Spokane Journal of Business

Real estate startup Movsi debuts platform

Flat-fee, online brokerage aims to simplify transactions

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-—Mike McLean
Movsi LLC’s Aaron Cunningham and Eric Davidson say their new online platform will enable people to complete residential real estate transactions without the full services of a real estate broker.

Spokane entrepreneurs Aaron Cunningham and Eric Davidson have launched what they claim will be a disruptive technology that they describe as “the Uber of real estate transactions.”

Much like San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. has rocketed to the forefront of driver-for-hire services, Cunningham and Davidson say the Movsi LLC online platform will enable real estate sellers and buyers to work through transactions without having to employ the full-blown services of a real estate broker.

As of last Friday, July 28, the beta version of movsi.com was planned to launch this week.

“We’re striving to perfect the process,” Cunningham says. “We have some promotions for people initially, because we want people to come in and test the system.”

Cunningham and Davidson together have more than 20 years’ experience in real estate. In regard to Movsi, Davidson is the development manager and project manager for day-to-day operations, while Cunningham says he’s developing the “big-picture strategy” for the company.

Cunningham also is founding partner of private money lender Inland Capital LLC, Citibrokers LLC real estate agency, and web and mobile app development company Launched I.T. LLC. All of the companies, including Movsi, are based on the third floor of the 1889 Building, at 120 N. Stevens, downtown.

Davidson’s main duties will be with Movsi, although he also will have part-time duties with Inland Capital, for which he has worked since 2013. 

Cunningham says, “The idea behind Movsi—which is short for ‘move simple’—is to simplify the process for people buying and selling real estate.”

Unlike conventional real estate brokerages, the Movsi platform operates on a noncommission-based model, he says.

“If somebody lists a property for sale, they’re just paying a flat fee, and the fee doesn’t change based on the price of a home,” he says.

Davidson says Movsi will charge about $500 for the listing, lock box, signage, and offer-and-contract services. Movsi will charge the buyer about $1,000.

The lock box will enable access by other brokers to show the property and for potential buyers to conduct site visits, he says.

“The average savings for a real estate seller in Washington state will be over $8,500 using the Movsi system,” Davidson asserts.

Movsi will start with a staff of 10 people and likely will hire additional real estate administrative staff over time, Cunningham says.

The company’s goal is to have 100 listings in Washington state in the first six months of operation, he says.

In the next phase, Movsi will incorporate a system for negotiating transactions involving properties listed by other brokerages, Cunningham says.

“We cooperate with other brokerages, but we haven’t gotten to the spot where we can have buyers make an offer on other brokers’ listings,” he says.

There are other services that charge reduced commissions and fees for lower levels of services than conventional brokerages, but such discount services don’t deliver the exposure or simplified contact services that Movsi will offer, Cunningham claims. 

“We’re licensed brokers. Our clients will get syndication through multiple listing services, which means they’ll be displayed on all the major brokers, and we’ll also give them the syndication of Trulia and Zillow.”

Under the conventional model, a broker makes a certain percentage of the selling price, meaning the higher the price, the higher the total commission.

“If your house is worth $500,000, they’re getting paid five times the amount of money than they would on a $100,000 house,” Cunningham says.

He says, “Speaking from experience, the reality is that the amount of work that’s required is really similar or perhaps even less on a higher-end purchase, because generally you’re dealing with more of an experienced buyer and seller in that situation.”

On the other hand, he says, “When a broker is dealing with a first-time homebuyer, their experience is going to require more time, energy, and effort from that real estate broker.”

Movsi developers have automated the negotiation and contract process, Cunningham says.

“Some companies will put a house on the MLS, and it just ends there,” he asserts. “Nobody else out there has simplified the offer process.”

Explaining how the negotiations stage of Movsi works, Cunningham says, “The buyer uploads (financing) preapproval online. Then it goes to the seller who has the ability to accept, reject, or counteroffer.”

Once the buyer and seller agree on terms, Movsi will generate a contract.

“We’ve built it all into a digital system,” he says. “We’re doing what we call an initial offer system, there’s no 30-page contract involved until you’ve agreed upon terms.”

Cunningham claims customers are hungry for online real estate services.

Two decades ago, 95 percent of people searching for properties started the process with a call to a real estate broker, he says, adding that today more than 90 percent of the homebuyer market starts the search process online.

“There’s been a big transition in the market already,” Cunningham says. “But there hasn’t been a company that’s really tried to enable the consumer to control their own process at a fixed price. We think people are capable of doing the work. They just need the tools in their hands.”

More change is coming to the industry, Cunningham predicts.

“There are people trying to do what we’re doing. I think we’re ahead in the game,” he says.

Most traditional real estate brokerages don’t have the resources that Movsi has dedicated to its automated platform, Cunningham asserts.

“This project is a very expensive project,” he says. “We have six full-time developers working on one project. You’re talking hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to get what we’ve built.”

Mike McLean
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Reporter Mike McLean covers real estate and construction at the Journal of Business. A multipurpose fisherman and vintage record album aficionado, Mike has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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