How Unlock’d is changing the real-estate industry
The first time we met with Barret Blondeau, founder of Unlock’d, he was very clear in his vision of the For Sale by Owner (FSBO) market, and the huge opportunity to innovate. It is estimated that 36% of all properties are listed as FSBO, however only 7% are actually sold. This is where Barret wants to focus, and change the approach that FSBO websites have been taking to significantly increase the success rate for FSBO sellers.
With many years of experience as a real estate broker, Barret constantly heard his sellers say they wouldn’t mind doing a lot more of the work as long as it saved them on real estate commissions. With that in mind, Barret set out to provide a solution that gave FSBO sellers the same tools and networks that real estate agents have exclusive access to, while still providing a low cost listing option as currently offered by FSBO websites.
FSBO websites usually only help market a seller’s property. FSBO listings are usually only accessible on that one FSBO website. Once a FSBO seller and buyer connect they are on their own to try and negotiate the contract terms. This is where most sales fall apart due to a lack of experience, and can also lead to a number of legal ramifications.
Unlock’d not only market’s the seller’s property on it’s website, but also posts the listing to many other networks such as MLS, Realtor.com, Zillow, and more. In addition, buyers and sellers can complete the entire real estate sales process online all by themselves. Unlock’d guides sellers and buyers through the entire real estate transaction. Unlock’d automates services one would traditionally get from a real estate agent, such as preparation of the legal disclosures, negotiation and execution of the purchase agreement, leads and showings management, and much more.
Basically, where FSBO websites end Unlock’d continues and takes buyers and sellers the rest of the way until the completion of the sale.
Developing a website that is equally appealing to both sellers and buyers can be quite challenging. Creating a website for a two-sided market requires a lot of strategy built into the design and timing of features. The design of the platform needed to convey a message for two distinct types of users; both “Sellers” and “Buyers” of real estate. Sellers would create real estate listings, while buyers would search for existing listings on the website.
These two distinct types of users each needed their own unique user experiences, however one challenge is that these roles can change for any user type at any time (ie. a Buyer could become a seller and a seller could become a buyer). This meant the features and user interface needed to be flexible enough to support both of these user types and the role reversals that can happen over time.
Another strategic challenge is trying to attract buyers to the website before you have enough property listings added by sellers. On the flip side sellers are trying to market and sell their real estate and if there are not enough buyers on the platform that means less exposure.
We worked with Barret to define the feature sets, and also the strategy of when and how to roll those features out to the different user types.
We took special consideration for the fact that the user base might not have much experience buying and selling real estate. Our number one goal was to design an intuitive website that sellers and buyers can quickly utilize effectively.
We built cross-platform solutions for Unlock’d, both a web application and native mobile applications, so that users are offered maximum accessibility.
Web Application User Interface
To develop an easy to use enterprise style design, we presented Barret with multiple designs from real estate websites. All our UI elements were clean, simple, and easy to understand so the user could easily follow workflows and complete the process.
Our custom workflows make listing your house and handling purchase agreements a breeze.
We designed an effective workflow to list houses on Unlock’d. Listings are always an important consideration as buyers typically look at listings as the first step when deciding what houses to inquire about and tour. Sellers can photograph their property themselves or use an Unlock’d photographer partner for the listing photos.
Sellers can manage the showings or tours of the property directly through Unlock’d. Sellers can define available showing times, and buyers can schedule an available showing time. The seller will be notified and can approve the showing request. The buyer will also receive notifications and reminders once the showing request is approved by the seller. With the mobile application, the sellers and buyers will have even more accessibility for showing requests. You can view buyer profiles for further clarity as well.
At the heart of any real estate transaction is the purchase agreement. This made the development of this module critical for Unlock’d. One of our primary goals was to organize, manage, and track the back-and-forth negotiations between sellers and buyers as it relates to the purchase agreement terms. This critical component allows direct communications between sellers and buyers, eliminating the need for third party real estate agents.
Next, we moved to the development of the PDF forms and E-signature module. Having a legally binding electronic signature solution is critical for real estate sales. Novateus has significant experience with esign legislation and developing compliant electronic signature solutions. We use digital signatures that are FIPS compliant for each signor, which meet the highest standard in PDF signing certificates. The digital signatures link back to Adobe’s Approved Trust List (AATL) and provide embedded validation and audit trail for each executed document.
Chat and Notifications
Communication is key when it comes to managing real estate sales. The management and organization of this communication was a major factor in the successful implementation of Barret’s idea behind Unlock’d. Normally, agents manage and exchange information between the sellers and buyers throughout the process.
The chat module is active 24/7, between sellers and buyers. As soon as a user is online they are notified of any new unread chat messages. Sellers and buyers can talk directly with each other to develop a better rapport.
Mobile Application User Interface
The Unlock’d web application was a very complex development task that included many big features such as PDF forms generation, electronic signatures, data management, document management, leads management, scheduling, chat, and maps integrations.
Our next challenge was to develop a mobile application that included the same functionalities as the web application, in order to make Unlock’d even more accessible for its users. With the absence of a real estate agent, a mobile solution was necessary to keep the users updated in real time. This challenge is what distinguishes a good software development company from a somewhat average one.
The iOS and Android native mobile applications incorporate complex workflow structures in appealing mobile UI/UX. We covered both these platforms so that a vast majority of users can access Unlock’d through a mobile device whenever they need it. Notifications are also more effective when received on mobile devices.
With the automation of each process, costs are reduced significantly. Sellers that were once always uncertain about the amount they would have to pay in commissions to the real estate agent, now save thousands of dollars. In addition to the savings, Unlock’d has empowered both sellers and buyers, by giving them direct access to the process.
Barret designed Unlock’d to offer three models to the seller:
- The Unlock’d: This plan has a flat fee of $399. This plan offers all the basic functionality without assistance.
- Realtor A-la-carte Services: If a seller or buyer need assistance from a licensed real estate agent they can select from a number of fixed fee services.
- The Ally: Unlock’d also offers a full service broker model where sellers can pay 1% + the listing fee to have a licensed real estate agent handle the entire sales transaction.
Unlock’d is able to offer both flat fee or full service plans, that are extremely competitive from a cost perspective. With the use of Unlock’d, sellers have the flexibility to choose a package that best fits their budget, experience, and property.
Chris and Melissa were looking to sell their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Frustrated by the long and tiring traditional real estate process they decided to try FSBO. With months of waiting, they still had no acceptable offers. Disappointed, they considered a full service broker to sell their home. However, they were not first-time sellers and knew they would have to pay a huge commission. Just before they set an appointment to meet with a real estate agent, they heard about Unlock’d.
Chris contacted Unlock’d directly and began working with Barret. Upon a positive review, they signed up, created an account, and listed their property right away.
Unlock’d launched in April and closed its first sale with Chris and Melissa in May. On a showing to the third potential buyer, they found the perfect offer. Unlock’d kept notifying both the parties each step of the way. As soon as they e-signed the purchase agreement online, Chris and Melissa moved towards closing.
“We tried FBSO with no success. After listing with Unlock’d we had a contract in two weeks and saved $12,000 on commissions!”
With the help of Unlock’d people are saving a lot of money and streamlining the process of selling or buying their homes. Unlock’d is a relatively new solution in the real estate market, however customers like Chris and Melissa are already realizing the significant benefits. If you have additional questions about Unlock’d visit www.unlockd.tech.
If you are interest in custom software development or would like to discuss ways technology can automate your business processes, feel free to contact Novateus via our contact page. We are always glad to share our extensive software development experience with you.