Unmortgage founder’s new startup wants to make it free to sell your house
Having left his previous company under unceremonious circumstances, Rayhan Rafiq-Omar, who founded Unmortgage, is launching his next proptech venture.
Called Free.co.uk, the startup wants to eradicate listing fees when selling your house, as well as streamlining other parts of the house-selling process. Instead of charging for a listing on Rightmove, it hopes to make money in commissions if you also let the company find you a suitable mortgage.
Prospective house buyers can also use Free.co.uk as a mortgage broker, with the free listings and accompanying user journey acting as a funnel for third-party mortgage commissions.
“I’ve been thinking about this for three years now, but was running Unmortgage. So on leaving Unmortgage, I knew this is what was next,” Rafiq-Omar tells me. “Even thinking of selling your home is painful; there’s just so much friction. And the thought of spending all that money is debilitating.”
To remedy this, Free.co.uk removes “the BS and the fees,” according to its founder, and promises to enable you to get your home listed “in just 5 minutes, from your phone [and] for free.”
Targeting do-it-yourself house sellers, Free.co.uk has online real estate agencies, such as Purplebricks, in its sights rather than offline agencies that charge for and specialise in handholding for sellers that require it. Presuming there are enough of these types of sellers — likely those that have already gone through the house-selling process at least once before — that feels like quite a smart strategy, essentially picking off the most profitable portion of an online estate agent’s customer base.
Explains Rafiq-Omar: “We aren’t competing with high street agents — they exist to hold people’s hands, which many people feel they need to sell their home. [But] for those who know their home, its value and the local area better than any ‘local property expert,’ Free.co.uk gives them a new choice to be in control. Purplebricks is the main/only competition.”
Meanwhile, with the U.K. treasury announcing a stamp duty tax cut to help stimulate the housing market amidst the coronavirus crisis — saving buyers up to £15,000 — Free.co.uk has brought its launch forward by a month.
“We’ve worked really hard to put simple tech in the palm of your hand: listing a home, scheduling viewings, getting a mortgage. All of these are now so simple, you’ll wonder why no one did this before,” adds the Free.co.uk founder.
It seems no industry is immune to COVID-19. Residential real estate, for example, has gone to never-before-seen extremes. Housing markets in sleepy suburbs and small towns are currently “on fire.” Simultaneously, the coronavirus pandemic caused New York City’s normally healthy housing market to come to “a screeching halt.” But that’s not to say all densely populated areas have been affected as badly as The Big Apple. In fact, according to a recent report published by Homes.com, there are at least five major metropolises where discounting has revived demand. Here’s what you need to know about these cities and how to take advantage of pandemic pricing, while it lasts.
Not into the ‘burbs? Try the ‘Burgh. Also nicknamed The Steel City and The City of Bridges (it boasts more bridges than Venice), Pittsburgh is a prime place to buy right now. According to Homes.com, as of late May nearly a quarter of Pittsburgh’s listings were discounted with the average discount being 24 percent. According to Zillow, the market temperature in Pittsburgh is “hot.” That said, it’s still considered to be a seller’s market. In June, Pittsburgh Quarterly published “Pandemic Heats Up Housing Market” explaining how local real estate agents are crediting an increase in demand and a decrease in inventory – as potential sellers are reluctant to list their homes during a pandemic – for creating the perfect surge of buyers.
Jared Ringel, a principal agent at The Atlas Team in Miami, tells Fox News it’s a hot buyers’ market at the moment. Specifically, he uses the word “abundant” to describe the opportunities. “If someone truly didn’t need the cash now and wanted to get a market rate price for their home, they would have pulled it from the market during the pandemic,” says Ringel. “Now buyers have more leverage and it’s the time to strike.” According to Homes.com, in May, 27 precent of new listings in Miami were discounted below pre-pandemic prices. Still, just because the price is low today doesn’t mean it will be a good investment tomorrow. Ringel recommends thinking about the potential for return post-pandemic.
If you were looking for homes in L.A. from March to May, you would have found 63 percent fewer new listings compared to this time last year. However, 33 percent of new listings would have been discounted according to Homes.com. Buyers took note because by June, sales had jumped 40 percent for homes and 66 percent for condos as in-person showings resumed. “Some reluctant sellers who were hesitant in April, May or even June have caved and decided to list their home, improving availability,” explains Bob Bradley, a Realtor in Southern California. He says that at this time last year inventory was higher but so were interest rates. So, is it a buyer’s or seller’s market? Zillow considers the market temperature in Los Angeles to be neutral right now, and the Los Angeles Times reports median home prices are “inching up.”
There aren’t many bargains in Austin at the moment; however, the bargains that do exist are exceptional. According to Homes.com, as of May only 1percent of new listings were discounted. But – and it’s a big but – the average discount was 35 percent. Zillow considers Austin’s market temperature to be “very hot” right now with the median price of listed homes around $405,000. Still, inventory is having a hard time keeping up with demand. June saw a big rebound in sales – actually up 9.3 percent from June 2019 sales. However, unless inventory levels increase prices will continue to climb over the summer months.
Like every other city Homes.com looked at, Chicago saw a decline in sales early on in the pandemic. However, as demand and supply increased in April, prices dropped accordingly. Nearly one-third of new listings were discounted by an average of 26 percent. Still, the best deals might be out of most buyers’ budgets. “Right now there’s tremendous demand for ‘starter homes,’” explains Matt Frankel, CFP and investment advisor with The Ascent, a company by The Motley Fool. “As a result, there’s a stronger demand at the lower end of the market and that means higher-priced homes are most likely to sell at a discount.” That could change though as more short sales hit the market. Currently, Chicago is in one of the most vulnerable counties in the U.S. for foreclosures. That’s bad news for current home-owners but great news for buyers looking to take advantage of rock bottom prices (albeit with more risk).
Unmortgage …. Pandemic Pricing…Mortgage Delinquencies Up