Torii Homes leader says they’re building the ultimate one-stop shop

Proptech firm Torii Homes is ready to go toe-to-toe with its competitors

Like its competitors, Flyhomes, Zillow and Keller Williams, start-up Torii Homes has founders that want to improve the home-buying and selling experience. In this case, the brokerage and tech platform company’s CEO and co-founder James Rogers felt the process of buying a home was terrible. “They didn’t feel like they got a lot of help from their agent, and the first night they were in their new home, they had no water and no heat,” says co-founder and COO Zach Gorman in an interview with RealTrends.

Rogers and Gorman met at Massachusetts-based Tufts University while both were members of the school’s mountaineering program. “I think it’s a competitive advantage for us as a founder team — we’ve literally been in life-threatening situations together [climbing high-altitude mountains],” says Gorman, who is the marketing and brand expert, while Rogers brings the technical expertise to Torii Homes.

The two founded the real estate brokerage and tech platform in 2017. The platform includes a home search as part of the larger framework, which is a home purchase and ownership dashboard. “We are both a platform and a process. We’re trying to create a platform that changes the paradigm and takes the fragmented industry of home buying and home selling and brings it all under one roof,” says Gorman. That means, going after Zillow on the home search front, Flyhomes, Ribbon, Knock, on financing options and simplifying the transaction process from start to finish.

Zillow has been around for 15 years, but they haven’t really innovated on their space much in that time. [It] remains entirely just a lead generation platform for real estate agents and isn’t designed with the consumer in mind,” says Gorman.

Gorman says that home search in general is outdated. “We use a lot of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning to enrich the search experience,” he says. He says their target demographic — millennial, first-time homebuyers — want to search by lifestyle and experience. “They are looking for homes to fit their lifestyle and needs. Location and price point matter, of course.”

What that means is allowing potential homebuyers to search by room features and quality, like kitchen interiors and outdoor space. “We want them to get to the home they want faster — to make the process more efficient.”

The firm also wants to make the agent experience better, with centralized marketing and lead generation. Agents are paid on a split basis. “We used to pay agents on salary, but we have flexibility with that model,” he says. They are not a discount brokerage, meaning they don’t discount the commission paid by buyers and sellers. “We see discount brokerage models as a race to the bottom. We’re trying to build a premium and personalized services,” he says.

While most agents work remotely now, the company plan is to “have outlets where agents and staff can host clients, have meetings and attend retreats. But, real estate space for us as a business has been an inefficient use of company funds,” says Gorman.

Expansion plans

Torii Homes is currently in three markets — Massachusetts, California and New Hampshire — and have 15 real estate agents, with plans to get to 100 agents by the end of 2022. Next month, they’ll be opening in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

The firm raised just over $5 million in seed funding last year, and is ready to expand quickly with plans “to raise our Series A later this year,” says Gorman. “Part of our big push for our Series A is to raise funds to help vertically integrate the whole stack. We would be your lender, appraiser, title insurer and movers. With those individual business units, we can offer competitive pricing,” he says. Torii Homes currently partners with LeadOff, which allows buyers to make cash offers on a property.

While there is not launch date planned just yet, Gorman says the company will be experimenting and testing “NFT-associated projects for anyone who purchases with us. We would have an artist generate an NFT of someone’s home that is given to the buyer alongside their title and ownership. It’s an extra layer of ownership,” he says.

“I think there is a paradigm shift in real estate consumer’s expectations today, and we’re really excited to be sort of the first to market [to answer those expectations.],” says Gorman.

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