RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – If the Triangle housing market wasn’t hot enough already with prices and demand soaring, technology-focused real estate ventures are swarming the region and North Carolina to offer more choices, more information – and more instant buying.

Recently, the technology-enabled real estate company Orchard opened its platform in North Carolina, making it available in both the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham real estate markets, offering homeowners an opportunity to buy their next home before they sell their current one.

Opendoor announced it had expanded to Asheville in mid-February and on Wednesday announced it is expanding to each city in the Triad.  The iBuyer opened markets in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham in 2018, along with more than 20 other real estate markets across the country, now including six in North Carolina.  “We evaluate future markets by looking at an area’s growth, fundamentals, demographics, and housing stock,” said Opendoor general manager Jon Enberg, who is based in Charlotte. “Each of our new markets are ramping faster than previous ones,” he added, noting that though the company does not have any further expansion plans the company “is working toward doubling its markets in 2021.”

And in January, Atmos, a technology-enabled custom homebuilding platform whose founders have ties to the Triangle, became available in each market as well.

That’s not all. Other established technology-enabled companies continue to make acquisitions and add products, including Zillow, which recently announced that the company had acquired the online home showing company ShowingTime for $500 million, and Cary-based Fathom Realty acquired an additional brokerage firm and a technology company in the last few months.

And don’t forget Raleigh-based startup Reignlist, a new national listing service that’s billed as a “one-stop-shop for all things real estate” where licensed real estate agents can post a professional profile, along with all of their listings, for free.

About Orchard

“A lot of people will say that we’re an iBuyer, but we’re not,” CEO, Court Cunningham of Orchard  WRAL TechWire.  “They don’t help you get into your new house, they don’t help you list your home.”

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Open in seven other markets, and headquartered in New York City, Orchard bills itself as “a guaranteed sale option with no obligation,” on its website.

Orchard is different from iBuyers like Opendoor, said Cunningham, and from other technology-enabled startups like Knock or Ribbon that have previously opened operations in the North Carolina real estate markets of Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.  “Our model is far superior because it allows you 95 percent of the time to get the full value of your home,” said Cunningham.  “With Orchard, you’re just paying 6 percent.”  In contrast to Orchard, said Cunningham, other companies rely on a business model that includes service fees in addition to a typical 6 percent commission fee paid on the sale of an owner’s home.

New platform promises to be ‘one-stop shop’ for all things real estate

Orchard offers two options, one for sellers who aren’t also seeking to buy a new property that involves listing the house for sale on the open market, essentially taking the same process that a property owner could or would take with any other real estate brokerage firm licensed to do business in the markets in which they operate, but providing that guaranteed offer.  This offering allows owners to test the open market prior and receive maximum value for their property, said Cunningham, prior to making a decision about accepting an offer from the company.

It’s a value proposition that Cunningham expects to resonate with North Carolinians, at a time when the state ranks as the fourth most attractive market in the United States, said Cunningham, “based on size, growth, and the macroeconomic tailwinds.”

On the buying side, Orchard offers the “Move First” service, in which they allow current homeowners to unlock the equity in their current property in advance to make a more competitive offer on a different property.  If that equity isn’t enough, the company also offers a product, “Boost,” that provides its customers the opportunity to make an all-cash offer.

“If you use Offer Boost, Orchard will reserve your new home for you with our cash, and after your old home sells, you’ll purchase it back from us interest-free,” reads the company’s website marketing the service.

“We allow you to buy before you sell, which really is magic for people,” said Cunningham, noting that for every customer Orchard helps with a transaction, seven potential customers are referred to the company.

About Atmos

Atmos believes that in markets where there is high competition for existing properties, the only viable answer for buyers seeking the perfect house is to build their own.  Their platform, which uses technology to design an entire home based on the contours of a selected lot, aims to guide home buyers along the building process, from lot selection through structural and cosmetic design, through financing and building.  And, they use technology integration as a core selling feature for their service, noting on their website that the process is “powered by technology from start to finish.”

It’s not just new entrants to North Carolina’s local real estate markets that envision technology-enabled products that reduce friction in the marketplace as disruptors.

About Zillow

In the statement announcing the acquisition of ShowingTime, Zillow indicated that the firm’s technology would increase tour volume and transactions for industry partners, including Zillow’s Premier Agents, who pay a fee to Zillow to receive this service.

“Many Zillow Premier Agents are already using ShowingTime and value the ease it brings in scheduling tours,” the release reads.  “Zillow shoppers who request tours are high-intent buyers, and ShowingTime’s service enables more seamless tours for those buyers and sellers.”

Zillow, like other technology-enabled firms that buy and sell real estate in North Carolina, is a licensed brokerage.  And, Zillow is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, a membership group of real estate professionals who have chosen to join the national association and abide by a strict Code of Ethics, including the strict adherence to all antitrust laws.