Justin O’Neill and his wife said they must’ve bid and lost on at least 20 homes.
While living in San Francisco, they enlisted the help of traditional real estate agents to navigate the extremely competitive housing market. But after striking out too many times, the couple was forced to rent.
Then, they relocated to Seattle. O’Neill was determined to buy a home but wanted to try a different route. “I thought to myself, ‘This is our chance,’” O’Neill said. “I’m going to put every possible strategic aid on my side. And that’s how I discovered Flyhomes.”
O’Neill met with a Flyhomes onboarding agent, who laid out a strategic game-plan. No, they weren’t going to write a compelling letter to the seller to win them over, or try to be one of the first people to view the property. Instead, they’d go with a cash offer.
Soon after, O’Neill and his wife had found a home they liked and put in an offer. It was only the third highest bid, $40,000 under the top offer, but with Flyhomes’ all-cash and no-contingencies backing, the couple (finally) won.
“We had such an amazing experience that I stayed in touch with my agent, we became friends, and I joined the company two years later,” O’Neill, Flyhomes’ director of PR and communications, said from the office inside the house Flyhomes helped him buy. “It feels amazing to work for a company that I entrusted with the biggest purchase of my life. I’m sitting in this home thanks to Flyhomes.”
Flyhomes’ mission is to make the homebuying process easier. It features local experts, a team of research analysts, loan officers and tour agents — all under one roof. It also offers innovative features like cash offers and Buy Before You Sell.
Two years into his new house, O’Neill wants to pay it forward. Since the company’s $150 million Series C funding last summer, Flyhomes has widened its market, added new features to its product line and doubled in size from roughly 500 employees to 1,000 — with plenty more hiring left to do.
Sound like a company you want to join?
Built In Seattle sat down with three team members to learn more about how Flyhomes is disrupting its industry, and why it’s a great place to grow your career.
What separates Flyhomes from other property tech companies?
Chief Revenue Officer Kayti Sullivan: Let’s look at the market itself. The large incumbents in our space are companies like Redfin and Zillow. But for a moment, picture them as Google. When you need to search and discover, you discover through their offerings. Flyhomes is like Amazon in this example. When it actually comes time to transact and get the deal done, we have a complex suite of offerings on the fintech side. We have a brokerage and mortgage business. What differentiates us is that we are deeply embracing that strategy and building out all of the offerings needed to service a complex problem set for our customers.
Chief Technology Officer Tracie Hlavka: What separates Flyhomes is the innovation on the financial services side, such as the cash offer. But we look at our cash offer as simply one portion of a whole set of product offerings and service offerings that we can bring to our customers to fundamentally lift up the whole buying and selling experience. I think many other companies in our space are building entire companies just based on single features. The cash offer and Buy Before You Sell feature showcases our innovative and customer-first mindset. And we will continue to innovate.
Director of PR and Communications Justin O’Neill: We have a very strong focus on the customer — the homebuyer and the home seller — that I think is missing in real estate. For example, when you go to buy your new home, we make it so you don’t have a second mortgage for an extended period of time because we will build a way for you to sell your house to us. And if we go ahead and sell it for more than we purchased it from you, we’ll pay you the difference. Everything we do traces back to the customer.
What has this latest round of funding allowed Flyhomes to accomplish?
Hlavka: We’ve been able to launch several new markets in Texas (Austin, Dallas and Houston). We launched in Denver, and a couple more markets in California. We’ve also heavily invested in technology, such as rounding out our tech team to help build features on the website. We’ve also launched a portal that helps you through your buyer journey.
Sullivan: We’ve also utilized the money for key hires, myself and Justin included (we joined eight months ago). We’re really making investments in hiring the right experiences and skill sets to help build ourselves for scale. Also, taking on a large round like we did from well-known and well-respected investors is a big unlock for companies at our stage and helps us attract and retain great talent.
O’Neill: As Kayti mentioned, I was part of this hiring wave. One of the first things that I got to work on was the market expansion. We had a strong foothold in our home base of Washington, areas of California and Boston. But this allowed us to bring our services to highly competitive housing markets where we saw a lot of demand. This funding only helped us expand our footprint.
How do you maintain culture while scaling?
Hlavka: It’s about effort, energy and care. Culture is carried by the frontline managers, which means people like our dev managers and sales managers across the company lead the way. I lead a leadership training class to imbue that culture through our managers.
O’Neill: Here’s one example. We do a program called Flight School, which every new employee goes through whether you’re straight out of college or joining the company in a senior leadership role. Kayti and I both went through it. Our CEO, Tushar Garg, has a role and presence in every one of these classes. This can’t be taken for granted. It’s a perfect example of how culture starts with frontline leadership.
Sullivan: A key part of our culture is professional growth. We promote from within into management roles wherever possible. That’s an exciting path for folks who want to get in at an early stage of a company and help chart that growth trajectory. I think that’s one of the most exciting opportunities that you get at a company of exactly our stage: real strategic ownership. You get to be a part of building something and help us drive solutions.
BUY, THEN JOIN
Why is now an exciting time to be in the property tech industry?
Hlavka: It’s a very interesting time to be in the industry. Interest rates are rising. It’s easy for everybody to be hyper competitive when housing prices are going up 10 percent or 20 percent every year. But when times get tougher, it separates the wheat from the chaff. Flyhomes is the wheat. In a down market, the cash offer is still compelling. For the seller, it offers a certainty that the house will actually close, because we guarantee it’ll close on a short timeline. And in markets where houses are sitting for a long time, that means the buyer will be able to come in and get the house for less money. It helps the buyer and it helps the seller. I think the products we offer are still really compelling, even in tough markets.
Sullivan: I started at Yelp when Yelp was a tiny, Series A startup of 30 people. One of the big waves at that moment in time was user-generated content and web 2.0. Another big wave was the propensity of mobile. I would argue that Yelp did a nice job riding these waves to a lot of growth. That’s why I was so excited to join Flyhomes — I see the same potential. Real estate feels like one of the final frontiers that hasn’t been fundamentally turned around by technology. Combine that with the products Flyhomes already offers, and I just see this beautiful marriage of being in the right space, at the right time, with the right team and the right values, to go out and make us the wheat, as Tracie said. To go out and disrupt the space in a way that is very in favor of the customer.