Tech-enabled tools are making life easier and more efficient – this we know.
For relationship management, in business, we have HubSpot and Salesforce. For document storage and sharing we have Dropbox and Box. For personal money management we have Mint. To access vehicle history records we have Carfax. Really, the list goes on. However, when it comes to the biggest purchase of one’s life, a house, there isn’t a whole lot in place to help manage important records, key contacts and other information that will help maximize the investment.
In recent years, some startups have risen in this space to become the Mint.com for homes. Perhaps most notable is California-based home management software company, HomeZada, which has raised more than $2 million. Now, thanks to entrepreneur, Jack Huntress, Boston has a player in the growing market.
For more than two years, Huntress worked nights and weekends to research and develop his business and product. After raising a small amount of funding through friends and family, Huntress was able to dig in full-time this year and formally launch HomeBinder, “a homeowner’s best friend.”
In the simplest terms, HomeBinder is an electronic records management system for all things relevant to your home. And it goes much deeper than one would think. From contractors (plumbers, electricians, roofers) to appliance purchase and warranty documents, to paint colors – anything relevant to your home, HomeBinder stores.
“Homebuyers today get the keys to the front door, but they simply don't know how to drive the shiny new object they got.” Huntress said. “It's almost strange that for the single largest asset for people there isn't an established records management system to help them with the process.”
Before HomeBinder Huntress, a Massachusetts native and graduate of Boston College, spent the bulk of his career in environmental sciences. In 2001 he co-founded PARCEL, a property due diligence reporting company, which gave him great insight into real estate and property management. PARCEL was acquired by Environmental Data Resources in 2007 and Huntress remained with the new parent company in several roles, most recently EVP Business Development, before leaving to start HomeBinder.
As with many startups, an idea is born from a personal experience. No different here.
“When we moved into my current home, the previous owners left us a stack of information. It was so helpful and got me thinking, ‘this should be the norm.’”
The experience wouldn’t leave Huntress’ mind and couple that with his commercial real estate background, it was only a matter of time before his next venture was born.
Now, Huntress, who is actively fundraising in order to add to his team of 3 full-timers (8 total), increase marketing efforts and continue improving his product, has entered into a market that is seeing more competition. That market, Huntress tells me consists of 114 million housing units in the U.S. with 5 million transactions per year.
HomeBinder focuses on home transactions. It does work directly with homeowners, but its main business is partnering with brokers, who often use HomeBinder as a closing gift. Although a marketing product, it is strategically priced at a one-time $24 fee (for brokers). This puts it under the IRS-levied gift threshold and such that the agent can still leave a bottle of wine on the counter.
A HOMEOWNERS BEST FRIEND
HomeBinder is a full service home management system that focuses on home sales. Sellers can convey the value of their home in HomeBinder reports and buyers can get valuable details to help them manage their new home. As Huntress puts it,
“HomeBinder creates continuity in home management and leads to better experiences in home ownership.”
The product helps homeowners store all their home, property, project, and contractor information in one place. HomeBinder will provide reminders for maintenance items, offer up information on appliance recalls and enhance the process of selling a home when the time comes.
“With information in electronic format we can perform automatic recall checks on appliances, allow for capital expenditure summarization at the point of sale, or perform home inventory in the case of fire or theft.”
Depending on the scenario, the broker or homeowner is responsible for initial information gathering. Some data is automatically pulled into the binder through public records and MLS type data, but agents and homeowners are responsible for more granular information such maintenance scheduling (chimney, septic tank, etc.), appliance details, contractor records, etc.
Of course, HomeBinder makes this process simple. The product is built such that users can easily select and input information. It leads the homeowner in the right direction, ensuring all pertinent details are logged. “It’s a nudge strategy,” Huntress explained.
To date, more than 200 agents have generated roughly 2,000 binders.
“We realized we could offer tremendous value to agents. HomeBinder provides regular reminders to the owner, which serves as a drip campaign of sorts for the agents. Agents struggle with staying in touch and top of mind with clients and Homebinder, on top of providing an amazing and valuable gift, also offers added value from a business perspective as they work in a referral based industry.”
With roughly 5 million home transactions each year here in the U.S. there’s certainly room to make money. More importantly, there is clearly a pain point being solved with HomeBinder. Admittedly, though, Huntress realizes the need for some market education before home management software becomes a ‘need-to-have’ rather the a ‘nice-to-have.’ “We’re tremendously excited about the opportunity to be one of the companies leading the charge to figure this out,” Huntress said.
Huntress has the make up – passion, domain experience and a track record of success – and while HomeBinder is still in its infancy, I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear of this startup. An injection of cash might be all Huntress and HomeBinder need to explode onto the tech scene and into homes everywhere.