Agent referral network HomeLight is looking to put the power of online homebuying companies, also known as iBuyers, into the hands of listing agents. HomeLight is launching a new tool called Simple Sale, available first as a website and later as a mobile app for agents, that acts as a kind of clearing house for various iBuyers.
Simple Sale allows a listing agent to request and receive fast, all-cash offers for a seller client’s home from multiple competing iBuyers operating in a given local area. A consumer-facing site is now live for homebuyers and HomeLight’s Simple Sale agent app expected sometime in March 2019.
The platform starts by offering two different price estimates for what a seller could expect to net out from selling their property in two different ways: through local iBuyers or through a traditional listing agent. From there, sellers and agents can go ahead and actually request multiple offers from different iBuyers in their area.
Downloading and using the platform to request offers will be free for homeowners and agents, though agents need to sign up for HomeLight’s referral network (also free). HomeLight makes its money off referral fees paid back to it when an agent closes a transaction. Presumably, if a seller client takes an iBuyer offer, the agent would get paid a referral fee from the iBuyer as well (out of which would come HomeLight’s cut).
The Simple Sale app will be available for download on Apple iOS devices (iPhone and iPad) as well as Android devices (Samsung and Google devices, among others).
Simple Sale is hoping to create competition among the iBuyers, with the goal of bringing an iBuyer’s all-cash offer up to 95 percent of what a seller could expect to get if they listed on the open market.
“We believe that bringing all these iBuyers into one place is critical for the home seller but the thing we’re doing is putting that in the hand’s of agents,” McCarthy said. “We’re trying to get to a place where an agent can bring this into their listing presentation and give sellers more options.”
HomeLight considers any entity with the ability to instantly buy a home for all-cash as an iBuyer, for the purposes of its new platform. As such, HomeLight is connecting sellers directly with more than 100 iBuyers in 40 markets, including companies such as Opendoor, Offerpad, WeBuyHouses.com and Roofstock. The platform could expand to include other buyers in the future.
“We’re definitely open to working with everyone,” JJ McCarthy, general manager of Simple Sale told Inman. “We expect this is going to become one of the strongest acquisition channels for any iBuyer out there.”
With the app, an agent will be able to get a rough estimate in real time of which iBuyers might be interested in the home, based on a few questions the seller answers. Then, using the data HomeLight will have collected on iBuyer transactions, give the seller a rough estimate of what an iBuyer would be willing to offer.
From there, the seller can proceed with seeing the offers from investors or chose to list the home traditionally with that agent.
Listing fees and other fees for homesellers can vary widely, given the fact that offers from multiple iBuyers are presented. Every fee will be upfront, however, so a homeowner can see what they will actually make from the sale, depending on which iBuyer offer they choose to take.
“Each iBuyer does have different models and with our approach to being a great platform for all flavors of iBuyers, it was important for us to not impose one strict structure,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said most sellers will want to sell their homes for as much money as possible, and if iBuyers are only going to offer around 70 percent of full value, it doesn’t make sense for most to take that offer. By putting the iBuyer offers side-by-side, Simple Sale hopes to encourage the companies to raise their offers.
“It’s sort of a race to 94-95 percent of full market value,” McCarthy said. “If iBuyers can actually consistently push that threshold then iBuyers can become a major factor in the way people sell their home.”
However, the vast majority of the leading iBuyer companies only make one offer per property and typically don’t negotiate their prices up, though they are open to feedback and discussion in some cases.
Simple Sale is not the first platform to try and aggregate the various iBuyer options available to homesellers: OfferDepot, a Phoenix-based iBuyer comparison tool operated by the Keller Williams Kenny Klaus Real Estate team, has been running for over a year, and another website, Sold.com, just launched last week with an ambition to provide sellers with all the homesale options available in their area.
Just how big iBuyers will become across the United States remains an open question. Its clear that efforts such as Opendoor, Offerpad, and Zillow Offers are expanding their footprints rapidly, opening offices and buying and re-selling homes in dozens of markets across the country as of the time of this article’s publication. Opendoor says it plans to be in 50 markets by 2020.
Some backers believe that within a within a decade, half of all residential real estate sales in the U.S. could go to iBuyers, while others are more skeptical of their ability to gain significant market share, despite serving more areas.