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California agent combines passions, real estate and tech

The No. 5 individual agent by transactions sides discuss the flat-fee business model and finding your niche in the industry

Jonathan Minerick says a confluence of factors drove him into the real estate industry. After finishing his contract with the Marine Corps, Minerick went back to school to study business at the University of Southern California. This was back in the mid-2000s, just as the housing market was turned on its head.

“An idea came to me, and I wondered if there was a software-based solution to help people sell their homes and provide them with the tools they need to do so,” Minerick said.

This interest in real estate, and love of programing and software engineering inspired Minerick to create Homecoin, a flat-fee MLS listing service that offers al-a-carte add-ons, like sign post rentals, professional photography, open house kits and lockbox rentals. Today, Homecoin operates in 11 states and although Minerick hold broker’s license in all 11 states, he considers himself first and foremost a programmer.

Minerick’s alternative software first approach to selling homes has resulted in him being named the No. 5 individual agent by transaction sides and No. 9 by sales volume in the 2022 RealTrends + Tom Ferry The Thousand rankings. In 2021, Minerick recorded 1,116 transaction sides resulting in $598.6 million in sales volume.

RealTrends recently spoke with Minerick to discuss his business model and the recent wave of flat fee brokerage models.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Brooklee Han: What inspired you to take this more programming centric path in the real estate industry?

Jonathan Minerick: I liked the scalability of programming. I think that technology always interested me. over the past 13 years or so, it is really fascinating to see how you can write code and people can use it to scale the business. So, instead of working with 10 or 20 people a year, I can help thousands and I think that is really cool.

I am also a very value-oriented person — I like feeling like I got a deal. So, I like providing a low-price product that does a lot for someone where they can walk away feeling good about how much they spent. We provide a reasonably priced service to sellers, and they save a ton of money. So, for me it was a perfect fit.

BH: Can you tell me a bit about how you run things at Homecoin?

Minerick: The main thing we do is a lot of flat-fee listings. So, we make it easy for someone in Southern California, Florida, New York, or Missouri to list their home on their local MLS for a reasonable fee. We have a one-time fee of $95 per listing and that is it.

We list the property on the MLS using our software and then it can get picked up by the aggregators like Zillow. Pretty much every company out there right now is either a brokerage or their business provides software tools to brokerages, but our approach is kind of different. We are a software company that has a broker’s license and uses it when we need it.

BH: Can you tell me a bit about your sellers and typical clients?

Minerick: A lot of our customers are people who like to have more control over their transaction, and they are bit more of the do-it-yourself type. In the industry, we see our main competition as the for sale by owners (FSBOs). We basically allow those people to still do things themselves except, now, for a very nominal fee, their home can be listed on the MLS.

A lot of the people doing FSBO are not opposed to working with a buyer’s agent and they nearly always offer a competitive market weight commission, so we are trying to build software that empowers these people to more effectively sell their home.

BH: Something a lot of agents struggle with in generating leads. How do you go about attracting sellers?

Minerick: There is already a large number of people that use these flat-fee service. It is something like 20% of sellers don’t want to use a commission-based model, so they are turning to these alternative models. There are a lot of real estate investors and flipper, who do so many transactions that it all becomes kind of mundane for them, so they just want easy access to get their property on the MLS.

Another group of people who use us are the FSBOs, who had previously listed their home on Craigslist or something, but now want it on the MLS and want some help with the transaction. Then, we also have agents who have a client in one part of the state but don’t have access to that region’s MLS since they aren’t a member, so they use us to list the home. So, we’re providing that easy accessibility to MLS for the agents as well. We’re not trying to get involved in those client-agent relationships, we just want to help agents save their clients’ money.

BH: Once a home is listed with you, do you do any additional marketing besides placing the home on the MLS?

Minerick: According to NAR (the National Association of Realtors) 90% of buyers find their home through the internet and all those aggregate sites get their information from the MLS. Going back to the software part, it is cool because with the new policies from NAR as far as listing attribution and requiring the broker’s phone number and email to be with the listing, when people see one of our listings and call our number, everything is database driven, so we get the call and redirect it to the seller.

So, for the seller, it is the next best thing to having their own name and contact with the listing. We are giving the most direct connection possible from the buyers to the sellers.

BH: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced as you’ve grown your business?

Minerick: We do flat fee, so it is very low margins, and we make just tens of dollars from listings, but it has been over a decade now, so we have built up a ton of volume over the years. Last year, we did over 1,000 transaction sides. But figuring out how to build a business while you are bootstrapping your way through it tough, but we learned to be efficient with our capital and now I think that is one of our greatest strengths. Otherwise, we are constantly working to optimize our process and make things better and easier for our customers and ourselves.

BH: What are some of the things you are currently working to improve?

Minerick: We are developing new software to make is easier for the customers to provoke and buyers and the agents and schedule open houses directly with our customers and giving our sellers maximum control over being able to manage those open houses.

We have written quite a bit of code for emails to make sure that we automatically forward emails to the right people as soon as they come through. We want to make sure that the sellers get the information, and they get the information in a way that works for them, so we are creating things that allow sellers to be notified of a new lead through text or email. Our sellers have the same powerful tools that many agents have, and they can know immediately if someone is interested in their property or if they want to schedule a showing.

BH: How has the real estate industry changed since you first started?

Minerick: From the flat-fee side, we are definitely seeing the prices compressing. We have always tried to be the absolute bottom price in the industry, while providing the most value. You used to see some places get away with changing $500 or $600 for an MLS listing and you can’t get away with that anymore — it is just so competitive.

BH: What do you like best about working in the real estate industry?

Minerick: I love saving people money. The traditional agents are not our competition. When people look at selling their home, they see that they can pay 5% through a traditional agent or try something like us at Homecoin and spend $100 to just get on the MLS and see what happens. With us people can save $15,000 to $30,000 and that’s a lot of money. So, I really enjoy that aspect of people being so excited when we deliver way more value than what they feel they paid us.

BH: I have heard from some in the flat-fee space that they get a lot of negative feedback from traditional real estate agents. Is that something that you have had to deal with?

Minerick: We get a little bit of it, but I think agents who believe that flat-fee brokerages are competing with them, don’t understand their own value proposition. If an agent thinks that they are competition for us, then if just tells me that they don’t understand what they offer. For example, for a Compass agent, their biggest competition is another agent who is offering the same bundle of services for less. With an in-person agent from somewhere like Compass, you are going to get someone holding your hand through the entire process, and we just can’t do that. So, our main competition is the for sale by owners and the other flat fee brokerages out there.

BH: What is your best piece of advice for someone starting out in the industry?

Minerick: Deliver more value than you receive. There is a great book called “The Go Giver” and it touches on that. If you consistently deliver more value then you are getting, you will consistently get more business.

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