I was energized after my meeting with Sam Hosseini, Lead Marketing Strategist, and Shayan Hamidi, CEO and co-founder, of TheRedPin. You see, XConnect’s mission is to explore how technology impacts various (x) industries. At some point between the espresso at Lettieri’s and the tour of the startup’s office, there was no other conclusion to reach: these guys are forward-thinking about technology’s role in changing the real estate industry. It’s clear, too, that they know how to capitalize on the change happening in the space. And that’s very exciting for the Canadian small business sector, for the Canadian real estate economy, and for Canada at large.
TheRedPin is a website that provides an end-to-end solution for condo buyers. We’ve all heard the horror stories about the couple who unknowingly moved into a neighbourhood next to a sewage treatment plant, or the family who bought a place in an area where planes fly noisily overhead at night while their children try to sleep. TheRedPin wants to empower customers with information so that they can avoid those situations.
I know, I know. Normally you expect to find better customer service from real-life interaction with experts. That’s why you still go to bricks-and-mortar retail stores instead of buying online, or why you’ve stuck with your bank and its chequing fees rather than switched to an online bank. Even though TheRedPin’s team of ten includes several licensed brokers to guide you through the condo-buying process, it still seems counter-intuitive to find better service on a computer screen. “We have to show our human face as soon as possible,” says Sam. Creating a superb user experience is both their end goal and their means to achieving it.
According to Sam, TheRedPin realized that buying a home is the most important decision you can make in your life. Signing a bad contract or choosing the wrong neighbourhood not only has huge financial implications for you and your family but also affects your quality of life.
For me, the third-party information TheRedPin syndicates was the most useful element of the service for helping condo buyers make the right decision. The embedded Google Street View is a particularly useful feature, as you can navigate nearby streets from your keyboard. You can find information about the area’s schools and daycares–information provided by the Toronto District School Board and the City of Toronto’s Child Care Finder. You’re able to look up schools’ scores on reading, writing, math, and literacy, and use that information to help decide to buy or not buy. The site provides data on condo pricing and activity for similar condos in the area for the past couple of years, thanks to the Toronto Real Estate Board. As well, each project page is equipped with local information about nearby grocery stores, gas stations, and entertainment. TheRedPin goes out of its way to make sure you don’t end up unknowingly buying a condo right next to a sewage treatment plant or an airport.
The site has other unique features like a one percent cashback incentive, VIP deals to get you in during phase two of sales, and a group-buying program. These are value-adding services that entice buyers to make the purchase through TheRedPin. It’s easy for columnists like me to get caught up in the hype so I passed on the website to a friend of mine as a bit of a litmus test. For him, all of the information was useful but he wasn’t sure why he wouldn’t just then call the builder or another broker with whom he’s familiar. These value-added services are hidden behind a “Buy” button and should probably be promoted better. This criticism, though, was the only shortcoming of an otherwise solid service.
What energized me after talking to Sam and Shayan was the ripple effect this company might have on the Canadian economy. For example, foreign investors can now browse and buy Canadian condos without ever stepping foot in Toronto and trying to find a local broker who can guide them through rules and regulations that might be specific to particular provinces. Making it easy for foreign investors to buy condos is a good thing for those in real estate because either they process more transactions as a result of increased supply or they earn more money as a result of higher prices, supposing that supply remains constant or grows more slowly than demand. Foreign investment is good for our local and national economy, too. You know, the whole Keynesian Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + Exports − Imports = Gross Domestic Product thing. TheRedPin is focused on driving real demand by attracting foreign investors. So all around, it’s good for Canada that these guys are succeeding.
Karim wrote one of his 5 Questions articles back in May and it’s a pretty good read, too. Feel free to head over to his personal blog to see what Shayan had to say.