What if you could write an offer for a property in three minutes or less, using your iPad? That’s the goal of NuOffer, a new player that’s building a negotiation platform exclusively for real estate agents who want to write offers quickly and easily while they’re in the field.
For Sharon Hairgrove, a real estate agent with Baxter Brooks in Corpus Christi, TX, the speed of NuOffer helped her win a deal against heavy competition — before she even left the open house. Prospective buyers were streaming into the house, talking quietly to their agents and strategizing about making offers. Inventory was tight. Tension was running high.
Hairgrove’s clients, a couple in their early 30s who had been in the market for six weeks, were excited about the house — but they knew that it might be tough to win a bidding war.
They were anxious to get an offer submitted as soon as possible. That’s when Hairgrove pulled her iPad out of her briefcase and motioned her clients over to a quiet corner.
For Hairgrove, a top producer for many years who, by her own admission, hasn’t always been on the leading edge of technology, the iPad and the app she opened, NuOffer, were a new part of her offer process.
Everyone knows that a normal offer process involves going back to the office, filling out multiple forms, putting them through whatever secure signature platform you use, then assembling all of that paperwork with a cover letter. Then the package is typically emailed to the listing agent with a cover letter.
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It’s not particularly hard, once you know the systems you have to use. But it’s tedious and time consuming — on the order of an hour or two for a single offer.
But Hairgrove was about to change the game.
Beating the Competition
Hairgrove opened up the term sheet in NuOffer, entered the offer price and the other parameters of her client’s offer into a single screen in the app.
NuOffer then automatically populated all the necessary data into all of the forms that comprised the offer. It even sucked in the MLS data about the property. It prompted her for more information where necessary, ensuring that every field was properly completed.
Once the package was complete, Hairgrove asked her clients to digitally sign the offer docs on their smartphone. NuOffer then presented a Baxter Brooks-branded cover letter. Hairgrove entered a few lines (above a summary of the terms of the offer, which were automatically added to the letter), along with the listing agent’s email address.
Then she pressed send.
The complete offer package arrived in the listing agent’s inbox in seconds. The other agent opened the docs, right there in the open house. Before any of the other agents could even get back to their offices to compose their own offers.
Within minutes, the listing agent consulted her sellers, accepted Hairgrove’s offer, and opened escrow — all while the open house was still open.
Hairgrove trumped the competition and scored the deal for her clients.
A Totally New Way of Writing Offers
Welcome to the new way of writing offers, courtesy of Imraan Ali and Kevin Hincker, the co-founders of NuOffer.
For Ali, a working real estate agent with Keller Williams, Hancock Park, Calif., and Hincker, a seasoned software developer, Hairgrove’s experience represents the culmination of a year of work.
NuOffer makes it possible to write complete offers in less than five minutes. Well, three, if anyone is counting.
“I wanted to build something that I would use,” Ali explains. “Offers should not be hard to write. But when you have to use five different systems, it’s not easy. I wanted comfort, to be honest.
“I don’t want to waste time doing things that are first and foremost, boring and repetitive, and second, prone to error because they’re more complicated than they have to be,” Ali continues. “Offers aren’t hard — but the way we’ve had to write them in the past, it WAS hard.”
A Complex Process Made Simple
When Ali met Hincker through a friend of a friend in early 2012, and described his offer angst, he found a kindred spirit. Hincker had been working on developing mobile applications, and was dedicated to making things easy.
Hincker — who had never developed anything for the real estate industry before NuOffer —couldn’t believe that it was as difficult as it was for Ali to write an offer.
“When Imraan told me what he needed, I kept on waiting for him to tell me about something that hadn’t been built yet,” Hincker explains. “But every time he explained what he had to do in the offer process, I kept on thinking, ‘we can do that.’
“The same concepts were already being used in other industries to negotiate deals,” Hincker continues. “What shocked me was simply that no one had built it for real estate. You don’t see opportunities like this very often.”
After Ali and Hincker’s first meeting, they came away with a spec for a product that would ultimately become NuOffer, which they call a negotiation platform for real estate agents.
The concept was simple:
- Allow agents (and only real estate agents) to complete an offer in less than 10 minutes.
- Automatically populate as much data as possible inside the app, so that the agent doesn’t have to manually fill out fields across dozens of pages of documents.
- Suck in MLS data about the property at hand.
- Enable clients to sign everything using state of the art digital signature technology — on their smart phones, or on the agent’s mobile device.
Early Prototype Impresses Agents
Within six months, Ali and Hincker had built an early prototype. Ali began showing it to other agents.
The response was so positive that agents began contributing their own money to the development of NuOffer. Three real estate investors saw the potential of NuOffer to negotiate their own deals, and invested $100,000. A total of $500,000 was raised in their seed round.
Hincker says that one of the keys to NuOffer’s success is that it solves a real pain point for real estate agents — because it was built for agents by a real estate agent.
“There are lots of technologies coming into real estate that are being built by enormously talented technology people,” Hincker explains. “But they don’t always resolve a real issue for agents. That’s because they don’t have at their core the beating heart of a real estate agent who is making the exact same choices an agent would make. That’s why NuOffer is different.”
“We designed everything on NuOffer to match exactly what an agent deals with,” Ali says. “That’s why there aren’t a ton of buttons and extra features. It’s exactly what you need, when you need it.”
One of the most interesting choices Ali and Hincker made is that the app is all mobile, all the time. There is no desktop version of the app, although buyers can access their documents in an agent-branded web portal. For now, the app is iOS only, although an Android version is scheduled to be released by the end of the year.
Each component of the offer can be completed in the field, on a tablet, right down to the cover letter.
“I wanted the whole process to be mobile, no PC necessary,” Ali declares. “You shouldn’t have to run back to your office to do an offer. We wanted the product to work for everyone, without training. It had to be intuitive.”
That’s why the app includes conveniences like a calculator that automatically figures out the down payment percentage on a FHA or HUD loan. It tells you if you’ve selected a closing date that falls on a weekend.
NuOffer also keeps track of all client texts and emails about the offer, reducing communication lapses and errors.
In the next version of NuOffer, to be released in the next 4-6 weeks, the app will comb through and extract the details of counter offers that are submitted through the app. It will then compare the offers on a side-by-side basis, making it easy for agents to select the best offer instead of wading through piles of paperwork.
You can upload brokerage disclosures and other necessary forms into the app to complete offers. Or upload photos to the app — an easy way to get a copy of the approval letter into the system.
However, not everyone embraced Ali’s vision.
“I was told that you need to design mobile apps for real estate for the lowest common denominator,” Ali recalls. This input was from the CTO of a major state association. He who told Ali that if a Realtor wanted a feature, it was critical that it be included in NuOffer, even if it made the product more complicated.
The same CTO then proceeded to show Ali how a mobile app from a forms provider worked, so that agents could put together an offer in the field. But he couldn’t make the app work — it was so complicated, it crashed.
“It was a circus of buttons,” Ali explains. “It was confusing. As an agent, I would run the other way rather than using that app. It’s got to be simple.”
Simple, But Secure
Ali and Hincker knew that security would be a major piece of NuOffer’s success. When they launched the app, it used secured PDFs, which were geolocated and tagged with the signer’s device identification number as well as the date and time of signature.
In September, NuOffer will introduce a whole new level of security when it moves to smart forms (PDFs that embed tamper-proof digital seals). Future security upgrades include physical media tracking and biometrics, for which NuOffer has patents pending.
Ali and Hincker are also taking pains to ensure that NuOffer is only used by licensed real estate agents.
“Unless we’re able to cross-reference an agent with the local association, we won’t let them use the app,” Agents must enter their state license number to gain entry into the app.
Another level of security is the verification of the buyer. NuOffer sends buyers a text message when documents are ready to sign. The client has to say yes before any signature fields become available to sign. All of this data (time, data, location of signature) is recorded and added to the document’s security credentials.
Available Now in Austin and Corpus Christi
NuOffer is being rolled out first in Texas for two reasons. First, it uses state promulgated forms, which NuOffer has the rights to use.
The Good Life Team and Turnquist Partners Realtors in Austin, as well as Baxter Brooks in Corpus Christi, are NuOffer’s first clients. Some 200 agents are using NuOffer. Just more than 80,000 Texas listings are flowing into the app.
The second reason NuOffer is getting a foothold in Texas, rather than its home state of California, is because Ali and Hincker are taking care to get buy-ins from associations and MLSs before incorporating their forms into the app.
Ali says that the Houston Association of Realtors was an early supporter of NuOffer, along the Texas Association of Realtors. As soon as possible, NuOffer intends to incorporate TAR’s forms, in addition to the Texas State Promulgated Purchase Contract.
Ali says NuOffer will be rolled out next in Colorado, Arizona, Hawaii and Florida. Future rollouts will be determined based on which associations make their forms available to NuOffer — and which associations want to offer NuOffer to their members. But for now California is a distant prospect, due to CAR’s stringent requirements on third-party vendors who want to use its forms.
“I’m not happy that I can’t use my own product to manage my own offers in my home state,” Ali says. “All I can think is that at some point, CAR will have to release its forms. But until it does, we won’t be in California.”