In 2008, Jessica Buffington was just starting her career in real estate. This was a seemingly bad move, as the United States recession was just kicking in, and many people in real estate were directly affected. Buffington made her mark, however, in Memphis, working with foreclosed and bank owned homes and establishing herself as a well known name.
“I helped build a mom-and-pop company to a multi-million dollar precinct firm because we were representing a lot of foreclosure properties at that time,” says Buffington. “Then the market started to turn around and there weren’t a lot of foreclosed properties. We were actually, as a firm, going into the red.”
After a while, Buffington began to look into a new venture, a firm that wouldn't charge commission fees, but would instead charge one flat rate. Her contemporaries hated the concept, but Buffington wanted to see if it would work, and began to make moves into creating this venture.
“I was basically at a crossroads where I could stay with the company I helped build and become partner, or I could break away and open my own company,” she said.
With only $500 to her name, she decided to start her own firm. This company is HelloHome, and currently it has listings in 17 states, and claims to have saved users $5 million in fees. Instead of charging commission, a one-time fee of $3,500 is charged.
Why is this important? For an expensive home, commission fees can stack up. Many firms charge around 3 percent for their commission, and for those not used to buying or selling homes, this can come as a shock. HelloHome seeks to simplify the process and save money for all involved.
“They pay at closing when their home sells because there’s no upfront fee and it includes a full service agent, it includes all the marketing, getting into multiple listing services,” says Buffington. “We partnered with a company so it has professional photos and then we do one long cut and get their home ready to list.”
The staff's agents have grown in size from four to twenty-five in the past weeks, and will continue to grow as long as the platform provides benefits. Currently, agents on the site enjoy less competition due to exclusive listings, saving time on advertising, as well as less costs to get their names out in the open.
“Depending on the agent, who only work for themselves, they have to go out there and spend money out of their own pocket to try to convert their business. So what we do is we actually convert the listings for them and then match them with a home seller,” says Buffington. “We cut out 70 percent of the work for the agents so by the time they’re matched with a home seller they are basically introducing themselves, putting their sign in the yard and key box on the door, and working that listing.”
Currently, HelloHome is planning to expand across the Southeast, starting in Atlanta and moving outward. The company is preparing to raise funds in a seed campaign to finance the expansion.
“The seed round funds are going to get us to the next technology build as well as adding key hires and hiring more agents,” Buffington says.
Join us in Miami from the 20th to the 22nd of June for the Global Online Marketplaces Summit. Our summit theme is From Classifieds to Marketplaces – Capturing Value from the Transaction and we’ll hear from Global Leaders who are creating the Online Marketplaces of Tomorrow.