It feels strange to call 2020 a “successful” year, but for one tech company, that was the case.
Orchard, a home-buying and selling marketplace founded in 2017, raised a whopping $69 million Series C funding in September, launched a new platform to digitize the entire home-buying process, and was named one of the “best places to work for innovators” by Fast Company.
Not too shabby, huh?
“We’re incredibly proud of these achievements, but we view those as side effects of building a strong and growing business that puts its customers’ success first and treats its employees with respect,” Greg Aponte, head of investments and data science, told Built In Austin.
According to Aponte, Orchard was well-poised coming into the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic due to its talented team, which pairs tech and non-tech employees on collaborative projects, as well as its foresight into the future of homebuying.
“Consumers value and now come to expect a convenient, technology-forward experience when they are buying and selling homes,” Aponte said.
With Orchard’s new easy-to-use platform, homeowners and buyers can find everything they need to complete a real estate transaction in one place: listings, mortgage applications, 3D home tours, real-time feedback from buyers, signable documents, and more.
If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that contactless, digital processes are the way of the future — both for real estate and dozens of other industries. The faster companies can adapt, the better. Aponte sat down with Built In to share how Orchard has taken advantage of a hot market and what the company expects for 2021.
The U.S. (and global) business landscape has drastically shifted in the last six months. Why was your business well-poised to not just weather but thrive throughout the last six months and beyond?
We were well-positioned coming into COVID-19, and unlike some companies in our space, we were able to operate through the pandemic and continue to make offers to customers. In particular, we think the following aspects of our products and services resonated particularly well with consumers: The ability to buy before you sell. The housing market is very competitive right now — it’s a sellers’ market — so it is challenging to buy with a contingent offer. Orchard turns customers into non-contingent buyers, a huge advantage.
Home discovery tools like our Home Match Quiz, which makes looking for homes easy, allows users to rule out the duds more easily (and avoid an in-person tour that would otherwise be a waste of time).
Orchard also allows users to skip old-home showings, so homeowners can avoid strangers walking through their home while they live there.
Finally, we offer seamless digital closing, powered by Orchard National Title and Orchard Home Loans.
We expect the strength that housing and real estate saw in the back-half of 2020 to continue.”
Define “success” at Orchard. What has a recent major win for your business been? What do you attribute that win to?
We are fortunate to have had a major funding event and won several awards over the past six months. We’re incredibly proud of these achievements, but we view those as side effects of building a strong and growing business that puts its customers’ success first and treats its employees with respect.
During that time frame we have done quite a bit to increase the value we deliver to our customers, including the rollout of our customer dashboard and the introduction of a new service that provides guaranteed offers for customers who are only looking to sell.
What big trends do you predict for your industry in 2021? How is Orchard positioned to capitalize on these trends?
First and foremost, we expect the strength that housing and real estate saw in the back-half of 2020 to continue, which will be a big tailwind for our industry. On the demand side of the equation, lowest-ever mortgage rates should continue, which will be a significant boon to sales and prices. And we don’t anticipate there to be significant increases in supply with most forbearance plans ending in loan modifications allowing people to stay in their homes and only a small number resulting in sales, and an even smaller number resulting in actual foreclosures.
Generally speaking, our consumer thesis pre-COVID-19 has only been reinforced by the experience of the pandemic: consumers value and now come to expect a convenient, technology-forward experience when they are buying and selling homes. As an integrated brokerage with a software platform that unifies the activities of our agents, escrow officers and loan officers, we believe we are very well-positioned to deliver on those expectations.