Startups

Tech-enabled home developer Welcome Homes is expanding to DC and Philly

The new home development startup just opened its process-streamlining tech to the DC and Philadelphia housing markets, where the average age of homes is 75 and 93 years, respectively.

A rendering of a Welcome Homes house.

(Courtesy photo)

There are approximately a million decisions to make when purchasing a home, whether you’re going for turn-key-ready or something older. Cost, neighborhood and other factors matter.

For those looking to take the build-your-own route, a new startup might be of service. Welcome Homes, a tech platform to help users build their own homes, is launching today in both the district and the Philadelphia region.

Older homes, founder and CEO Alec Hartman thinks, don’t always live up to the modern lifestyle that many homebuyers are looking for. Many properties lack efficiency features and other environmental aspects that can make a home greener, which leads some to build their own homes from the ground up. That’s where Welcome Homes comes in.

The NYC startup, which launched in both the DMV and Philadephia markets today, uses tech to help those looking to build their own custom home. Through its platform, users can browse parcels of land in the area they want to build the property. After purchasing it, they can custom-design their home virtually on the site, connect to financing, get the closing documents and link up with a team of local builders and architects who will do the actual building (as well as an inspector who will approve the property). Hartman said Welcome Homes can do that at a fixed price and timeline, thus streamlining the process.

“When you add it all together, it impacts the bottom line, it creates a new product category that wouldn’t normally exist,” Hartman told Technical.ly. “Tech overall enables people to get more work done faster — and actually try to bridge the problems we have with the disparity between the housing that we want and the housing that we have coming.”

The startup accomplishes this, Hartman said, largely through tech. Much of the upfront site planning and civil engineering is completed with algorithms, which can speed up the process and guarantee a price easier than manually applying for permits. It also focuses on individual homes next to existing ones, versus building a whole new development.

Hartman aimed to launch in DC because of the hot market, he said, while also being an area that needs new (and more affordable) inventory in the housing market. According to data from Black Knight, the median price of a single-family home has grown 25% in DC, 23% in nearby Maryland and 20% in Virginia since 2019.

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The average age of a home in the DC metro area is 75 years; In Philadelphia, it’s 93 years. Through Welcome Homes, properties start at $745,000 in the DC metro area and $805,000 in the Philadelphia area. The latter area has also been deemed a seller’s market as interest in Bucks County and southwest New Jersey booms. The demand is heavily fueled by New York City residents, the company said, who find the commute shorter than many existing popular markets in the state of New York. It makes these areas an attractive, more cost-effective option for home buyers who are returning to their offices as pandemic restrictions ease.

“The market dynamics, the disparity between existing home prices, age of homes, etcetera — specifically in [the DMV] — is pretty pronounced,” Hartman said. “So I think there is a little bit of an affordability crisis, especially for new homes in those areas, and I think we could do something to help.”

With the rigorous regulations in the US, Hartman thinks that tech offers an ideal solution for the current home-buying market. Removing the need for manually intensive work on the planning end, he said, bridges some of the gaps and makes the whole process more efficient.

With Welcome Homes, Hartman said he hopes to create an easier way for people to acquire new homes, especially seeing how difficult it is in the current day and age.

“It shouldn’t be that way,” Hartman said. “It’s one of the most fundamental things that we have in society: being able to have a house, being able to have something you call home and be proud of and love. It maintains the stability of families. It’s an emotional support system. It’s everything to everyone all the time.”

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