Ernie Graham is a self-described “computer geek”—not surprising as the founder of a company called Homebot. For those unfamiliar, Homebot helps LOs and agents increase business by educating clients on building wealth through homeownership.
Each month, customers are sent reports on their home value with refinance options, tips on saving money, and smart ways to use equity. The company’s successes include the 2020 HousingWire Tech100 Mortgage award and an acquisition by venture capital firm ASG for an undisclosed amount.
Whiteboard CEO Kevin Ducey spoke with Ernie to find out Homebot’s backstory and see what he’s learned about real estate along the way.
From tech to Telluride
“I was part of that go-go 90s, the dot bomb era. You know it was great until it was terrible,” Ernie says, about his early years in technology. With the industry collapse and personal burnout, he took a break from tech, moving to Telluride, a small resort town nestled in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Here, Ernie decided the only way he could make a good living was in real estate. So for the next 10 years that’s what he did, wearing multiple industry hats—broker, brokerage owner, developer, and MLS director.
The time spent in Telluride made him aware that he could work with tech and be involved in real estate at the same time.
“This was kind of my first exposure with the process and problems of real estate both at a practitioner level but really at the homeowner level for the problems I was trying to solve in an unscalable way for years from my clients,” Ernie admitted.
"Pissed off" at real estate tech
Ernie eventually moved back to Denver bringing this real estate experience into the tech world. After selling a small company to Realtor.com in 2011, he joined them as head of their R&D team. This is when he says he got “pissed off.”
“For all of their [Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow] resources and for all of their smarts, it was about dopamine. It was about getting people to click on stuff and to sell late leads,” he says. “I looked at that and was like whoa! whoa! whoa! whoa! The home is the largest asset the individual American will ever own. They’re retiring on home equity, and the best you can do is give them a game to play of clicking on stuff.”
This disgust with the industry was the impetus for creating Homebot.
“I want[ed] to build something for the homeowner, the buyer, Holly Homeowner, that really helps her build wealth with homeownership,” he said.
Providing intrinsic value
LOs and agents work hard year-after-year on name recognition and building their brands. But Ernie argues that you have to do more or risk becoming almost anonymous with your clients.
“Our industry was sold a bill of goods 10-15 years ago that if you could just get people to remember your name that you would do good business with them,” Ernie said.
“The problem though is that today, name or brand recall actually isn’t enough.There actually has to be value attached to your name for someone to remember it.”
Ernie says you might remember your LO’s name for about 13 months (based on research), but after this, the value he creates for you fades—and so does your ability to recall his name. He also says top-producing LOs have been victims of their own success.
Here’s why. If you’ve built a business with hundreds or even thousands of customers over the years, it’s impossible to maintain social relationships with everyone. Sending gifts, coffee meetings, get-togethers—all things that can help build value in a relationship. However, with Homebot, you can still provide value at scale for each customer, month after, month with little effort on your end.
Video for Homebot
One feature that Ernie has wanted for years and feels will add another dimension to Homebot is their recently released Video Manager. LOs and agents will be able to offer an even more personalized experience for their customers with videos added to the reports. He thinks this new feature will be the most powerful they’ve ever included.
Though creating videos takes time, there are ways to scale it. And there’s no question that video is one of the most effective channels for real estate professionals. It’s yet another way for the company to provide what has always been Ernie’s reason for starting on this real estate-tech journey.
“Our job at Homebot is to innovate and create as much due value as our brains can conceive for you. Because to the extent that that’s valuable to you, not just cute, not just addictive but really intrinsically valuable, that makes it even more powerful to keep [your LO] top of mind for you as somebody you would trust and do business with.”
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At Whiteboard CRM we love having conversations with top producers and and industry insiders who are willing to share their stories and success tips. Check out our blog to see who else Kevin had been having chats with lately!