Disruption in real estate: How technology is changing the game
Let’s face it – the real estate industry isn’t exactly known for cutting-edge innovation and game-changing advances. In fact, the process of buying and selling real property has remained pretty much unchanged for the past 100 years and more. But one company, in particular, is using technology to disrupt the status quo.
Nobul Corporation is, at its core, a digital matchmaking service that connects buyers and sellers with qualified real estate agents through an online platform. We sat down with Regan McGee, Founder and CEO/Chairman of Nobul to learn more.
Fuller Landau (FL): So, how does it work? What exactly does Nobul do?
Regan McGee (RM): We’re a consumer-centric, online real estate platform where agents compete for buyers and sellers based on their service offering, fees, ratings, and reviews. The service is free for consumers, while agents pay a referral fee following a successful transaction. We offer full transparency, accountability, and simplicity in the process, which just didn’t exist before. Of course, the concept of digital matchmaking is not new. It has disrupted many industries – just look at uber, Airbnb, and Amazon.
We also provide education to both agents and consumers. The real estate process can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. We’ve demystified a lot of common misconceptions and make the buying and selling experience easier for everyone involved.
FL: Who are your customers?
RM: As would be expected with a digital platform, most of our customers for the time being are millennials who are buying property for the first time. They have no pre-existing relationship with an agent and are already accustomed to online matchmaking services like uber and Tinder. We currently have a 9:1 ratio of buyers vs. sellers, and the average transaction price on Nobul is $619K.
FL: You bring an interesting blend of technology and real estate expertise to the table. What is your background, and how did it set the stage for Nobul?
RM: I’ve always had a bit of a tech bent, as I was fortunate to go to schools as a child where coding was a part of the curriculum. In fact, my first introduction to coding was at the age of 8. I hated it at the time, but in hindsight, it was the best thing for me. It really shaped my life. During university, I worked in the investment business, and after school, I continued to work in the investment business on the real estate side. I got my own real estate license about 10 years ago – it didn’t make sense to pay agents when I could do everything myself. I brokered my own deals through my own company at the time, McGee Capital. When I got my license, I approached the real estate industry from a unique perspective, thanks to my tech background.
A couple of years into my career, the Competition Bureau in Canada sued real estate agents around price fixing. At the same time, the US applied anti-trust laws. There was a massive public outcry against the industry and it wasn’t lost on me. In 2016, e-signatures finally became legally binding – yes, the real estate industry has always lagged behind other industries. I saw an opportunity to do something special. The online matchmaking model has already been proven in other industries, but nobody had really figured out how to do it in real estate. As an industry insider, I saw how it could work. My technology background, combined with industry expertise and business experience, paved the way.
FL: The company is proving to be a great Canadian success story, but what has been your biggest challenge, so far?
RM: Raising capital in Canada can be very difficult. If it wasn’t for my track record and experience, it wouldn’t have been possible. I’ve actually seen a lot of great business ideas that can’t get funding. In Canada, if you’re not in the oil and gas or cannabis industries, you’re going to have a hard time. Approximately 85% of our shareholders are involved in the real estate industry. They get it.
FL: The company has grown by leaps and bounds in two short years. How big is Nobul and where do you operate?
RM: Our focus, for now, is on North America. We currently have 44 employees in Canada and 4 in the US, and we recently opened an office in India with a team of 11. We’re a brokerage in Ontario but can operate across Canada. We’re also set up in Florida and Georgia, with offices opening shortly in Texas, California, and Ohio. We expect to be across all of Canada and the US within a year. Just like a true tech company, we can scale very easily and cost effectively.
FL: So, what’s next?
RM: Although we currently operate solely in the residential resale market, we’re building an entire ecosystem – an end-to-end hub for real estate, providing mortgages, titles, contracts, etc. The business can expand to new construction, pre-construction, and commercial real estate, but we had to start somewhere. We’re not trying to boil the ocean. For now, we’re honing our core business before expanding to other parts of the industry.
To learn more about Nobul, visit www.nobul.com.