It had been a few years since a flood of media outlets covered the new tech kids on the real estate block, TheRedPin. That was until early last month when CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange shed new light on founders Rokham Fard and Tarik Gidamy, who spoke about making the full-service real estate data portal and brokerage more like a Starbucks coffee than anything else.
That means the same, great service, anywhere around the world in an industry that hasn’t exactly been known for it.
Founded in 2010, TheRedPin’s story became interesting around late 2011, when Ottawa’s Competition Bureau came down on the Toronto Real Estate Board, to make its “MLS” (multiple listing service) listing information on for-sale houses available online. That decision opened the door to anyone who wanted to come in and code an information-rich site that showed potential buyers all the listings they wanted to see. Buyers were able to do most of the work, saving them brokerage fees in the process.
The four cofounders- Fard, Gidamy, Shayan Hamidi and Ali Ajellu, all in their 30s now, came together from similar experiences as buyers in the housing market. What they immediately did different was not only offer the MLS data of existing real estate to web browsers, but also data on new and pre-construction condos, which is a massive amount of all listings in Toronto (about 60 percent more than MLS listings). Toronto, in fact, the the second busiest city in the world in terms of new development.
Initially the guys had all the pre-construction data, and were only planning to make TheRedPin an information site that could be held up from ad revenue. They’d simply pass on builder information to potential buyers and all would be well. But builders proved inept at actually responding to buyers- the kind who want information back that hour. “That’s when we realized that we should have a brokerage, and be with them along the journey, because we couldn’t really rely on some of the builders. So that’s when we started the brokerage,” Fard told BetaKit.
The brokerage, meanwhile, is a beast of its own. TheRedPin is now up to 120 employees from just six, less than three years ago. It employs about 50 brokers who aren’t on commission, but on a fixed salary with the potential for customer-satisfaction bonuses. It keeps the brokers hungry, so the cofounders say, while ensuring that the client gets the best service. Moreover, the client won’t be pushed towards properties that will simply land the agent a big commission.
But as Fard explained both on CBC and on the phone, TheRedPin wants to trail-blaze in an industry where two different agents working for the same brand can often treat customers totally different, since most of them merely pay a desk fee to work under a big name.
Instead, Fard said he wants TheRedPin brokers to treat a client the exact same, regardless of person or location. “Data is a commodity. Data is something that everyone is going to be able to offer. We believe, fundamentally, that real estate needs a better service level. When you go to Starbucks, you order a latte in Toronto, Tokyo or LA you get the exact same service…our focus is purely to provide that five-star customer service,” Fard told the Lang and O’Leary Exchange.
On the phone Fard also mentioned how TheRedPin is striving to be a full-service, end-to-end solution. To that end, they recently launched TheRedPin Mortgage, helping clients understand their mortgage and providing access to over 35 lenders.
With about 96 to 97 percent of Canadian buyers starting their new home search online (in which Canadians lead in that metric), it’s no wonder why these techies are trying to bring an outdated industry online, and in sync.
With plans to expand service to Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, they’ll ideally be covering 75 percent of the Canadian market within. months.
“We want to put the customer in the driver seat, not the agent,” said Fard. It looks like they’re well on their way to doing that.
Photo from CBC.ca