Below is our recent interview with Regan McGee, CEO at Nobul:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Nobul?
A: Real estate is not only the largest purchase/investment that most people will make in their lifetime, it , comprises nearly 60% of the world’s wealth. Despite this, real estate has trailed most other consumer-facing businesses, over the last few decades, from a tech innovation perspective.
Nobul believes that there is a massive opportunity to improve the real estate buying and selling experience for both consumers and industry professionals, and that a confluence of technological changes make this the perfect time to disrupt the status quo.
Specifically, nobul is seeking to bring real estate into the twenty-first century while continuing to respect the elements that already work. Nobul offers consumers greater transparency by allowing them to compare and select the right agent for their individual needs, using a modern online marketplace that is seamlessly accessible via the web and a proprietary mobile platform. Nobul’s cutting-edge service doesn’t seek to eliminate agents but, rather, focuses on helping consumers make informed personalized decisions. Nobul does this by enabling consumers to compare and contrast the services offered, transparent pricing and agent past performance (via verified ratings) through a safe and simple tool (the likes of which consumers have been demanding for decades).
Q: Is it hard to use nobul? How does it work?
A: Nobul is an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand real estate marketplace that can be accessed seamlessly from laptops and smartphones alike. Buyers are asked to provide basic information regarding the type of property (i.e. region, type of home, price range, etc.) that they are interested in purchasing; and sellers, correspondingly, are asked to provide basic information about the property they are planning to list. Agents then review the specific opportunities to represent buyers and sellers that get posted within their region (based on the types of clients they choose to work with) and create tailored offers for buyers or the sellers. These offers are comprised of:
• A commitment to deliver a combination of services. For example: after-hours communication and/or car services for buyers; specialized photography, open house assistance and/or staging for sellers.
• The commissions they intend to charge (for a listing), and/or the cashback that they are willing to pay (to a buyer).
• Their reputation, based on verified ratings submitted by nobul customers who have actually worked with them.
Nobul is unique in this approach, as is our unwavering belief in the importance and power of transparency and choice. We do not discriminate, show favouritism or attempt to pre-determine what consumers and agents want, but rather we enable both sides to communicate and form relationships in a safe, open and honest way based on what is best for each party.
Most important of all, there is no cost for buyers and sellers (in fact, many transactions result in significant savings), and no up-front costs for agents. Nobul only earns their keep when everybody else involved reaches their stated goal: buyers find their dream home, sellers sell their property, and agents receive payment.
Q: Why do we need transparency in the real estate market?
A: Real estate suffers from both information asymmetry (i.e., consumers have often felt left in the dark while their knowledgeable industry professional counterparts called the shots), and a historically sales-focused (“get the deal closed at all costs”) vs. customer-centric culture (“do the right thing for my client even when it’s at odds with my own needs”). Too often, this has led to consumers missing out on the possibility of working with better agents and getting the services that they value, at a fair price.
In the majority of situations, buyers and sellers don’t actually know what to expect and/or what they’re going to get in exchange for the commission fees they are paying. This has manifested in industry-wide concern as competition has increased and anti-trust regulators have taken action, both in Canada and the US.
With nobul, buyers and sellers have the transparency they need to make informed decisions. They see the services that agents will provide, the commission they will be charged, and verified ratings from past customers. They can then choose the best agent for them.
Q: Where do you see the real estate market going in 2018?
A: Real estate hasn’t changed much in decades, but 2018 may finally be the year when legitimate cracks in “how things have always been done” begin to appear. From real choice and transparency for consumers (through nobul’s agent marketplace) to automated customer-centric workflows (which guide consumers through the entire buying and selling process), digital contracts and transactions secured via blockchain (platforms that nobul is actively working on), this year has the potential to be the opening salvo in a series of real estate revolutions. In all likelihood, it will take time for consumers to begin to understand the full power and benefit of the technologies that come online in 2018, but historians will likely look back at it as the point in history when real estate, one of the last remaining holdouts of the digital economy, finally came of age.
Q: What’s next for nobul? Do you have plans to grow, expand or diversify?
A: Nobul is already available across Canada and will be launching in several US states over the next few months. By the end of 2019, nobul expects to be available across North America, with foreign markets coming online in 2020 and beyond.
In addition to our geographic expansion plans, nobul is working on several new and exciting services. Currently, nobul connects consumers to the right agent for them. As we move forward, we intend to streamline and simplify not only the process of connecting consumers and agents, but, in fact, the entire end-to-end real estate transaction process. Our intent is to bring easy-to-understand, consumer-centric workflow management to the market that will help educate and guide customers, agents and other parties through the entire process and landscape. Customers will be able to find the right professional support and services every step of the way: from mortgage brokers and lenders to real estate lawyers and insurance providers.
As we build out our workflow management toolkit and refine our services, we intend to use blockchain-based smart contracts to safely and securely manage the flow of information, agreements, responsibilities and payments across the entire transaction process.