In this series, WeWork’s director of digital community selects a WeWork member to get to know better, sharing her fun findings with the rest of the community.
When I met Thomas Kutzman and Chase Marsh, WeWork City Hall members, I loved their idea of making it easier to tour houses for sale. These two friends met and bonded over their interest in real estate, and working together as a team, they’ve developed the Prevu app to tackle the problems they see in the field. Read on to learn all about their inspiration for starting the company, a better real estate experience for millennials, and more.
Your company is a “real estate technology startup focused on making for sale by owner cool and seamless.” How did you get inspired to create Prevu?
Kutzman: Chase and I met in 2009 while we were working on Wall Street. We always shared a passion for real estate. We were consistently voicing our frustrations with how outdated the real estate transaction process was, and were surprised that commission rates hadn’t declined. Why can’t this process be more seamless and cost less? As we delved into the numbers, we realized that “for sale by owner” is an underappreciated opportunity. 92 percent of buyers use the internet to search for homes, but only eight percent of U.S. homes are sold for sale by owner. And that number has been fairly stagnant over the past 10 to 12 years. Despite all the advancements in connectivity, we found it shocking that more people were not connecting directly.
Marsh: Looking at the competitive landscape, we looked at where the tech spend was going in the residential real estate market, and we found that the investment was going towards making brokers’ lives more productive. For buyers or sellers, there wasn’t a platform out there allowing seamless transactions to take place, allowing them to connect directly with one another. Comparing this to the landscape of our old jobs, there was a very clear parallel. Over the last 20 years, equity trading commission rates declined as market participants were able to trade directly with one another with the help of technology. Thomas and I are very much believers that the real estate market is going to follow a similar path.
Kutzman: A common question we get is, “Why now? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” With millennials reaching the age of becoming first-time homebuyers, the user experience and technology are far more important—they don’t want to deal with voicemails, or phone calls, and prefer text-based communication. Millennials don’t want the same real estate experience their parents had. Being able to see 3D tours and communicate with messaging is far more appealing to millennial buyers. In connection with this generational shift, baby boomers and Gen X-ers stand to benefit from declining commission rates. Four to six percent commission savings is huge for people. Savings for retirees and better user experience for millennials—we think that’s a powerful proposition for our platform.
What sort of experience did you bring to the Prevu creation process?
Kutzman: We were very involved in the creation process with our developers. In thinking about building the platform, Chase and I compared the apps and websites we and our friends used day to day across industries. We drew from understanding those user experiences to build a product that felt familiar, saved time, and offered rich content.
Marsh: There are people that are trying to tackle this problem, but the biggest issue is they are attacking very specific parts of the problem—not focusing on the bigger picture. The biggest differentiator for us is our robust platform that can host 3D experiences, allowing you to communicate anonymously without giving out personal information. Prevu launched with a minimum viable product, but we have a bunch of cards up our sleeves in terms of features we want to roll out in the future. Our goal was to get the product to market as quickly as possible, so sellers and buyers can connect directly.
Anything else we should know about you?
Kutzman: When you look at the magnitude of real estate commissions and how that money can be redirected to change people’s lives, it’s become our mission to unlock those savings. People can use that money to pay for a college education for their kids or a vacation with their family. For me, it’s that mission to help people.
Photos: Tom Bender