Wednesday July 24th, 2024
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How UAE Proptech Nomad Homes is Changing the Home-Buying Experience

Founded in 2020 by Helen Chen, the startup provides a customised experience, from financing to accessing off-market listings.

Startup Scene

How UAE Proptech Nomad Homes is Changing the Home-Buying Experience

UAE based proptech startup Nomad Homes wants to change the way people buy homes. Founded in 2020 by Helen Chen, the startup provides people with a customised home-buying experience, from searching, financing all the way to accessing an extensive pool of off-market listings.

Chen first came up with the idea for her startup while studying for her MBA at Stanford University. After speaking with proptech startups in the US, and travelling to the Middle East and Europe to study how people buy and sell homes, she realised that buyers often struggle when making a purchase. This is largely because they don’t have separate representation, and agents don’t have a standardised way of working.

“I thought that this was crazy,” Helen Chen, Co-Founder and CEO of Nomad Homes, tells StartupScene.  “People deserve to feel confident and excited when they’re purchasing their home. It’s a big moment, and I wanted to improve this. So, I dropped out of Stanford during my first year, moved around the world four days after my wedding, and then started Nomad Homes in Dubai.”

Today, the startup operates in four countries including Dubai, France, Spain and Portugal, and has raised a total of $44 million to continue growing its platform.

HOW IT WORKS

Unlike other proptech startups, Nomad Homes focuses on providing buyers with a single point of contact, a separate agent representative who deals only with buyers, to help facilitate and improve their experience.

“Buyers and sellers don’t have separate representation,” Chen says. “Normally there is one agent in between, and that’s such a huge conflict of interest. So, that's one of the reasons why buyers have such a terrible experience purchasing in Dubai as well as other markets.”


Chen likens it to a football team, where separate coaches are competing with one another to have a fair chance of winning a game. Applying the same principle, the startup is dedicated to exclusively serving buyers by offering them specialised support that is separate from the seller. This includes providing recommended listings based on buyer’s criteria, negotiation strategies, and sharing relevant data to help people find and purchase their home.

“Fundamentally Nomad Homes is a software enabled marketplace,” Chen explains. “We build vertical software for real estate agents, and an AI copilot for buyers that separates the representation between buyers and sellers.”

NAVIGATING THE MARKET

Despite the young startup’s success, it had to deal with a few setbacks. Founded during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nomad Homes had to delay its launch by three months. “This is where the leadership team has to be very nimble, and react to the market conditions quickly based on what’s going on,” Chen says.

The region’s real estate market conditions also didn’t help. Suffering from inefficiencies such as fake and duplicate listings, incomplete data, and no standardised way of working for agents, the startup had much to do to regain the trust of buyers.

One of the ways it aims to build confidence in the industry is by having a trusted network of real estate agents. Agents who are vetted, experienced and have a good track record of dealing with clients. “We know through our algorithms who is the best agent to go to in which region, and because they’re trusted agents, they don’t send fake listings back,” adds Chen.

However, since real estate is a heavy asset class, the pace of change can be slow. Bringing the industry online and digitising it takes time. “Real estate is the largest asset class in the world,” says Chen. “So, it’s a huge opportunity, but it’s also very slow moving, and very offline. That is why it’s the last and the biggest industry that has not been fully disrupted by technology. We can buy cars online now, we can buy clothing, medicine, but real estate is the last one that’s still pretty offline. And I think that’s just because of the size of the transaction, as well as the industry itself.”

ADOPTING AI

The advent of AI is already disrupting the proptech sector. Transforming the way businesses operate, it has the ability to enhance efficiency, automate tasks, and provide data-driven decision making.

For Nomad Homes, adopting AI can support agents in their work, providing buyers with an even better and more customised experience. By integrating the new technology, AI can draft emails, messages, and provide reminders for client follow ups, as well as prompt agents to have clients pre approved for mortgage if necessary.

“Where we see AI disrupting the industry is actually the role of what the agent does, and this is part of our vertical software for agents is that AI should really be an enabler for agents, making them so good at what they do,” Chen explains. “Taking the routine and mundane tasks out of the day to day, and allowing agents to do what they do best, which is allowing relationships with people and sharing expertise.”

In October 2023, the startup raised $20 million in a series A round, bringing its total investments to $44 million to date. With its latest fundraising, it aims to expand in existing markets, double down on growth and further integrate AI in its business.  “The number one goal for us is to always fulfil our vision, which is to make home ownership simple and efficient,” Chen says. “We want to make sure that we’re delighting both our buyers and agents at the same time.”

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