For most people looking to buy or rent property, the search starts online. Real estate firms and leasing agents adorn their websites with photos that show their properties in the best light. But to consumers browsing these websites, photos can’t replace the experience of seeing a site in person.
Matt Weirich, CEO and co-founder of startup Realync, felt those pain points firsthand. After graduating from Purdue University in 2011, he moved to Chicago for a consulting job. He says he drove from West Lafayette, IN, to Chicago over six consecutive weekends visiting more than 40 properties in a lengthy and largely unproductive search.
“It was a very frustrating process for me, one that was heavily reliant on still photos online,” Weirich says. “They never really told the full story.”
That frustration planted a seed in Weirich’s mind that online, real-time viewing of property would offer prospective buyers and renters a substitute for the time consuming in-person site visit. He and Ani Rangaranjan, Realync’s co-founder and chief operating officer, started working on software to make it happen in 2014. They attended real estate conferences and ran focus groups with real estate professionals, fine-tuning the software before launching it in March 2015. Today, they say Realync (pronounced “REAL-ink”) has users in 47 states and 30 countries.
Now Realync has something more. The company has raised $1.1 million in funding to scale its operations. Meridian Street Capital led the investment, joined by VisionTech Partners, M25 Group, and Charmides Capital. With the funding, Realync is moving its headquarters from Chicago to northeast Indianapolis. The company will maintain a Chicago presence but Weirich says that new Indianapolis hires within the coming few months will include a chief technology officer, two internal developers, and sales staff. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is offering Realync $650,000 in tax credits contingent on the company creating 48 jobs in Indiana by 2020.
Realync markets its software to real estate companies and leasing firms, which have the choice of presenting videos to viewers in three different ways: live tours of a property via a mobile device; pre-recorded video of a property; or a virtual open house that allows as many as 1,000 users to join a livestream viewing of a site.
Alternatives to Realync include Sunnyvale, CA-based Matterport, a startup that has raised more than $61 million for its immersive 3D technology used in applications including real estate. But this option might be too expensive for some. The Matterport camera alone costs $4,500. A much cheaper DIY approach would be using Facetime or Skype to show a property on a mobile device, Weirich says.
Realync falls in between those options. Weirich says Realync is more affordable to real estate and property management professionals, because it works on their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The Realync app also offers more tools for both the agents and consumers. Video tours on the Realync software allow viewers to “walk through” a property with an agent, asking questions along the way and taking notes within the app, Weirich says. All of the live videos are recorded to the cloud, enabling prospective buyers or renters to view them again at their convenience.
Real estate professionals can also create pre-recorded videos by shooting video within the startup’s app. Realync stitches that video together, adding transitions between the clips. Property agents can send their clients a link to access the video from the cloud. When people participate in a virtual open house, they must enter their contact information into the app—making the virtual event a lead-generation tool for agents. The software also offers analytical tools that help property managers understand who is viewing their apartments.
Realync’s software-as-a-service offering is priced on a sliding scale based on the number of units at a given property. But Weirich says the software helps leasing agents gain more prospective renters and close deals with those prospects more quickly. Right now, more than 15,000 properties use the software, Weirich says.
Though Realync started out targeting residential property sales (a market that the software still serves) the company found greater traction in the leasing market. Many of the people who use it are job seekers who are relocating over long distances that make physical site visits difficult, Weirich explains. He adds that the option to view property on a mobile device fits the search habits of millennial and Generation Z consumers, who are accustomed to an on-demand experience.
“Our platform puts the leasing team up front with the [prospective] tenants, live and interactive,” he says.