It seems like a win-win scenario for homeowners looking for a change. Put the house up on the market, take the profits and use it for as a deposit on a new home, a month-long getaway or for their child’s college savings.
Then the forgotten fees hit: the commission for the realtor, the buyer’s realtor’s commission, the costs for the attorneys’ closing the sale, the fees for the photographer who shot the photos for the listing, and any costs from repairs.
That’s where D.C. startup homezen hopes to come in.
Founded at the tail-end of 2016, homezen just weathered its first busy market, with plenty of people hitting the real estate market in the spring or summer.
Homezen creates a dashboard for sellers where they can set up a photographer to come out and take photos of their place, assess different legal documents related to their home, list their properties on multiple sites like Zillow or Redfin, help with listing valuations and warranties, and more. Along the way, homezen offers their own expertise to help homeowners with questions about the process and handles all of the legal documents for the user. Their services are either $499 or $699 total, depending on the services needed.
Co-founder and CEO Kevin Bennett said at first, the company was expecting to see more condo listings than anything else. Instead, they saw a grab bag of different real estate listings, from condos to town homes to single-family homes. Currently, homezen is only available to sellers in D.C., Virginia and Maryland.
“Wherever you are in that spectrum in home value, it just ends up being a lot of money,” Bennett said.
Bennett came up with the idea after he sold his first home and walked away from the deal losing $30,000. He had sold the house for the same price that he bought it for, and after realtor commissioners and other fees, he walked away from the investment losing a good sum of money.
So, the second time around, he knew he wanted to ensure that he wouldn’t lose as much. He felt comfortable with the process, but Bennett felt like he just needed a small amount of help. That’s the market homezen targets now.
“It turns out, unsurprisingly, there are a lot of people out there who want to save the money. Most people would love to save $10,000 and up,” Bennett said. “There are very few opportunities in life, actually, where you can add that amount of money to your family’s budget. Most people can put that to work in productive ways.”
On average, Bennett said homezen has helped homeowners save $26,000 per sale, according to a recent study they conducted of their business. For example, one couple in Georgetown sold their townhouse in less than a week and saved $60,000.
Homezen has raised a small amount of capital, mostly from angel investors like Charlottesville Angel Network and friends and family so far. Bennett and his co-founder are Opower alums who worked with the company through its IPO in 2014. Mentors from Opower and other D.C. area companies have been instrumental in helping Bennett and his team grow the company.
Moving forward, the startup has its eyes set on new features, like a calculator to help assess how much sellers will walk away with.
“We worked in startups in different industries and you learn something in each industry,” Bennett said. “One of the lessons we’ve learned is that you can never be too close to your customer. You can never know too much about what makes them nervous or what motivates them.”