REX Co-Founder and CEO Jack Ryan was featured this week in the Austin Business Journal talking about the company’s plans to expand and grow its office in Texas.
Written by Erin Edgemon, the full article can be found here.
Since launching here a year ago, the technology-focused real estate brokerage firm incorporated as REX – Real Estate Exchange Inc. has grown to 25 employees with plans to add another 80 this year, co-founder and CEO Jack Ryan said. He happens to be among the new Austin employees.
These employees — half data scientists and engineers and half real estate agents — plan to move from their current office on North Lamar Boulevard to University Park off I-35, an office and retail building near the University of Texas, sometime this spring.
-Looking to buy or sell a home? Learn more about REX here.-
With the company currently listing a home a day in Austin, Ryan said he has plans to have as many as 200 employees in the Texas capital by the end of 2020.
Because of Austin’s growth and quality of life, Ryan and his family moved in September to Austin from the Los Angeles area, where REX is still headquartered. REX’s chief data scientist and national sales manager also live and work in Austin.
Ryan co-founded REX in 2015 to create a more effective and less expensive way to buy and sell homes. REX does that by circumventing the multiple listing service, using big data to find the right buyer for a house and automating about 85 percent of the work that a real estate agent historically would do, he said.
As a result, REX only charges 2 percent to sell a home rather than the traditional 5 to 6 percent. Also, REX’s agents are salaried and can broker deals for buyers on other services such as mortgages or homeowners and auto insurance.
To date, REX has raised $75 million, including a series C funding of $45 million in January. REX has sold more than a billion dollars worth of homes and has hundreds of active listings nationwide. Competitors include other tech-based brokerages like Austin-based Jovio LLC and Opendoor, as well as the thousands of Realtors in Austin.
Despite some misconceptions, Ryan said he isn’t trying to make real estate agents obsolete.
“Our goal isn’t to take out agents,” he said. “Our goal is to make it easier, less expensive and faster to sell homes. As a consequence, there is a lot less for an agent to do. We still have to have agents who are holding the sellers’ and buyers’ hands for some things that can’t be automated.”
Ryan said most companies that say they are making the process of buying and selling a home more “tech-enabled” really aren’t.
“They still have a human going around and knocking on doors, handing out their cards, hoping they can get that target customer to list their home with them,” he said. “In essence, they are making the human the center of the transaction. There is no way to really improve the transaction until you say ‘let’s have the AI, the big data, be the center of the transaction.’”
-See how REX uses game-changing tech to market homes differently–
Austin-based Keller Williams Realty Inc. and its founder, Gary Keller, made headlines this year for developing digital tools to “tech-enable” agents so it can leverage the company’s 35 years of agent production and housing market data. It’s the biggest example of a traditional home-seller pushing hard to embrace new technology.
Back at REX, Ryan said he started the company partly so he could give back. REX commits to build a home for every 50 it sells. It’s done so in Cambodia and El Salvador, so far, but Ryan said there are plans to build homes and a school, called Blaze Academy, in the Austin area. Details on the project aren’t available yet.
In a recent interview, Ryan talked about how REX is different than other real estate companies, his company’s growth and Austin’s magnetism as a tech hub.
How does REX do real estate differently — and how do you list homes if you aren’t using MLS?
Buyers aren’t looking at the MLS. We post our homes on Zillow, Truila and Homes.com. Of course, you put up a yard sign like everyone else. The thing we do that no one else does is we get more local knowledge of who the buyer is for your house than anyone else because we know the mortgage of every single homeowner within 20 miles of your home, we know the age of their kids, we know the school district their kids are in, and whether it is a good school district or a bad school district. We have a general sense of the income levels. Can you afford to buy this home? And, if this is a shorter commute to work from where you are currently are. We have all of this data that is out there on everybody so we can predict who the buyer of this home is and say, ‘hey would you like to buy this home? We think it is perfect for you because you can afford it, it’s a shorter commute to your work and it is a better school for your kids.’
You live in Austin now. Why not base REX here?
We started out in L.A. because that is where I lived. But the smartest people in the world that we can recruit, they really want to be in the San Francisco Bay area or Austin because they are tech hubs. They want to be around people who they think have similar interests, similar vibes and similar energy. So, the gravitational weight of our firm kept moving to the Bay Area and Austin, and Austin is growing the fastest of all of our offices. I am here in Austin because that is where the people are.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Austin?
The people by far. I love the culture. I love the people. People here are so polite. In Southern California, we tried really hard to raise our children polite. I thought they were relatively polite when we lived in L.A. When we moved here, we realized they were below average.
What’s your thoughts on the future of residential real estate in Austin? Is the sky the limit?
Austin has been a booming city for a long time. There have been all of these studies done over the last 15 years on what makes tech hubs or entertainment hubs get more so. What’s that swirling vortex that keeps it going? Everyone is trying to figure out how to box that lightning, but somehow Austin has done it. We go to recruit these people from across the country, they all want to be in one of two places, Austin or the Bay Area. I don’t think it is going to change in Austin, in terms of growth. People keep moving here from other states. I do think the sky’s the limit for sure. I’m very bullish on Austin as a tech hub and as a place to do business, which means there will be more and more people coming here.
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