Have you ever watched someone at 30th Street Station pass up a taxi cab for an Uber? In truth, why wouldn’t they? Uber is cheaper, often times quicker and frankly, much more enjoyable than riding in a taxi cab––it reinvented the transportation game. Well, think of Houwzer, the Philadelphia-based start-up brokerage, as the Uber of real estate.
Since 2015, Mike Maher, the CEO and co-founder of Houwzer, has been reinventing the real estate game with the hopes that customers will one day pass up on traditional real estate brokerages, just as that person at 30th Street waved on the dated and expensive taxi cab.
“In order to be a disruptor, you have to do three things,” Maher says. “You have to be cheaper; you have to be faster; and you have to be better.” Houwzer is each of these, but the way it does it is far more complicated than the average consumer might think:
It starts with salaried, full-time employees who specialize in working with either buyers or sellers of homes, replacing the 3 percent seller commision fee with a $995 flat rate to cover the listing; this cuts the out-of-pocket cost for customers in half (cheaper). Maher has found that, because of this innovation, Houwzer’s listings actually sell for more over faster periods of time (faster). And with a net promoter score––a measurement of a firm’s customer loyalty––of 93, Houwzer has gained the favor of thousands of clients (most real estate brokerages have net promoter scores in the 70s). Not to mention that the company emphasizes social enterprise as the only real estate brokerage B Corporation in the nation (better).
The Citizen wrote about this secret formula last October, and nothing about its core values have changed since then. But Maher has built from this foundation, digging further into the real estate industry and turning it on its side, so much so that one might wonder how we got by with such an archaic model before.
Last month, Houwzer opened in its second market, in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Since October, it has also launched a branch company within Houwzer called Houwzer Title. Maher said that traditional real estate brokerages have suffered over the last 30 years as their profit margins continue to shrink. Agents within brokerages have begun to build their own brand, demanding more from brokerages. Meanwhile, brokerages have become loss-leaders for ancillary services, such as property management, mortgage, and title insurance.
Houwzer will integrate all those ancillary services in-house, thus creating an “end-to-end” focus on real estate transaction. Houwzer Title is the first step toward launching the company’s own ancillary services, with mortgage and insurance services soon to come.
And in May, Houwzer is launching a program to pay those who want to sell their home $1,000 for their listing through the month of May. “The way we look at it, your listing is incredibly valuable to your agent,” Maher says. “And we are willing to put our money where our mouth is––we will pay for your listing.”
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