Real estate, as an industry, has lagged behind others in terms of integrating technology solutions.
Most consumers are accustomed to searching for properties online: You hop on Zillow or Redfin, select your preference for the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and can filter properties in a city of your choosing.
But the remaining parts of the purchase and sales processes happen offline.
Once you find your ideal home, your realtor will generate a list of recent, comparable home sales, to help you generate an offer. From there, you enlist a battery of third-party players, including mortgage and insurance agents, lawyers, etc. Since most homeowners rarely go through the process – on average, families stay in their houses seven to 10 years – they just put up with the inefficiencies.
For professional real estate investors, who prospect hundreds of properties a year, those inefficiencies magnify to full-blown pain points. But rather than settle for the status quo, one such investor is working on a solution.
Eric Andrew is the president and founder of OffrBox, an online real estate marketplace and end-to-end transaction platform.
Basic search is a given, but OffrBox allows investors like him to perform a more advanced search. They can customize results to their specific investment criteria, which may include 20 or 30 different elements.
After a search, investors look for information to assist them in their due diligence of a property – i.e. inspection reports, appraisals, title insurance, etc. “We’ve created secured folders on each property page where sellers can provide that information and registered buyers can access that information,” says Andrew.
Investors can then submit an offer on the property through the OffrBox platform instead of chasing down phone numbers to reach a broker.
“All the things you would typically do over 20 pages of paper and faxing and email, we allow them to do in 60 seconds in a virtual negotiation room,” Andrew explains.
Real estate became one of Andrew’s passions early in his career. As a student at Columbia University, he tried to buy a brownstone in the Harlem area of Upper Manhattan when brownstones were being sold for $1. He failed in this first investment attempt but remained persistent. By the time he graduated, he had amassed four rentals properties in the New York City metro area.
While working in investment banking and building a promising finance career, Andrew continued to invest and grow his real estate portfolio on the side. This eventually allowed him to leave the world of finance to pursue his real estate journey.
After developing properties nationwide and later advising for financial institutions, he landed a job at Auction.com – one of the first places to buy and sell commercial real estate online in an auction format.
“That’s where I fell in love with technology,” Andrew says.
There, he launched several business units, including the VIP Institutional Client Management division, where he managed thousands of the top institutions around the country and got to listen to all of their problems, wants and needs.
“[They] really want transparency, ease, speed, [and] the ability to go from search to close all online,” says Andrew.
He left Auction.com and founded OffrBox in 2016.
“Our hypothesis is that we are going push the envelope and take [property acquisition] from the point of search to contract to close, in the same way that you can seamlessly buy a television on Amazon or rent an apartment on AirBnB,” Andrew says.
Things have progressed quickly for OffrBox. The company launched its beta product in November of 2016, and over its first year, private sellers and brokers added more than 6,000 listings to the site and buyers have submitted over $350 million worth of offers. They were also mentioned as one of the top 50 NYC startups to watch in 2017.
The next goal is to complete the sales funnel process by adding enhanced contract-to-close functionality. That also includes the ability to complete the transaction funding and title process securely by using blockchain technology. With that, OffrBox will provide investors with a one-stop-shop to complete real estate transactions efficiently.
Locally, Andrew recently pitched at Pitch Breakfast as he is starting his roadshow to raise $1.5 million to complete the next phase of the platform development. The OffrBox team is also focused globally. Just last week, the company announced a partnership with Bahrain FinTech Bay and the Fintech Consortium to launch the OffrBox platform in Bahrain.
“We want to be the globe’s largest broker without having any retail brokerage chains,” Andrew says.
Despite OffrBox’s global dream, and starting in NYC, it’s establishing roots in Charlotte – not only due to young, educated professionals moving to the area, but also due to the easy access to finance and real estate institutions.