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50 Fastest Growing Companies of the Year 2018

Disruption through Innovation: Real Estate Technology Leader Home Bay CEO Reflects on Road to the Top, Eyes Major Success

thesiliconreview-ken-potashner-ceo-chairman-home-bay-2018Focusing on the no commission, low flat fee pricing model alone is not sufficient to describe Home Bay’s unique innovative technology and expert agents’ customer service platform: Ken Potashner

Technology continues to be a catalyst for change in all areas of business and industry, and the real estate industry is no exception. Software applications and mobile technologies are transforming the industry’s dependence on in-person interaction, allowing residential real estate brokers and landlords to conduct business – including transactions and data access – from anywhere and at any time.

Many real estate companies are pushing technology to next level by providing virtual tours of potential properties to save time and cost. The virtual tour experience is almost equal to visiting a property.

In view of the above mentioned, we are thrilled to present Home Bay, a real estate technology platform that allows individuals to search, discover, buy and sell homes.

Home Bay customers receive an extraordinary consumer experience, superior results and achieve significant savings. The firm provides consumers with a smarter and easier way to buy and sell homes without commissions, saving home buyers and sellers an average of $16,000 per transaction. Home Bay employs a team of top licensed real estate agents to advise consumers throughout the transaction. It also provides a sophisticated technology platform that produces precise local market intelligence and expedites the transaction with efficient, seamless systems that save consumers and real estate agents time and money. This past season, homes listed with Home Bay sold 23 days faster and for $13,771 more than the industry average.

The company was established in 2015 and is headquartered in San Diego, California. It has locations in Santa Barbara, California; Boulder, Colorado; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Tampa, Florida; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Lubbock, Texas.

Interview Excerpt: Ken Potashner, CEO/Executive Chairman

What was the motivation behind starting Home Bay? Brief us about the journey of the company from its inception to present day.

Before Home Bay, Tom and Ryan Owen (co-founders) spent six years at Zurple optimizing the process of generating real estate leads and converting them into opportunities for real estate agents. It became clear to Tom that the transaction itself could be improved through automation. Despite Zurple having just achieved #33 on the Inc. 5000, Tom resigned from Zurple and went to work developing specs for how AI would improve the consumer experience in a real estate transaction. Joe Zulli was recruited as a third founder and was instrumental in both contribution to the vision itself and building the proprietary technology. The technology, even in its initial form, wowed consumers while at the same time providing dramatic efficiency. Work that typically consumed 60 hours for a traditional agent was reduced to two hours. Because customer experience was the number one priority, the founders blended in a team of top licensed real estate agents to advise consumers throughout the transaction. These would be agents with over a decade of experience who had handled in excess of 500 home sales. Just like a traditional Realtor, Home Bay provides services such as pricing strategy, negotiation and closing management, along with professional photography, an installed yard sign and exposure across the web, including the MLS (multiple listing services).

Home Bay is non-traditional both because of its time-saving technology and, instead of a large sales commission, its sellers are charged only a flat fee ranging from $2000 to $3500, dependent upon home price – in lieu of the standard three percent commission charged by traditional agents to sell a home. Once the development was completed, and proof of concept achieved with over 500 homes sold in California, the challenge became to scale the concept and expand outside of the state. The goal was to aggressively grow the business towards capturing dominant mindshare and market share for the Home Bay brand nationwide. That’s where myself as CEO of the company and COO John Todd came into the picture – joining the Home Bay team and adding the means to both finance expansion and quickly build deep and talented engineering, operations, customer service, sales and marketing teams to fuel an expansion that broadened our operations first to Florida, then Georgia, Illinois, and in January 2018, to Texas. To date, we have handled over half a billion dollars in transactions and saved over $10 million in commissions that were kept by our customers.

How is Home Bay positioned in the current market scenario?

Focusing on the no commission, low flat fee pricing model alone is not sufficient to describe Home Bay’s unique innovative technology and expert agents customer service platform. There are other companies in the marketplace that list properties on the MLS for a discount versus traditional real estate agents, but none can compare with our comprehensive and innovative results-driving platform as a service offering. Home Bay is a fast-expanding disruption play that is spreading nationwide because it empowers consumers with a superior customer experience driven by artificial intelligence, real-time answers and an agent support team with commanding levels of agent experience. Because of our technology, we are also empowering the agents we hire to provide best of class service with data and technology to support them. Bottom line, the company is delivering better results than the market at large, even for luxury homes. Last month, Carl Westcott of Santa Barbara switched from a traditional agent to Home Bay and sold his $20M+ home in 45 days and ultimately saved $649,000 in fees. He then immediately invested a significant portion of his commission savings into Home Bay.

Our model puts consumers first. It gives customers a superior experience and significant cost savings, which is long overdue for this very tradition-bound category. Given the success we have had, we are eager to bring this great value and remarkable support platform to consumers all across the country.

What are the pain points of real estate industry addressed by the company?

Consumer pain points:

  • It is way too expensive to sell a house
  • Sellers have no tools for transparency that allow visibility into the process
  • Sellers have no control over how their property is marketed
  • Sellers are trusting the good faith of an individual without the benefit of data-driven answers as an added layer of influence
  • selling or buying a home the old-fashioned way is a more expensive, slower, more complicated and a less transparent process. We save consumers and real estate agents a lot of time and money. Specifically, Home Bay provides on-demand data-driven local market intelligence, complete transparency from listing to closing, easy to use technology, tools and regulatory-sanctioned forms that expedite the transaction process and an enhanced customer service experience from an agent dedicated to your home’s transaction. We also put you in control of the process and position you to keep much more of the proceeds. We have more experienced licensed agents supporting the customer. On average, they have worked as agents for more than a decade and done more than 500 transactions.

Have you come across any situation that was beyond your control? Share the experience, if any.

First, and critically, we built our technology platform to handle variability in all respects, including geographic variability at the zip code level. This geo-specific platform positions us to launch new markets faster and with our full user experience available to consumers on day one in a new market. When entering new markets, regulation is an area we cannot control. State regulations and talent pools vary greatly but to date, none have posed insurmountable challenges since we greatly tailor our operations to local markets.

We have great respect for real estate agents, and we are focused on hiring the best. As to competition between Home Bay and agents who work for other brokerages, we do occasionally lose listings to local agents. But our customer reviews are better and our customers scream about us from the rooftops. Over time we are building market share neighborhood by neighborhood.

As consumers increasingly trust our brand, we are a no-brainer for them.

What are the services offered by your company? A brief overview.

Our new approach to the residential real estate is disrupting an industry long overdue for innovation with a fresh, time and money saving approach. Home Bay is the smart, modern new way to buy and sell real estate. Command higher pricing and transact faster with our designed-to-be-easy technology and your dedicated, highly experienced agent helping every step of the way.

Services: Sell a Home, Buy a Home, Get a Home Estimate, Speak to an Expert

For Sellers

Homes sell faster and for more while you keep the entire three percent selling commission

  • For a low, flat fee, Home Bay gets your home photographed, MLS listed and advertised, provides an expert agent dedicated to your sale, and helps streamline the transaction from listing to closing
  • Home Bay saves consumers and real estate agents a lot of time and money
  • Home Bay puts you in control of the process and gains you much more of the proceeds

For Buyers

Showings available on demand and scheduled online for a pressure-free buying experience

  • Home Bay provides access to private agent remarks noted in the MLS that typically only agents can see, and new listing data direct from the MLS
  • Guidance from a pro who has conducted 9X more transactions than the average traditional Realtor
  • Home Bay pays you 50 percent of the buyer’s agent commission at closing


Customer Testimonials and Success Stories

Jessica from Redondo Beach, CA

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I highly recommend selling your home through Home Bay, if you are prepared to put in the time and do the work required. You need to clean, stage and learn the best ways to show a home before listing.

Luckily, Home Bay provides comprehensive guidelines for pre-sale, they walked us through escrow and they answered all of our questions throughout the process.

We did a lot of work to the home prior to listing, so we expected it to sell pretty quickly in a hot market.  However, we didn’t expect to get such a great offer ($10,000 over asking price) just one day after listing.

We kept $60,000.00 in commission and bought a plot of land in Arizona. We are building our dream home - and we are not planning on selling this one.

Nadia from El Dorado Hills, CA

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Home Bay’s system is awesome. It red-flagged the low offers so I knew what I was dealing with. It saved me a lot of time because I was able to evaluate and reject two super low offers without even having to bother to go any further. Everything was so smooth, it was unbelievable.

Besides the cost savings, which is the obvious benefit, the support is phenomenal. Everyone I worked with at Home Bay was so great. They were available to answer all the questions I had throughout the process.

Gary from San Rafael, CA

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Using Home Bay is like having a coach that holds your hand throughout the entire selling process. It’s not intrusive support, but if you need a little extra help, Home Bay is there for you. The information they give you is true and honest and the customer service is remarkable. If I had to describe Home Bay in one word – I would choose spectacular.

What do you think the ‘next big thing’ in technology will be that alters the way you do business?

thesiliconreview-50-fastest-growing-issue-cover-18Artificial Intelligence gets to the point that it is better than the best agent. This is the fundamental shift we are betting on – given the massive amounts of data available, the massive amounts of data we capture daily in our listing, marketing and transacting platform – the automated guide will outperform the individual agent in coaching a consumer through the process. Another one is the advent of beacon technology or location-based technology bringing mobile phone communications benefits to folks travelling through neighborhood. Technology and apps that pinpoint homes for sale, available for showings or that send out alerts about open houses. Especially in markets with a slim inventory of available homes and high demand, any edge that lets a consumer see what’s available quicker.

What is the roadmap ahead?

We plan to be operational in no less than 18, but as many as 25 key markets by the end of 2018.

The Brain behind the Picture

Ken Potashner: Ken has extensive executive and board level experience in high growth, high technology global organizations. He has been CEO, Director and Chairman of several companies that achieved Billion plus valuations. He has served as a director in the US and in Asia of eight public company boards in addition to numerous private boards. Ken was most recently Chairman of Newport Corporation, which was sold in 2016 for $980M to MKS Instruments. Previously, Ken served as the CEO and Chairman of Maxwell Technologies and Sonicblue, which introduced the first MP3 player, the Rio, during Ken’s tenure. Both companies experienced explosive growth by introducing revolutionary technology platforms. Ken has a BSEE from Lafayette College and an MSEE from SMU and an Advanced Professional Director certification.

"We have great respect for real estate agents, and we are focused on hiring the best."

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