Why Haus is No Uber

Fair" - You keep using that word, I don't think it means what you think it meansYou can tell that the real estate market is recovering because new business models spring up to take advantage of the growing market. We see more articles about  “disruptive” business models, and people outside the industry come up with “new” technology offerings to solve problems they perceive exist in the real estate process. Haus.com is just the latest.

Recently one of the Co-founders of Uber introduced a website called Haus, and because he was involved with Uber, the roll out has more credibility on the face of it. Haus is a negotiation platform. As reported by TechCrunch, the platform lets “sellers put their listing on the platform, where buyers and their agents can both post their offers, amend them, and see an anonymized version of other offers that have been made on the property.” The platform declares itself “Clear for everyone.Fair for everyone.” All parties are exhorted to be engaged in the “fair for all”. The site promises Sellers that Haus will help them sell, agents are exhorted to “List a home the open and fair way with Haus” and buyers are offered an open and fair home buying experience. Sounds great! Who doesn’t want things to be fair and clear? The truth is that the site promises the unachievable and provides no benefit to any of those parties.

Why unachievable ? Because “fair” is a subjective condition. When a child asks their parents if they can have that candy or that toy, or stay home from school and the answer is “no,” their first response is “that’s not fair!”, and yet from the perspective of the parent, their action was not only fair, it was in the best interest of the child. So assuring a consumer that using a particular platform will result in their achieving a subjective state is just, well, unfair (sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

The second problem is that no one in the real estate transaction actually wants the transaction to be fair, they want it to be in their best interest. That may not be the PC thing to say but it’s the truth nonetheless, and it’s obvious to anyone who is intimately familiar with the way negotiations work. The conflicts or interests are obvious at first glance – buyers want to purchase a property at the lowest price and sellers want to sell their home for the highest price. even more, buyers want the property to be in as pristine a condition as possible and sellers want to do as little work as possible. So if the buyer and seller have opposing interests in the negotiations for any property, their agents are required to be their advocates and advance those interests. Agency law requires this of all licensees, and those that are REALTORS are further obligated by the REALTOR’s Code of Ethics, so who is left to determine what’s “fair” in a given transaction?

Uber has evolved into a huge company and is the poster child of disruptive tech companies, but Haus is not Uber. Uber offered a faster, cleaner, less expensive and convenient form of inner city transportation than conventional taxi cabs (though the expansion of the Uber experience, frequent “surge pricing” and the uneven quality of their drivers has made the whole process less appealing today than it has been in the past)  . Haus on the other hand, doesn’t offer a benefit to the agent, the seller, or the buyer. In fact Haus not only fails to make the transaction more efficient or more pleasant, it actually weakens the positions of sellers while creating a danger point for buyers in their making their offer. I can’t see where the product makes the home buying or home selling process more efficient, provides savings to the consumer, or reduces the agent’s work load. In short, to me, Haus is a solution in search of a problem – and that’s a problem that I can’t find.

 

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