From sunglasses to sneakers to sports cars, there are thousands of products consumers can fully customize from the comfort of their couch. But when it comes to designing your own home, the process can feel antiquated — slowed down by design centre appointments, two dimensional brochures and black line floorplans.
Entrepreneurs Joey Gollish and Gleb Nazarkin jumped at the opportunity to bring the home buying experience into the twenty first century. Their newly launched app, Foundation, allows buyers and potential buyers to visualize their home while selecting options and upgrades that update real time. It’s a win-win for everyone, as developers are able to sell more products, track analytics and manage design centre appointments. BuzzBuzzHome caught up with the young co-founders to find out more about Foundation and their opinions on the changing real estate landscape.
Joey Gollish: We met at Western [University]. I was studying philosophy and Gleb was studying at the Ivey Business School. We started our first business together that summer, and have been working together ever since.
Gleb Nazarkin: In 2014 we decided to build a parking app, but we quickly realized that the cost of paying software developers to build your idea is insanely expensive, and more importantly, results in a large disconnect between the product and company. So we decided to teach ourselves how to code — that summer I took a nine-week coding bootcamp at Bitmaker Labs.
JG: And I started studying design and front end development on my own. We were playing with the idea of how we could use iBeacons to improve different markets. Gleb had been working in real estate [leasing condos] for a couple of years and in the spring of 2015 we decided to build Openhouse.
GN: Foundation is our main focus these days, but the difference between the two is simple. Openhouse is a mobile app for resale real estate agents and Foundation is a service for real estate developers.
JG: Openhouse is an app that lets real estate agents create guided tours in their listings using push notifications, interactive pop ups, and our virtual staging service. Potential buyers can save their favourite properties, relive their guided tour and weigh their options while they’re deciding on their future home.
GN: Foundation at its core is a digital design studio and appointment management system for developers. It’s a service for the wholesale and design process. Foundation is really the brainchild of Openhouse. It grew out of the needs and requests of our developer clients who required more than what openhouse could provide.
BBH: How does Foundation benefit potential buyers?
JG: For those interested in buying a pre-construction home or condo, the ability to customize and visualize their future home can be a major factor in their decision making process. Most people can’t just look at a floorpan or a single rendering and know how their house will look, they need more.
When our client includes pricing in their digital design studio, it gives people an understanding of how much they may be spending on options and upgrades, which is really helpful. This can be a huge determining factor for people when selecting a lot or building design. Helping people realize their dream home is affordable helps them to commit. It’s important to recognize that although Foundation is beneficial for potential buyers, it’s really useful buyers all the way from pre-sale to their PDI.
GN: Our most recent project is Sierra Building Group’s Dellwood Park, and it’s a great example of how useful Foundation is for potential buyers. Dellwood Park is an urban townhome community in South Mississauga. Their digital design studio includes the kitchen and master bathroom. Anyone can choose their floors, wall colour, countertops and cabinetry. They’re simple options, but they have a big effect. You can check it out at dellwoodpark.designcenter.online.
JG: Sierra sent one email about their digital design studio to approximately 2,000 people. Five hundred of those people used the Dellwood Park digital design center in the first week. Over 80 per cent returned more than once, and 25 per cent of the people that used the design studio created an account, registered for the sales process and selected options and upgrades. These are really good leads for Sierra and their sales center isn’t even open yet.
GN: Potential buyers are already getting an idea of what options are the most popular, which will help with material purchasing. They can see what options are selected most often from their analytics dashboard.
BBH: Why do you think the real estate industry has been slow to invest in technology?
JG: I’m not sure the real estate industry has been particularly slow to invest in new technology. The real estate technology gap is interesting, because there are a lot of startups focusing on real estate. However, most of these startups focus on homebuyers and create a lot of cool applications for them, but ignore the needs/problems of real estate professionals — real estate agents, builders and everyone on that end of the spectrum. With regards to developers and larger organizations in general, the cost of technology has been a barrier to adopting software solutions. So I guess adoption of new technology by real estate professionals seems slow because there isn’t a lot out there that is solving their problems at a reasonable price. I think you’ll find that if you present a real estate agent or developer with a real solution to their problems that doesn’t destroy their bottom line, they’re quite ready to adopt it.
BBH: What can agents and developers do to attract Millennial homebuyers?
GN: People in general are bombarded with images and information every day. Something really has to stand out to get our attention. Now with Uber, Uber Eats, Opentable and similar services, when we know what we want, we know exactly how to get it. Because of this overload of information and apps, when something isn’t easily accessible or user-friendly, people tend to drop it almost immediately. The majority of this activity happens from the comfort of our desk or couch. This doesn’t just apply to Millennials, it’s just the nature of people today.
JG: It’s true, my parents are looking for a house right now, and when they get frustrated with an app or service they’re trying to use, they put it down right away.
So when it comes to buying a home, the same rules apply. We all know how important it is to have great photos and renderings for homes — but it’s better when you can offer more. Whether it’s a great video, an experiential marketing campaign or a product like ours, you have to do something to stand out. Sometimes real estate agents and developers ask us to build their own branded apps as a way to differentiate themselves. Although we could charge more for doing that, the last thing someone wants is to download another app to view potential homes. App use/downloads are actually decreasing and more aggregate services are emerging. People don’t really want ‘an app for that’ anymore.
BBH: What is your revenue model for Foundation?
GN: Each development project gets its own branded solution. Our solutions are modular, you can choose the bits and pieces that you think are right for your project. Our pricing is based on the number of features you choose, the amount of options/upgrades you want to include, and the size of the project. At the moment we’re offering partnership discounts for developers who are willing to participate in case studies.
BBH: What makes foundation different from other virtual decorating software programs on the market?
GN: We focus on the entire sales process, from pre-sale to PDI and everything in between. Foundation isn’t just a virtual decorating software, it’s appointment management, printable forms, integrations with popular CRM’s and services, analytics, and an admin dashboard that shows developers all relevant information about their clients.
JG: Accessibility is really important to us. We develop for web and mobile to minimize the number of barriers for anyone who wants to use our service. We make it easy for people to revisit our service by adding our icon to their home screen; it’s like being able to use an app without having to download it.
GN: Right now we are implementing some new features that we’re really excited about. We can’t tell you what they are yet, but they all come from the requests and needs of our clients.
JG: We’re always open to chatting with anyone about our product, real estate tech, or just tech in general. Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416 524 3631.