in the coming year.

This collaboration signifies Sidekick’s expansion into the vibrant South Florida market, delivering its state-of-the-art integrated datasets and AI-driven workflow tools to over 60,000 real estate agents across South Florida.