Patrick Browne thinks he has a better way for you to buy a mortgage for your condo. And it’s funny because he’s currently living one of the bootstrapping entrepreneur archetypes: He’s sleeping on somebody’s couch without a mortgage of his own.
Browne does have 10 years in the real estate and mortgage industries and a master’s in real estate finance and investment from NYU, however. He also has a prototype.
He recently soft-launched LendYC, a platform for discovering mortgage lenders. To start, he’s focusing on the New York condo market but has plans to expand beyond that.
A sometimes member of the Dumbo Startup Lab, Browne splits time now, between his sister’s apartment in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, where he used to have a place of his own, and his parents’ home in Rockville Centre on Long Island.
“I did not expect to be living with my parents at this stage of my life,” the 31-year-old said. “But I am super thankful that I am able to because it is a huge luxury when you are starting a business.”
Browne knows about bootstrapping a fintech business in New York — last spring he presented a mortgage data business at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014. That business was focused on commercial lending but, lacking traction, Browne split with a cofounder and pivoted to residential lending. Now he is working with a San Francisco-based development team on contract but is otherwise building it out on his own. To test the idea, he has frequented open houses in Brooklyn, standing outside with an iPad to try to talk to homebuyers and agents.
“I spent a lot of time talking to strangers,” he said.
There’s reason Browne is taking another swing at a mortgage-related company. The lumbering financial sector is increasingly embracing experimental tech startups. And the big money mortgage sector is a likely frontier for the $3 billion invested in fintech in 2013, with many early-stage companies beginning in narrow niches to test the waters, according to what CB Insights CEO Anand Sanwal told real estate news site Inman.
Browne is using publicly recorded mortgage data to help condo buyers find lenders that have been active in their neighborhood or even their building. But wait, why does it matter if your mortgage company has lent in your preferred condo building before? In a word: Speed.
“The process for a lender to decide whether or not to make a loan in a condo building involves questionnaires and insurance and financial diligence which can take more than two months,” said Browne. That quirk has made his condo focus strategic, a way to gain a coveted user base before expanding. And there is choice — more than 37 mortgage lenders made loans in Brooklyn one week recently.
The start here is on condos in New York but the process, technology and data culling can widen to other uses of mortgage financing, said Browne. The condo market is surely still dominated by Manhattan, but Brooklyn has gone through a transformation that has fueled “a dramatic change in the real estate market,” he said. That’s represented by the rise of the luxury Brooklyn condo, alongside traditional brownstones.
To keep up, Browne is in the process of adding more than 50 properties to the database daily. Users can use their address to search which lenders have approved and made loans in their building, in addition to how many, the most recent and compare actual interest rates. He’s also growing a newsletter and a blog to build up an audience of prospective users.
To validate his idea, Browne is aiming to build a working product before raising money. That’s no small challenge in New York.
For now, that’s why he’s taking the 30-minute LIRR train ride from his childhood home to meetings in the city. As Browne said in a followup email, he thinks he’s “on the verge” of something.
“It’s a hustle starting a business,” he said.
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