That so many business verticals still transact primarily on paper sounds absurd to anyone in Silicon Valley. But as it were, the real world adapts to change much more reluctantly, and the predicted death of paper has not happened with any modicum of speed. Dunder Mifflin is somehow still in business.
Certain common transactions, like buying and selling a house, are particularly arduous. A number of startups have recently sprung up to streamline the endless document back and forth. Typically they start as a consumer-facing tool spurred by the founder’s bad experience buying a house, but quickly they realize the problem needs to be fixed from the agent side first. The smart ones have pivoted to offer back-end and transactional tools for brokers, realtors and agents. The most notable is a startup out of Cincinnati, Ohio, called Dotloop.
Today a challenger launched out of private beta with the same document sharing functionalities as Dotloop but a wider vision of making realtors lives simpler. It’s called Reesio, and it’s goal is to go beyond making the signature and form sharing process and change the way agents do their jobs. “We’re going beyond document sharing by automating the process for things like offers and property showings,” founder Mark Thomas says. “We’re building an alert system that knows what happens next and what each party needs to do.”
There are three million agents in the country that might be willing to pay $49 a month for access to Reesio’s tools. Right now, the most sophisticated ones are using tools not tailored to their industries, like Salesforce. The idea is to free up agents from the mundane aspects of hand-holding their clients through the process of buying a house, something agents don’t mind because that’s not where they’re providing value to begin with, Thomas says. He talked with many agents and homebuyers who all told him that the value of an agent is finding the best fit at the best price for its client. In that way, Reesio isn’t disintermediating the need for an agent, but it’s freeing up conversations that don’t add a lot of value and bringing them online.
The company is in talks with some of the larger MLS, or multiple listing services, in the country to access property listings. It’s early stages still but Thomas; ultimate vision is huge — he wants Reesio to be a LinkedIn of real estate. The offering would have a robust set of customer management tools that includes all parties to a real estate transaction — the loan officers, the clients, the agents, the realtors. The data and technology combined could be valuable beyond mere transactional tools.
The company is raising a seed round and has applied to a real estate-focused incubator called REach started by the National Association for Realtors. After witnessing a demo day from New York’s Fintech Innovation Lab, I’ve been convinced that industry-specific incubators are more valuable than even the most prestigious brand name program. While those are good for getting big name venture backers, industry-focused incubators are able to offer mentors with more expertise, access to potential partners and customers, and a realistic look a the industry a startup is actually trying to disrupt. Real estate, like many legacy industries reliant on in-person transactions, is one that’s ripe for better tools.