Keith Elliott has a vision for making real estate, well, real easy.
That’s why Elliott, along with partner Jamie McConnell, has been working for the last year to develop a mobile app that improves the connection between real estate agents and buyers. By mid-September, the duo plans to launch a private beta pilot of GemHouse.
Elliott, 39, and McConnell have worked together previously at Chatham Financial in Kennett Square, Pa., where McConnell currently works. Elliott is employed by Barclays in Wilmington as an iOS mobile development lead.
The idea for GemHouse, Elliott said, presented itself when he was searching for a home in the Wilmington area.
“When I wanted to communicate [with real estate agents] from listings I found on Zillow, Trulia or just anything I found, it was kind of a battle,” Elliott said. “So I talked to them about some of the technology and what they were using, and just discovered that they’re missing a platform. And they’re very disgruntled and angry about the way that Zillow and Trulia have come into their market space and damaged a bit of their value.”
Previously, Elliott said, the real estate agent was front and center when it came to purchasing a home. And since just about anyone now can search for a home easily via Zillow or Trulia, Elliott and McConnell developed an app with a different approach.
There are two different versions of the GemHouse app, which each draw from MLS listings:
- one for real estate agents, which has a customer relationship management tool, allowing agents to work with buyers directly;
- and one for buyers, which allows them to organize their favorites in a more unique way, add their own photos from home visits and see what kinds of feedback other buyers are providing about listings.
One example where GemHouse can help an agent is this, Elliott said: Let’s say a buyer says she wants to purchase a ranch house. But this particular buyer keeps clicking on Colonial homes. The app also shows how long this buyer (in days) has been looking for a home. With these insights, the agent now knows to shift her focus to showing this buyer what they really want.
“The agent is still very valuable,” Elliott said. “We want to provide another tool to their tool belt.”
The app will also be useful and engaging for buyers, too, Elliott said. Buyers can use the platform to take and save their own photos of a home; rate a home; add favorite locations, such as the buyer’s workplace or favorite coffee shop; add the home photos and descriptions to a message, which makes showing the home to your partner or spouse even easier, Elliott said. Overall, the app provides a new and different way for buyers to curate homes on the market.
GemHouse’s beta launch, Elliott said, couldn’t have come at a better time.
Last month, after being competitors for nearly a decade, Zillow announced it was buying Trulia for $3.5 billion.
“We think the timing is perfect. Wall Street says this merger doesn’t make sense,” Elliott said. “The market is so fragmented.”
In just under a year, Elliott has developed the mobile app himself. The pair have gotten this far by bootstrapping, but hope to soon begin raising capital for further development.