How Todd and Curtis decided to show homeowners they could have full control of selling their own home without using a real estate agent.
Before their parallel careers in real estate, insurance, communications and videography converged in the 1990’s, Todd and Curtis thought in terms of how the rapid progress of the internet could benefit end users and ease their nerves about the onset of technology. With DIY Home Seller they aim to help homeowners to take on the responsibility — and rewards — of selling their properties all on their own. In doing so, they seek to lessen owners’ anxieties about both real estate sales and the power of the internet.
“Internet” wasn’t in the dictionary
Todd’s and Curtis’ paths to DIY Home Seller started well before the word “internet” was in the dictionary. Todd began his professional career in the insurance industry in the 1980’s. “I built up an aviation insurance company,” he says. “I grew that company to one of the largest ones in the Midwest and ended up selling it back in the 90s.” He also obtained his real estate license in 1986, and after moving on from insurance, real estate seemed like a natural next step. “My dad had been in real estate for a long period of my life — he said, ‘Hey, you know, what? Why don’t we do real estate together?’” Since beginning his career as a real estate agent, Todd’s sold over 1,000 homes.
Curtis started his vocation in 1992 as an “imaging” professional as a principal in Coaxial Systems Associates, a manufacturer’s representation organization. Right away he was involved with the latest innovations in technology and communications, providing a wide array of clients with closed-circuit television, fiber-optic software and equipment, and electronic security.
“We did closed-circuit television systems electronics for military bases, banks, prison systems and things like that,” Curtis says. “We were manufacturers reps, which means we usually sold to dealers and systems integrators — very technical sales. That’s the sort of thing I did from 1992 to about 2004.”
As the internet began its initial road to popular use in the mid-‘90s, Todd was already anticipating how it could alter commerce for all industries. “I learned a lot about the internet in my insurance business. I had started at the beginning stages of websites when they were still just placing pixels everywhere.”
Todd his father promptly invested $20,000 — in the mid-‘90s, when the internet was still very much in popular development phase — to get a jump on the internet almost as soon as it became a household word, developing multiple real estate websites that instantly became the top-viewed real estate sites in the Kansas City area. Curtis, meanwhile, advanced his career as an “imaging” professional and videographer by spending a good part of the early 2000’s working on TV productions, documentaries, and Christian outreach programs.
As technology — including 3-D home walkthroughs and virtual reality — began making wider strides after the turn of the century, the public’s desire for those features was shaping us as more than a mere trend or novelty. From his base in Kansas City, Curtis began showing various industries how imaging services could impact their businesses, including real estate agencies.
“I would call up real estate agents’ brokerages and ask them if I could come by, do one of their lunch seminars and show what I did. And Todd was one of those people at one of those seminars.”
Todd was intrigued by Curtis
Todd was intrigued by Curtis’ ideas and wanted to examine them further. He and his father met Curtis for lunch, “I didn’t know the technology existed to have virtual walkthroughs through homes,” Todd says. “When I saw that, I had to have a meeting with Curtis because I wanted more information. It was going to be difficult for (real estate agents) to accept that walking people through homes is going to stop at some point. So I brought my ideas of what Curtis could do that would help.”
“Todd and his father quizzed me on all kinds of things,” Curtis says. “He said, ‘Here’s my list of what I think you ought to do with the technology.’ The detailed list was a full legal pad. I thought, ‘Gosh, this guy’s pretty thorough. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with some of the stuff he’s talking about.’”
“So I called him up and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about joining me? You and I will build a national site that we can you know showcase this kind of stuff.’”
Todd and Curtis joined forces to launch 247OpenHouse.US in the mid 2010’s. The online real estate experience was an open challenge to the real estate agency establishment that still relied on open houses and paperwork.
‘Legacy’ thinking real estate agents don’t want to take on the new technology
“Real estate agents believed that the print stuff that you sent out was going to be relevant forever,” Todd says. “They actually would tell me there’s no way this is going to work. ‘We have the system that’s been working forever — why would it change?’ Well, it had to change, because the agent was in control, and they’re not going to stay in control all the time. Technology was changing too quick back then.”
Curtis adds, “With the ‘legacy’ thinking in most real estate agents, they didn’t want to take on the new technology. They didn’t want to embrace it. We had a hard time really selling it to this area. Missouri is the Show Me State — people are a little more conservative in how they approach things.”
“Redfin found that 77% of all home sellers wanted virtual tours,” Todd says, “and only 9% of the real estate agents were even providing it. We started talking to people. We’ve gone to some home shows where we’ve done a lot of interviews as research. We hired a professional pollster to get statistics for us. And we found out that sellers are just sick and tired of real estate agents. I started thinking, you know, here we go. Again. We’re going down another road where sellers were starting to get frustrated because they’re not getting what they want.”
Homeowners Now Have Full Control
That thinking led to another solution: giving homeowners full control of the home-selling process from listing to closing. In turn, that meant teaching potential home sellers the in-depth knowledge of real estate sales previously reserved only for agents.
“We needed to offer a complete course, A-to-Z, on how to sell a home now,” Curtis explains. “Todd designed the important elements for what that would look like — unraveling the paperwork, getting an appraisal, getting an inspection, knowing what your price point was. The psychology of negotiating a deal, closing the contract, how to use the title company. It’s not that complicated to sell your own home. You just have to know a few things. So we said, ‘Well, let’s sell an online course, and part of that will be a 247openhouse account.’
DIY Home Seller is a unique offering, even in an internet landscape oriented toward individual autonomy. With an all-inclusive yet concise video course and access to a wealth of eBooks, Todd and Curtis’ new innovation demystifies the process, letting users put together the puzzle of home sales themselves.
“Todd just loves to help people,” Curtis says, and he’s especially engaged in helping them take charge of the real estate process. “It’s the hard reality of how the market is. It doesn’t care, doesn’t take any prisoners. If we approach it with the right attitude and a positive, innovative approach… you can be rewarded.”
With the massive paradigm shift towards do-it-yourself transactions, DIY Home Seller hopes to prepare home owners for what may become inevitable. “When you look at the technology of Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and those type of companies, it really blows me away. I never thought you’d be able to click a button and get a cab driver or rent somebody’s house online. I never saw that coming.
“Sellers are going to take control of the situation, but they just need to know how. Selling a home isn’t as difficult as you think it is, but you do have to have some information in order to do it.”
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