More millennial homebuyers? Digital brokerage bets on it

Brittany Meiling, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Business News

SAN DIEGO -- The founder of a fast-growing mortgage lender is launching a tech startup in San Diego, hoping to help millennials and other tech-savvy buyers find houses within their budgets.

The company, called Greendoor, is building a suite of online tools to help buyers search for houses based on the monthly payment -- one that includes all the costs often hidden from users searching online. Greendoor is also building an algorithm that helps buyers determine which houses or condos are the best deals on the market.

The startup is co-founded by Bill Lyons, the CEO and founder of Griffin Funding, the fastest growing mortgage lender in the country during 2017, according to Inc. 500. The company's other co-founder is Teevan McManus, who's heading up day-to-day operations as president.

McManus said buyers often don't realize what their all-in monthly costs will be when searching for homes or condos to buy, forgetting to add in things like mortgage insurance and taxes. While popular tools like Redfin include payment calculators, buyers still can't search by monthly affordability. There's also no tool to determine if the property is a good investment or not.

The buyers have the upper hand

McManus and Lyons said they're honing in on the buyers, not the sellers -- which sets them apart from other real estate technology tools.

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"The timing could not be more perfect for our launch," Lyons said. "The market is becoming a buyer's market. However, from our research, we've found minimal tools that serve the needs of today's buyer, especially the millennial demographic that is starting to drive much of the economy."

Advanced search tools are increasingly in demand for home buyers of all ages, but especially the younger ones. Buyers aged 36 and below now represent the biggest chunk of home buyers, making up 34 percent of all purchases last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. As this tech-savvy generation gets older, Lyons thinks they'll demand more robust technology for their house hunt, especially considering nearly all (99 percent) of millennials start their house hunt online.

Greendoor makes money as a traditional real estate brokerage would. Just like Redfin or Coldwell Banker, Greendoor employs real estate agents. They're also partnered with Griffin Funding, Lyons' other venture, acting as a funnel for new loans, if the buyer chooses to go that route. Greendoor even offers to pay the buyer's first mortgage payment if they get pre-approved for a Griffin Funding loan.

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