I have a good friend named Aaron that’s been through the home buying process a few times recently (certainly more than I have). He and I were chatting last summer and he was commiserating about how frustrating it was when his real estate agent would take him and his wife to properties that they could tell on the drive in were not a good match. Aaron said he was thinking “why did you bother dragging us out here to see this home!” At the time, I let that conversation drift to the back recesses of my brain.
Flash forward to last October.
I had a meeting with the executive team here at BrightDoor to discuss some new ideas regarding a new mobile app concept. We already had BrightDoor Mobile in our product portfolio (a client-branded mobile app with listings, maps, galleries, etc). That app includes location based notifications using geo-fences and beacons. The current thinking was to leverage location services and create an app to allow the home buyer to “self-tour” new and existing homes with virtual mobile assistance along the way (using location services to track the user through the home). The idea was sort of an Alexa or Siri for self-guided home tours. We were close to moving that concept into design/development.
Then, a few days after returning from a hockey trip (my son plays travel hockey for the Carolina Jr Hurricanes), I had a glorious collision of my conversation with Aaron last summer along with having used the Periscope app that previous weekend to live stream one of our team’s hockey tournament games. Why wouldn’t home buyers and renters, especially those not in the local market, appreciate an app that would let them direct an agent or friend to remotely tour homes? The seed had been planted.
I immediately started researching the market for solutions like the idea I had in my head – only to find a mere few apps that address only a part of the overall vision. Two other findings along the way cemented in my mind that this was the right path for us.
First, agents are already using off-the-shelve apps like FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Live and others to perform remote live home tours. It’s a behavior that currently exists within the industry (that could certainly be done better). Second, given the considerable percentage of homes purchased sight-unseen (35% in 2018 according to Redfin), I could only imagine that those buyers would have appreciated having a real-time look at the home prior to placing an offer. It was settled – our vision would be to create an easy-to-use mobile app that restored all the inherent benefits of a real, onsite home tour.
Over the following months, we sprung into action designing this new mobile app to let home buyers connect with agents or friends to schedule, plan and direct live video home tours. After a much consternation on naming, we finally landed on “HomeRover”. This spring and summer has been a busy one as we launched into development on the app.
On July 23, 2019, we’ll be formally announcing HomeRover and demonstrating an early alpha version of the app at the Inman Connect conference in Las Vegas, NV. We’re super excited to get in front of early-adopters and thought-leaders to solicit their feedback on the direction. Ironically, when I co-founded BrightDoor in 2004, one of the first events we attended was an early Inman conference in San Francisco. In many ways, it’s like coming full circle.
We’re planning to release HomeRover in the app stores in October 2019 (official launch date coming soon). From my off-the-cuff conversation last summer with Aaron to today – it’s been a fun ride. I can’t wait to see what happens next.