Properly: Valuable tool or formidable opponent?

by Clayton Jarvis26 Feb 2020

Launched in 2018 and steadily gaining traction in Ottawa and Calgary, Properly is a tech company/real estate brokerage that promises to simplify the homebuying process. It’s a nifty enough business model: If a user agrees with the company’s valuation of their home, Properly will buy it and then sell it for them; if the final sale price is higher than what the company paid, the net profit is split 50-50. The process greatly decreases complexity, uncertainty and, potentially, costs, making it highly attractive to Canadian consumers.

Properly’s relationship to realtors is a little more complicated.

By providing valuations the company says are 99 percent accurate and eliminating the need for staging, renos and waiting for offers to come in, the company has already targeted the most obvious pain points experienced by homebuyers who sell their homes in the traditional manner. The implication – trust the tech, ditch the human – seems obvious.

But company CEO and co-founder Anshul Ruparell insists the company is no enemy to flesh-and-bone agents.

“The role of the realtor might be changing, but it will never go away,” Ruparell says. “We actually have a number of realtors on our team.”

In Ruparell’s eyes, Properly is a solution to a growing demand among consumers for increased convenience and certainty. “It’s our role, as members of this industry, to adapt to these changing needs and to provide the type of services our customers expect,” he says.

Rather than comment on the potentially negative impact Properly will have on agents’ livelihoods, Ruparell prefers to talk about how the company actually supports its competitors.

“Ultimately, realtors are entrepreneurs just like us, so we like to find ways to work together,” he says. Properly does indeed refer customers to realtors in cases where the company can’t make an offer. It also accepts client referrals from (and pays industry standard referral fees to) agents whose clients don’t have the luxury of waiting for an offer. Properly also enlists other company’s realtors to act as listing agents for many of the homes they’re selling.

“There are a number of ways in which we’ve built up the capability to work together,” says Ruparell. We view ourselves as being highly complementary to the existing capabilities and toolkits of traditional agents.”

Unintended consequences
The problem with tech is that the possible collateral damage left in its wake is rarely explored until it’s too late. Funny how that happens when millions of dollars are at stake.

As an early investor in Airbnb, Ruparell has already had a hand in unleashing one piece of real estate tech that is doing untold harm to many cities’ real estate markets by turning housing into little more than another bloodless commodity. When asked if the team behind Properly had thought critically about any long-term or hidden risks the platform might pose to the Canadian real estate industry, his answers were, to be kind, Zuckerberg-ian in their robotic optimism and inability to deviate from script.

Q: You were an early investor in Airbnb, which is taking a lot of heat, especially in Toronto, because of the part it seems to be playing in the housing crisis. Do you think Properly poses any unintended risks to the industry?

A: Properly is creating a process for Canadian homeowners that’s empowering and certain and convenient. By eliminating a lot of the friction associated with the move, we hope to actually increase mobility and to enable our customers to more easily take advantage of any opportunity that comes into their life.

Q. Okay. So that’s a no?

A. We see it, quite candidly, as only positive for Canadian homeowners.

Q. And for realtors?

A. I think we’re offering new and innovative ways for homeowners to go through the process of buying and selling their home. And, as mentioned before, we found a number of ways to work very closely with realtors to provide our services to their customers.  

Make of that what you will.

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