On the eighth floor of Geekdom, a downtown co-working office space, brothers Alberto and Jason Piña are busy responding to customers buying a mobile home. The brothers founded Braustin Mobile Homes in early 2017 as a disruptive mobile home dealership, giving prospective customers virtual reality home model tours and sending customers drone videos of the progress on their build site.
Since January, their customers have also been buying homes using what most of us carry in our hand or our back pocket—a cellphone.
The co-founders soon realized the need for a documents processing app to give customers an easier way to buy a home using nothing more complicated than a cellphone for their purchase. The Braustin Docs app streamlines the home buying process from submitting the financial qualification paperwork to getting notifications on the home building process to the home inspection and final quality check and “punch list” of minor items to be addressed by the builder.
Braustin Mobile Homes began working last summer with another Geekdom startup, SlideWave, to develop a customized app for home buyers to facilitate the often daunting process homebuyers face in their first home purchase.
Millennials now outnumber baby boomers according to a Census Bureau report and it is this generation that is driving change in the real estate market. As rents increase across the country, the number of millennials who want to own rather than rent has increased to about 80 percent of potential homebuyers. With home prices rising, millennial homebuyers are turning more and more to the manufactured housing industry as an affordable alternative. This population shift is driving builders like Braustin to accommodate the needs of its buyers.
“Millennials are the largest segment in the mobile home buying market, and they’re used to buying things on their cell phones using an app,” Alberto Piña said. “Of our buyers, fully 85 percent are under 30.”
David Daeschler, CEO and founder of SlideWave, which specializes in customer-centric software development, heard about Braustin’s operational backlogs that made the home buying process slow for both buyers and Braustin’s team.
“It sounded like they needed some process improvement,” Daeschler said. “We discovered some points in their process that could benefit from software applications and automation, where could we put 20 percent of effort for an 80 percent improvement in the paperwork process for mortgage loans.”
The app reduces delays in sending information back and forth with automated notifications of needed paperwork. It guides the buyer through the entire home buying experience with prompts on next steps and all paperwork is sent and tracked electronically.
“The buyer and selling team receive the same notifications so there is increased transparency in the buying process and everyone is on the same page,” Daeschler said. “It results in a lot less lag time.”
Braustin Docs will address the startup’s need for a streamlined home buying experience, something Piña discovered the entire homebuilding industry struggles with nationally.
“The app allows us to present the massive list of required buyer documents in an easily digestible format,” Piña said. “Buyers can use their cellphone to scan documents and send them back to us.”
The app launched in late January and its initial beta phase has helped the startup score some early wins, such as the first-time 22-year-old buyer with no credit card who was able to complete the mortgage process in two days without any coaching on the process, Piña said. The founders applied for and gained a spot in Geekdom’s pre-accelerator program and the entire team is currently in the program’s first cohort.
The startup aims to put as many working people as possible into affordable, well-built homes at a price point typically around $28 to $29 per square foot. The average cost of new residential construction in San Antonio runs around $115 per square foot with the national average at $125 per square foot.
“Our goal in starting Braustin Mobile Homes was to help bring more affordable housing options to buyers,” Piña said. We can’t do that alone, but with this app, we can bring the industry along with us.”
The nation’s first virtual mobile home dealership is intent on doubling the company’s size by the end of 2018. The founders have consistently leveraged the use of technology as a means of driving down operational costs to pass savings onto homebuyers. The Braustin Docs app will help keep building costs low and backlog to a minimum. Braustin will use what it learned in the pre-accelerator experience to finish app development and work on scaling up its operations.
“Braustin is unique in that their new business model arose when they discovered some unsolved problems in the manufactured housing industry,” Alamo Angels director Chris Burney said. “Their team has deep experience in the industry and have demonstrated their commitment to the new business through developing an initial application and conducting market validation.”
Since the startup’s launch in 2017, the builders have put people into 59 homes as of the end of May, according to Piña.
“We’ve managed to do that just from selling from these tables at Geekdom,” Piña said. “We feel the pre-accelerator will give us guidance on our business model, mentorship, and pitch practice so we can grow that number and help even more people become homeowners.”
Featured image is of Jason Piña (left) and Ernest Gomez of Braustin Mobile Homes responding to clients from the eight floor of Geekdom. Photo credit: Iris Gonzalez.