ATLANTA, GA - Looking to disrupt the Real Estate industry, founders Ben Kubic and Jude Rasmus launched Virgent Realty last year. Here's what they had to say about how Virgent Realty is taking on traditional agents and what's in it for home sellers.
Give us the pitch.
Virgent Realty is home selling without the hassle. Our average client sells their home twice as fast and walks away with an extra $11,000.
What's the story behind Virgent Realty?
I founded Virgent while I was getting my MBA at Harvard Business School. A number of my classmates had sold homes to move to Boston, and one night they all started discussing how tough the process had been for them. They hated all the phone calls, emails, and physical paperwork necessary to manage to the process, and they all felt they way overpaid for the services they got.
After spending a few months talking to hundreds of other home sellers and industry insiders, I was lucky to meet Jude, who has been a broker for 25 years, sold over $2B in property, and had been ranked by the WSJ as one of the top 3 brokers in the country. We decided to partner, and once the first version of our platform was ready, we launched in July 2015.
What Problem are you solving?
The average homeowner spends $15,000 and 90 days selling their home using an antiquated process that has been largely untouched by technological advances. Agent quality varies significantly, so finding a great agent who will get a home owner the most for their home in a timely fashion is hard to do.
How does Virgent Realty work?
Virgent is a full service real estate agency that puts the entire process of selling a home online, from valuation to closing. By entering an address and answering some quick questions about their home, sellers can get an instant home valuation with real-time information about their local market. Once their ready, homeowners can list their home with us in just a few button clicks.
We include professional photography for all of our listings, and we list homes exactly the same way one would expect of a traditional agent. Sellers can manage their showings and offers online instantly - no waiting for an agent's phone call or messy back and forth conversations. Our agents take care of all the offer negotiation and closing management.
Client's don't pay us a dime until the day their sale closes, and our flat $5,000 fee is on average $11,000 less than a traditional listing commission.
How much traction have you gotten so far?
We've listed over $12M in property in our first 9 months, and will easily pass $20M in our first full year of operations. Our pool of interested home sellers has grown dramatically - in the last 2 months we've doubled our database of prospects.
This is an attractive route for home sellers because not only will they walk away with an average of $11,000 more after their sale is complete, but they spend 66% less time managing the transaction (e.g. phone calls, emails, etc) than they would with a traditional agent.
We're most proud of the fact that we've received exclusively 5 star reviews on Yelp and Zillow from our clients.
Buying and selling a home is deeply personal for many people. Are home sellers concerned with this?
How can having an online realty company maintain that sense of a personal relationship?
Selling tends to be a much less emotional transaction for people. Home buyers are looking for a place for their family and their future; sellers are more interested in getting the best return on their investment. For those who want to talk to someone, they can call, text, or email us whenever they have a question. We've spent a lot of time making sure our clients have the information they need right when they need it, so our average client doesn't feel the need to reach out too often.
We also have the data to show that we're as good or better than a traditional real estate agency, which quells a lot of concerns. Our Sale Price to Valuation Ratio currently stands at 97.6%, meaning that if our online valuation process recommends a $500,000 listing price, on average we'll sell it for $488,000, which is right in line with industry averages. Our average days on market stands at 29.6, which is twice as fast as the average home sale in Atlanta.
Are you looking to crack the home-buying market as well?
We have no plans on the buying side anytime soon. As I mentioned, that is a very emotional purchase that can't be done online very effectively. If our sellers are also buying a home, we're happy to refer them to some of the great buyers agents we know.
Tell us about your background and your co-founder.
You called yourselves an 'Odd Couple'. How has working together enhanced Virgent?
About Ben Kubic
Harvard Business School MBA, Summa Cum Laude from the University of Maryland, previous startup founder in college which he sold after 5 years. Also a former strategy consultant with Deloitte. 27 years old.
About Jude Rasmus
Real estate broker for over 25 years, $2 billion in home selling experience, Wall Street Journal Top 3 Broker nationally based on homes sold. Founder of Rasmus Real Estate Group. Named one of the Top Women To Watch in Real Estate Tech by Inman News. Never graduated college. 51 years old.
Jude and I have very different skill sets, which has helped us gain traction quickly. Jude is an industry expert who has spent her career valuing and transacting homes remotely, and has used process and technology to drive significant volumes. She's also very creative. I am much more analytical and data-driven, which has helped the team quickly identify which channels have been the most effective for finding clients.
Since I come from outside the industry, I bring a very consumer-heavy focus to our service. Often I'll ask the real estate team why we're doing something one way, and the answer will be "because that's how it's always been done." We often ended up changing those processes to be more consumer-friendly or simpler.
On the flip side, I'll make suggestions, and Jude will tell me why they aren't feasible either due to regulations or from a transaction standpoint. We fill in each other's knowledge and experience gaps.
How are you funded? What's your revenue model?
We are bootstrapped. We receive a flat $5,000 fee once a transaction closes, instead of the 3% listing commission that would normally be paid to a listing agent.
What was the turning point for your company?
I think the turning point was getting Jude on board. She is both subjectively and objectively one of the best real estate brokers in the country and is extremely forward thinking. It's rare that a startup gets someone of that caliber so early on in its lifecycle.
Have you had past successes or failures with a previous company?
What have you learned from them that you're taking with you to this venture?
I started a tutoring company in college which ended up growing over 5 years into handling state and county level contracts before I sold it. Jude started her old brokerage, Rasmus Real Estate Group, from scratch over 25 years into one of the largest real estate groups in the US.
I think we both learned the importance of getting into the weeds with customers early on to truly understand their needs and how we can deliver a better product. We also took away the importance of tracking metrics to inform decisions.
What's the next step for Virgent Realty?
We're continuing to grow in Atlanta, and we're looking to hire people in Marketing, Sales, and Development (both UX/UI and back end). We're also working on a number of new features to make the closing process even easier once a home goes under contract.
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