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Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast Digital Marketing Podcast Hosted by Greg Bray and Kevin Weitzel

130 Digitizing the Home Buying Process - Jason Hardy

This week on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast, Jason Hardy of Ownly joins Greg and Kevin to discuss digitizing the home buying process and the advantages it has for builders and customers.

The recent pandemic accelerated consumer demands for more buying options online, and the home building industry was no exception. However, most home builders were unable to give buyers the online experiences they desired. Jason says, “People weren't visiting show homes and leasing centers and presentation centers anymore. They were going onto the builders’ websites. They were going onto these websites and looking for an opportunity to shop, and looking for an opportunity to get the price, and looking for an opportunity to build and price their home, and to be able to buy that home, but the industry was not ready. The industry was not prepared for it.”

Each home buyer might dictate what the online home buying process means to them and builders will have to adjust to that. Jason explains, “In a perfect world…it's a hybrid. You need to be able to meet the customers where they are and where they want to be. It doesn't mean that one customer that wants the ability to shop and buy online is gonna go through that entire process online. Part of it is going to be doing the research and due diligence in advance online, and some people are gonna be more comfortable taking that conversation offline and meeting with someone in person.”

The key to any online home buying process is getting the entire company onboard. Jason says, “…if you're thinking about having a hybrid model of giving customers the ability to shop, to be able to get verified, to get qualified in advance of making a purchase, to be able to buy online, you need buy-in from the top to the bottom of the organization.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about making the online home buying process simpler and more beneficial to builders and buyers.

About the Guest:

Jason Hardy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ownly, today’s fast-growth e-commerce property technology “PropTech” solution for the home-buying process. The company’s most sought after tool at the moment is Ownly Verified, enabling a simple and seamless experience for validating homebuyers’ identities – ensuring that they are qualified. Beyond defining the future of new home sales online, Jason’s also Executive Director of Real Estate Development Institute, key Chairman of Real Estate Marketing with Chatterson, a Member of the Management Advisory Council for The Haskayne School of Business as well as an Advisory Board Member and the Committee Chair for The Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies.


Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody, and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.

Greg Bray: And we are excited today to welcome to the show, Jason Hardy. Jason is the CEO and co-founder of Ownly. Welcome, Jason. Thanks for joining us.

Jason Hardy: Greg, Kevin. Great to be here this morning. Thanks for having me.

Greg Bray: Well, Jason, let's start off and just help people get to know you a little bit. Give us that quick introduction. Tell us about yourself.

Jason Hardy: First a disclaimer, disclaimer. I have to probably say I'm Canadian. I have to say that out front. so I'm up here in Canada, [00:01:00] Alberta. You know, close to the Rocky Mountains. Banff, that's where you'd know. I'm with Ownly, and we are trying to make the home buying process easier, to put it quite simply, by creating trust and transparency for consumers.

I'm no stranger to the home building industry. I think unlike a lot of tech companies where engineers are the founders, I'm not an engineer by trade. I've spent the past 21 years serving the home building and land development industry. I know it intimately well. I've spent 21 years staring this problem in the face.

Ownly is a new business. We're only 16 months old. Which sounds crazy, and you know, we're really excited about it. I spent a lot of time in the industry, but new to proptech and that's kind of the venture that Ownly is, and I'm learning a lot about the tech world and applying it in the real estate sector. It's been a very exciting journey for us so far. I almost liken it to like building a rocket ship, and that's kind of what it feels like every single day. It's been a whirlwind, but absolutely loving the ride so far.

Kevin Weitzel: Well, that's the business you, [00:02:00] but as you well know, being a listener, now I need to know something personal about you that we'll learn only on this podcast.

Jason Hardy: Oh, man. Okay. Something I've never shared, personal. I've been a drummer for 38 years of my 44 years of living. So, I don't really share that with anyone. I'm a drummer. My father was a drummer. I absolutely love music, and when I'm not working on Ownly, you can typically find me behind the kit.

Kevin Weitzel: Sweet. Jazz, rock? What's you're uh, drawing method in?

Jason Hardy: You know what? A good drummer plays just about anything and everything. I'm all over the map. Some days you'll see me jamming out to some country, some Luke Combs, and the next day I'm playing metal. I'm doing Tool and Primus and Lamb of God. So, it just really depends on the day and the mood, but I love all genres. I just love music in general.

Kevin Weitzel: Man, if you can keep up with Lamb of God, that's incredible.

Jason Hardy: I try. You know, that's not exactly a warmup set.

Kevin Weitzel: No. So, are you a Gretsch guy? A Tama guy? What's your uh, brand of choice?

Jason Hardy: I'm a DW [00:03:00] guy. Like, through and through. You know, I probably started as a Pearl guy for the drummers out there and I moved into DW, and I think I got a little bit more older and refined.

Kevin Weitzel: Nice. Nice.

Greg Bray: And Jason, are you just doing it at home as a hobby, or are you in a group and you go out and do some gigs every now and then?

Jason Hardy: No, just at home. You know, I think, as I'm getting older with a family and kids and what have you, it's hard to justify jam night twice a week in the basement. You know, as the drummer you're usually the designated practice pad, and so I don't get to do that very often. It's usually just by myself these days with some headphones and some good music.

Greg Bray: Cool. Take us back, Jason, a little bit to some of the things you were doing in the real estate industry before Ownly, and just help us understand some of those parts of your experience.

Jason Hardy: Yeah, absolutely. So, long, long ago, I fell into the real estate industry twenty-one years ago. I had finished a couple of years working for Disney in Orlando, came back up to Canada, and when I finished working for Disney, there was an opportunity with this Canadian company that was working [00:04:00] with a number of resort and private community developers across the Southeastern US.

Really great company, great visionary leader. The position at that particular point in time was a communication strategist. It was a, almost an agency-like, but more of like a research marketing consultancy. I really got exposed to some amazing master-planned community projects and resort projects and great mixed-use projects. I fell in love with real estate, you know, really quickly. I didn't know a ton about it, but it really intrigued me.

The thing that I loved most about real estate was that they're not making any more land. You know, it's this precious depleting commodity that's always going away. When you think about the concept of short-term and long-term, in the real estate industry, it takes on a completely different meaning. Short-term is the different length of time and long-term is a completely different length of time.

You know, in every other industry, long-term would mean months, or maybe a couple of years. In the real estate development industry long-term is 15 to 25 years. Patient capital sort of dictates how this market moves, and I just became [00:05:00] really fascinated and enamored with the real estate industry, in particular home building and land development. I fell in love with it, but at that time there was nowhere to go to school. There was nowhere to go and learn.

There was actually only one college in all of the US and Canada that had a real estate specialization, a real estate program. It was Columbia. I couldn't afford to go to Columbia at that time, and so the only option that I had was to gain the knowledge from the only resource I knew about at that time, which was Urban Land Institute out of Washington.

So, I joined ULI my first year in the business and that's where I started to gain my knowledge and understanding. It's where I developed my real passion for the real estate development industry, and I joined ULI as a young leader member. It was like a sub-30 category. I went to the spring conference and the fall conference, and I went to all the different sessions that they held, and I just kind of immersed myself in the ins and outs of the industry, and it evolved into a really great career.

Kevin Weitzel: Greg, are we seriously gonna let him just gloss over the fact that he said, Disney? Which head did you like to wear [00:06:00] the best? Was it the Donald Duck costume? I gotta know. Enquiring minds have to know.

Jason Hardy: I get that all the time. I get that all the time. Which character were you? No. It was amazing. It was great, fell in love with the industry. I really did. I fell in love with real estate and home building and land development, and being able to put your name on a community and be able to impact a community where, you know, generations of families were gonna live for years to come was just so cool to me. Still is cool to me to this day.

I stayed in the industry. I never left. As soon as I got into real estate living here in Calgary. If you know a little bit about Alberta, this is very much an oil and gas energy-driven economy up here where most people that live up in this part of the world work in oil and gas or energy. So, it was very unusual that I didn't want to go into that industry cause it's a very lucrative industry to get into.

I just fell in love with real estate and started to work with a number of local home builders, and good size home builders here. Like, we have some amazing master-planned community development companies. We have some amazing home building [00:07:00] companies. There's a lot up here. Very innovative, always challenging the status quo, trying to stay ahead, and not the big monster home building companies that we have in the US.

Up here, you know, a large home builder was probably doing between 500 and 1500 homes a year. Good size builders. So, we ended up being able to be fortunate enough to work with a number of those larger groups here in Western Canada, and started to do a lot of work with some in the US as well, and been through a couple of downturns. I've seen great markets. I've seen terrible markets. I've seen the come and go of really incredible salespeople and sales processes, how communities are marketed and sold.

One thing that I think expedited my commitment to the industry and my interest in the industry is I got tapped on the shoulder about 13 years ago to start teaching real estate marketing and strategy at the University of Calgary. I remember being asked and thought, this must be a joke. Like, I thought it was almost a prank that they were asking me, this young guy, to be teaching a real estate marketing program at the University, and they [00:08:00] weren't.

The one thing about teaching in, at a college or university in the post-secondary level is that you're only as good as your course and instructor evaluations at the end of the course. You know, I was really fortunate at the end of, you know, my program, we had great feedback and I took a strong liking to it.

Since then, you know, I've maintained that kind of relationship with the University and the business school, and I continue to teach in the MBA and Ecomm programs at the University, real estate marketing, and strategy, and also upcoming teaching a proptech course. I love real estate. I don't know what else to tell you. I live and breathe it. It's everything for me in life. I'm so fascinated by it. I invested it, and over the years, I've become also an investor in both residential and in commercial real estate properties. I love the industry a lot, but part of the thing that always frustrated me is this industry's old school, super old school. To me, it's the last B2C industry on earth that has digitized the buying process. It literally is. The way in which we sell homes today [00:09:00] is the same way we've been selling homes 40 and 50 years ago. It hasn't changed.

Greg Bray: When was that moment then where you said, you know what? I want to try to do something different. It's one thing to say, oh, I see an opportunity. It's another thing to dive into becoming a software company. Especially when you haven't been in quote, the software world. Now granted, good software needs industry expertise merged with good coding and technology to bring it all together, but what was it that made you take that huge jump to the other side, so to speak?

Jason Hardy: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think part of it was a frustration. Twenty-one years at that time, it was 19 years in the business, and not seeing this part of the business evolve or change, I thought there was an opportunity to create that trust and transparency in the industry, and it was a bit of a Reese Peanut Butter Cup moment. It's a funny story.

Now, if you've ever been to Calgary or Alberta, very similar to Texas. A lot of people here drive trucks. This is a bit of an embarrassing story, but I spent [00:10:00] 13,14 years driving the same vehicle. The beginning of 2019, I was in the market for a new vehicle and I went online. I built-in priced the vehicle that I was looking for. I was looking for a Toyota Tacoma. Any Toyota fans out there? It's a great truck.

I built-in priced that thing probably a hundred times. I went back on that website for weeks. You know, I was changing the rims, and the leather, and the sunroof, and the short box and long box, and manual and automatic, and I made all these changes. I bought that vehicle online, and I went in two days later and I picked up the keys. They had a bow on it and I picked up the keys, and 20 minutes later I drove off with my new truck, and I came back to the office just beaming, and I walked in. I said, guys, I bought this vehicle, I bought this completely online.

Everyone in the office kind of laughed at me, and they were like, where have you been? I'm like, well, I've been driving a, driving a, driving an old vehicle for the past 13 years. I'd never done this. Someone in the office said, you've been able to do this for 10, 15 years to be able to do this with a vehicle, going online and building and [00:11:00] pricing and specking it out.

It was that moment, and I thought you should be able to do this for a home. Like, why can't you go through the same process? It's a high-intensity purchase. Why couldn't you go through that same type of experience for being able to buy a home, and so at that moment, you know, I went back to my team, and at the time, I was running a longstanding real estate marketing agency here in Canada, in Western Canada.

We were in kind of, at that point, year 12, year 13, and I went back to the team and I hired a part-time developer, and I hired a UI person and we built this little WordPress website to test the concept, and I went to one of my home builder customers and said, hey, would you be our Guinea pig? He said, sure. He said, this sounds like a cool idea, and we built out this MVP, minimum viable product, for this one particular builder. Small builder doing 30, 40 homes a year, like totally off the radar. Not a big threat to the major competitors in the market.

Kevin Weitzel: Like a Trico or somebody like that or what?

Jason Hardy: Yeah. Smaller. Way smaller than a Trico.

Kevin Weitzel: Just Trico's gigantic.[00:12:00]

Jason Hardy: Trico is a great local builder. We brought it to them, and four months later after we had launched it, they came back and they were like, this is gonna change the world, and I thought well, that's kind of a bold statement, but I appreciate the support. They said you should do something with this, not just work on it off the side of your desk. Like, really turn this into something real. Like, you've got something great here, run with it, and there was a lot of encouragement from this particular builder.

It was a local builder in town here called West Creek Homes. Great, great family, the Goldade family, that's been in, in the real estate development industry up here a long time. So, they kind of pushed me and said, go. Like, go, go and push this out there and show it to all the builders. I'll never forget this month. End of 2019, I brought it to 14 different home builders. I have something really exciting to show you. Over the course of kind of four or five weeks, it was 14 no's. Like, 14 solid, like in the nicest way possible, not a hope in hell, Jas.

It was the same visceral reaction I kept getting from each of these [00:13:00] builders. It was a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of fear, uncomfortable. You know, the thought of putting pricing online, and pricing out all the options and specifications and what everything costs, and putting that final price on the home was pretty scary. We ended up doing a survey months later. You know, 94.5% of the industry doesn't put pricing, at that particular time. If anything, the industry was putting up things that would be like homes from the low three hundreds.

Greg Bray: Right. Starting at numbers, right? Yeah.

Jason Hardy: Greg and his wife get into their vehicle and they drive out to this new Greenfield community in the middle of nowhere, and you go to the show home or the presentation center, and you said, hey, you know, you mentioned you've got homes from the low three hundreds. That's perfect. I'm looking for a front-drive home with a double attached car garage. You know, you've got something from the low three hundreds and they would break your heart every time and tell you, I'm sorry. We had one home from the low three hundreds. It was six months ago. Everything else is 625 and up. We'd walk away, you know, with our tail [00:14:00] between our legs, embarrassed. That's just the way the industry's been for so long. It was this never really telling you what the price was until you spent two hours with a salesperson and then maybe then you would get that price.

Greg Bray: This is Greg from Blue Tangerine, and I just wanted to tell you how excited we are about our upcoming event, The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit. It's coming up September 21st and 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona. Now, this is an event that you do not want to miss. We're gonna be talking about websites, SEO, analytics reports, how to use social media influencers more, how to improve your online reviews, how to really do everything you need to do to start selling homes online.

Again, The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit on September 21st and 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona. Go to buildermarketingsummit.com. Click register. Please be sure to join us at The Home Builder Digital Marketing Summit.

Kevin Weitzel: Let me ask you this because I find this actually funny quite often. Did you find that there's [00:15:00] basically two camps? There's the one camp that they honestly don't really know until they've assembled a package and then they have an estimator tell you what the price is. Then you get back with the customer and say, hey, Mr. Customer, guess what? Your house is gonna be X. Or two, that they're just fearful of we can't show our prices out in public. Tommy Homes down the road knows what we're selling our homes for.

Jason Hardy: Yeah.

Kevin Weitzel: How often did you feel that it was one of those two camps?

Jason Hardy: I actually think it's probably a bit of a hybrid of both camps, to be honest with you, Kevin. Like, there's no doubt about it, I mean, the latter most definitely. You know, the thought of their competitors knowing what they were going to charge for that home. It's always been, you know, when you get into these, and I'm not sure the name, but here in Canada, we call them a show home parade, you know, a parade of homes, and you know, multiple builders building next to each other. You know, it's quite competitive. It's one product type.

So, if it's a rear lane detached or a front-drive attached home, there's four or five builders next to each other in one parade, and they're all competing for the same buyer segment. It's competitive. Builder next door, you know, if they knew [00:16:00] that you were charging X, they're gonna go and charge $5,000 less and try and win that particular sale.

So, I think there was some fear and trepidation as it relates to being cut off at the knees by their competitors. I think a fear of being able to commit to that price, to the first point that you made. Maybe not even truly knowing until they were able to get to the finish line and had all the options and upgrades and specifications selected for the home, that maybe they truly couldn't tell you what that price was.

I think at the end of the day, builders are quite sophisticated. They're finance machines. Great builder groups are run by very intelligent accountants and engineers. In these organizations, they know their margins, they know exactly what those margins, in a roundabout way, are going to be to most degree, but the industry wasn't there yet.

So, the 14 no's, there wasn't a yes in the pile. Like, it was a demoralizing experience, but after those 14 no's, I didn't have a lot of confidence to keep pushing, to be honest. I took the idea, I put it in the little box, I put it up on [00:17:00] the shelf and I went back to kind of regular scheduled programming with my marketing agency Chatterson.

I just left it, to be honest with you, and I thought one day, we'll try again. We'll see if maybe the industry's ready. The best, worst thing to ever happen to me was March of 2020, and the pandemic hits. You know, nobody saw it coming and retail traffic came to a standstill. Real estate traffic, show homes, presentation centers, leasing centers came to a standstill and we were freaking out. Everybody was freaking out. Truthfully, my business at the time Chatterson, it just stopped. Builders, developers stopped marketing on a dime because traffic just stopped. Nobody was buying. We were all sort of sitting in this holding pattern, wondering how long we were going to be stuck here at home.

And the other tertiary thing that happened through that journey is we started looking around our home and realizing I don't like it. I wanna move. So, some weird things happened to us as human beings of this planet Earth cause it wasn't just happening in the US. It wasn't just [00:18:00] happening in Canada. It was happening all over the world, but we were all looking around. Everyone living in the city was like, I'm moving to the suburbs, and everybody living in the suburbs was moving to an acreage, and everybody living everywhere was looking for a vacation home somewhere else in fear of, we could be stuck at home for a long time.

That second or third week of April, there was no builder marketing going on. In fact, marketing had come to a complete grinding halt. I remember it cause my agency all crashed into the floor. What really happened at that particular point is the market took off. The market just catapulted out of nowhere and shot into the sky. All of a sudden people were buying homes. The market just caught fire, but something had changed because people were in fear of their health and safety. They didn't want to be going out in public. They were staying home. There were no masks yet.

Something changed because the market was on fire. People were moving, but the traditional means of how they were searching for and looking for a home had changed and it had maybe not changed forever, [00:19:00] but it had changed for that particular moment. That's all we knew. People weren't visiting show homes and leasing centers and presentation centers anymore. They were going onto the builders' websites. They were going onto these websites and looking for an opportunity to shop, and looking for an opportunity to get the price, and looking for an opportunity to build and price their home, and to be able to buy that home, but the industry was not ready. The industry was not prepared for it.

There was a few, you know, I would call them pioneers of the industry, that were kind of ahead of the curve, but very few, you know, we call it sales enablement, or an Ecommerce enablement platform. It's really what we are. There were very few people doing, but everybody was asking for it, and we heard stories of builders' websites crashing because people were going to their website and wanting to buy a home, but there had no means of facilitating that sales, that buying journey online.

It was at that kind of second, third week of April, I got a call from two of those 14 builders from back in September that told me no and don't come back with this idea for a [00:20:00] long time. Two of those builders called me and said, Jason, do you still have that shopping cart, that Ecommerce platform for home builders? I said, I sure do, and they're like, we need it now. Customers are coming to our website. They want to buy. They want a more frictionless experience. We don't have it. We need it. So, I had good news, bad news at that point.

The good news was the idea was there, and we finally had some demand. The bad news was, it was an MVP. It was a, it was a prototype. It wasn't a real piece of software. We built a headless WordPress website that wasn't scalable. It was just to demonstrate proof of concept. I said to the builders, you know, I can give this to you, but it's not real. I have to build it. I literally have to go and find and build an engineering team and build the software for you. Can you please give me six months? Those two builders were gracious enough and patient enough to give us six months. It wasn't six months later, it was actually more like nine months later. I'm learning. You know, that was my first dip in the pool of tech. Whatever long they tell you, it's gonna take add on 40, 50%.

Greg Bray: Those [00:21:00] developers, what are you gonna do with them?

Jason Hardy: Those developers, but all for good reason because they're brilliant. Got off the phone with those builders, and I immediately formed an advisory board around me because to the point that you made earlier, my background is in real estate and the home building industry. My background wasn't in building a tech company. I built many companies before, but not in tech and I needed support and help, and mentorship.

When we decided we were really gonna do this and create Ownly, I formed a really amazing advisory board of brilliant people around me from different facets of the industry. From finance, from tech, from prop tech, from real estate from legal, and we put some really great people around that mentored and supported me and helped me make good decisions, you know, where I was faced with, ones that I didn't know how it was gonna pan out.

I'm super grateful to those people at the beginning that believed in me and believed in the vision that we had in creating, you know, an Ecommerce platform for real estate, a shopping cart experience. The best analogy that I can give you is that I was doing an interview a few [00:22:00] months ago and somebody said, oh, it's like the Shopify for real estate, and I said, that's awesome. It's a good analogy of what we're really trying to create here.

Greg Bray: I'm guessing there's a lot of our home builder marketers because they're not in the Ecommerce world, may not even be familiar with Shopify. Some of them may not understand completely what Shopify is and where it fits in the Ecommerce world, either from an analogy standpoint.

Jason Hardy: That's a really good point. The funny thing is, you know, I think it's 90 plus percent of online retail transactions are taking place on the Shopify platform, and most of us as consumers who have never heard of Shopify, don't even realize they're using Shopify as that shopping cart engine. You know, that's how incredible the company has really become, and the success that they've had.

Shopify is a white-labeled embedded checkout shopping card engine that allows you to make retail purchases. It allows consumers to make retail purchases and the majority of the things that you're shopping for online today, whether that be, you know, a pair of jeans or any [00:23:00] electronic device or something you're gonna buy online, chances are the shopping cart experience that you're going through online is a Shopify digital storefront.

If you look at the trajectory of Shopify as a company, it's really served as a great inspiration for us as a company, and for me as a founder, of our technology, we followed their trajectory quite carefully. A lot of what we're building is very similar. If you look at Shopify, as they began as a software, as a service platform and evolved into being part of that transaction experience. Part of their success along the way was not necessarily going and doing what other companies have already created and stealing it from other companies.

Shopify, some may not know, it's a Canadian unicorn. It's a company based out of Ottawa, Canada in the east. They've been wildly successful. In my opinion, a lot of their successes come from the integration partner ecosystem that they've been so successful in building. Part of that was not trying to reinvent the wheel and do things that other [00:24:00] companies had already created or done, but be able to find ways to integrate those other components that their customers were looking for in the ecosystem.

That's really what we focused on with Ownly. There's some really great companies out there that do amazing pieces of the customer journey. When we talk about Ownly, and the problem we're trying to solve is that couch-to-contract experience. We focus on couch to contract. There are many of stages within the customer journey, of the home buying journey, that we don't do. We're focused on that Ecommerce shopping cart transaction experience, but there are a number of partners that already exist in the industry that do our typical Canadian welcome with open arms and bring them into the ecosystem. If it's a platform that our builder customers are really looking for, we'll bring them into the ecosystem and work them into that shopping cart experience that we're delivering.

Greg Bray: I think we need to drill down into a couple of things. So, we'll do maybe a little more rapid fire, right? So, kinda the first thought that comes to mind but first, why should a builder [00:25:00] think about a platform instead of just trying to do this by themselves?

Jason Hardy: That's a great question.

Greg Bray: If the word platform is, is an acceptable word for you.

Jason Hardy: Yeah. absolutely. We're definitely a software platform. History is the reason to look no further. You can look at many HBR case studies and there's a million case studies out there about companies that are not tech companies trying to build their own technology, and we all know how that story typically plays out. I would say our biggest competitor are the builders that are trying to build this themselves.

We are solely focused on this. We are solely focused on digitizing the home buying process. That's all we're doing and nothing else. I think there's an opportunity to work with a company that's really focused and specialized in allowing them to make the mistakes and trip and fall along the way. We are continuously investing in and improving on our platform, and I think that's a smarter value proposition to the builder than really distracting themselves from what their core business is [00:26:00] doing, which is building and selling homes. I think it's a distraction and I think it doesn't need to be. I think there's platforms like ours, that we're just trying to do this one thing really well, and we want to have that opportunity to be able to do that for the whole industry.

Kevin Weitzel: Jason, I'm gonna challenge you on one thing. You made one statement that you feel your biggest competitor is builders that wanna do this on their own, or that think they can do it on their own. I don't think that's your biggest competitor. I think your biggest competitor is people that are fearful of that and have done things this way for 40, 50, 60, 70 years, and they don't need to change. They don't need some Canadian dude to come down tell them how they're gonna sell homes because this is how we sold homes for this many years.

Greg Bray: For the record, we love our Canadian friends.

Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. We love the Canadians.

Jason Hardy: Yeah. You know what, Kevin? There's a lot of truth to that.

Kevin Weitzel: Did you hear that listening audience? There's a lot of truth of that. He might even say Kevin, you're right.

Jason Hardy: You know, you are right. I mean, there's no doubt about it. I would say that that's not a competitor to us because they're not trying to do it, they just don't wanna do it. So, [00:27:00] maybe it's more of a threat and less of a competitor. There's no doubt about it. It's a hard sell for a lot of old-school home builders that have been very successful, and you cannot argue with their success. It is unarguable that they will tell me for 30, 40, 50 years, I've been selling homes this way for this long and it works just fine for us. So, all the best with your platform. We're gonna keep doing it this old-school way, and I think that's okay. I think that's completely okay.

In a perfect world, in my utopian vision of the future, it's a hybrid. You need to be able to meet the customers where they are and where they want to be. It doesn't mean that one customer that wants the ability to shop and buy online is gonna go through that entire process online. Part of it is going to be doing the research and due diligence in advance online, and some people are gonna be more comfortable taking that conversation offline and meeting with someone in person.

In fact, I don't think that what we are trying to do is eliminate the in-person visit or the salesperson. In fact, we [00:28:00] are enabling, we are helping them, and making their job a lot easier. At the end of the day, when it comes to buying a home, the single largest purchase decision people are making in their life, people need to feel it. They need to touch it. They need to see it. They need to meet with that person and develop that relationship. However, they wanna do the research and due diligence in advance of having that conversation. The pandemic has expedited consumer demand for more frictionless experiences and enabled consumers and given them the confidence to be able to do that research in advance of speaking to a sales representative.

Kevin Weitzel: Let me ask you this, is that just a feel-good concept that people wanna feel it, touch it, and everything else because there's the company that I hate? I'm not even gonna mention their name. I'm not even gonna dignify them with mentioning their name, but it's the largest retail platform on the planet. It's disgusting. Anyway. The buying public tells us that they don't care if they touch it or whatever. All they wanna do is order on that [00:29:00] ridiculously evil platform and it just shows up at their house. So, are we selling ourselves the wrong story and the fact that we think that psychologically, that people have to touch it, feel it, smell it before they buy it, or can they get in this process? I mean like Century Complete, Wade Jurney, both of them are selling homes almost exclusively online.

Jason Hardy: Yeah, I would say, I fundamentally believe, and this is just my experience from being in this industry for 21 years, I feel like I understand that customer buying journey so intimately well. I've been around it for so long. The fundamental difference Kevin, in buying a home is that because it's that single largest purchase decision in people's lives because in many cases, a primary residence is a need, not a want, there is a lot of emotion attached to that decision. With the exception of a couple of market segments, like the investor speculator purchaser, which exists, you know, in the big markets and highrise multifamily res.

[00:30:00] That exists a lot, but I would say that the majority of the market that's out there looking to buy a home, I think they do need to see it. I do think they need to get in the ether of a project. They need to get on the dirt. They need to go and see where that home is gonna be built and see where the sun sets and where it rises and what that backyard looks like. When it comes to real estate, I hope and think that personal connection and that need for touching it and feeling it, I think it's always gonna be there. That's just my opinion. I think it has to be part of the process. You know, I still to this day, believe that the in-person visit for the majority of home shoppers is a critical part of that experience.

Kevin Weitzel: And in full disclosure, I shared that same opinion. I was only asking that question for the effect.

Jason Hardy: That was a trap.

Kevin Weitzel: No, it wasn't necessarily trap, but you know, it's funny that we literally share the same opinion, but, no, it was more, uh, for content.

Greg Bray: We're bumping up on time here, but just one last thought. So, a builder is interested [00:31:00] in moving to a more transactional website. What are some of those obstacles that they have to consider? It's not just a call Jason, give him a credit card and this thing's on your website tomorrow, right? I mean, maybe it is, I don't know. If it is tell us.

Jason Hardy: It is quite easy.

Greg Bray: What gets in the way for them of trying to embrace Ecommerce as part of the home buying journey?

Jason Hardy: Absolutely. I mean, we've learned a lot. I'd be lying if I was sitting here telling you that every customer that came on board, it's gone swimmingly well. I would say that some of the lessons learned for us to date is that if you're thinking about having a hybrid model of giving customers the ability to shop, to be able to get verified, to get qualified in advance of making a purchase, to be able to buy online, you need buy-in from the top to the bottom of the organization. That would be kind of the number one takeaway, the lesson learned, that I've gained in the past 16 months in starting this company. Just because the CEO of the company [00:32:00] believes that this is the future, it doesn't mean that the VP of sales and the director of marketing, and the area, sales managers on the ground share that same sentiment.

Where we've been very successful, and the customers that have been really successful with us and great partners and ambassadors of Ownly and our platform, are those where from top to bottom, the company truly believes that they need to meet the customers where they are, and they need to offer a hybrid environment when it comes to home shopping. That's a big piece of the equation that needs to be there.

The other piece I think that needs to be there is a desire to streamline the process, to remove that friction from the process, to remove the redundancies, to make it a more enjoyable experience, both for the builder, but also a more enjoyable experience for their customers. This is awesome. It really does some amazing things. Our product that I think we're most excited about, that our customers are eagerly [00:33:00] anticipating and have been most excited about, is our verified product. What it does, it allows the customer to essentially receive a digital ID to become pre-qualified, to verify themselves in advance of making that purchase.

So, they're not doing this over and over again. It's a really invasive process. You know, if you look at the majority of salespeople in North America, they spend 40 to 60% of their time vetting customers. Ownly eliminates that time spent entirely. You know, so that administrative work is completely taken off by deploying Ownly Verified and being able to go through your database and being able to allow customers to verify themselves that essentially gives them this priority pass to get to the front of the line, to get that home that they want with less hoops to jump through.

Greg Bray: Jason, it's been a fascinating conversation. Obviously, you guys have done a lot of work in a pretty short amount of time in getting your message out there and being noticed. Congratulations on your achievement so far, and we're excited to see how it [00:34:00] progresses for sure.

Jason Hardy: Yeah, appreciate it.

Greg Bray: If there's somebody out there who wants to learn more, what's the best way for them to get in touch and connect?

Jason Hardy: Yeah. Obviously, our website's gonna be the easiest at theownly.io. You know, we have a phenomenal team over here. We have great customers, great testimonials. So, just reach out. We're your stereotypical friendly Canadians. We'll answer the phone or the zoom with a smile on our face and how best we can help you. Appreciate the time today, Kevin and Greg. Very grateful.

Greg Bray: Well, thanks again, Jason, for joining us, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine.

Kevin Weitzel: And I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.

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