Milo Anderson, CEO and Founder of NewHomeListingService
1. What does NewHomeListingService do?
NewHomeListingService aggregates information about new home builders in Calgary, creating a single platform for home buyers and realtors to access information. We serve home builders the same way Trivago serves hotels. All inquiries are still funnelled through to the builders, and home buyers get unbiased information to compare builders and find out which one best fits their needs.
2. What inspired you to start this? What problem are you solving?
During my 15 years as a real estate agent, I realized how many inefficiencies exist for realtors and home buyers. When researching new homes, you may only come across 10-30 of the 280 builders that exist in Calgary. Although MLS data is available, there is very little data about new homes because builders don’t want to pay commission to the realtors. Builders only put a small portion of their inventory on MLS to bring awareness to their project, making it almost equally difficult for realtors to help their clients. The thought of putting all of the listings in one place is what hit home!
3. How long did it take you to go from prototype to launch?
Because we had done three years of development on a similar platform, we were able to pivot that technology. We started working on it in late 2014 and started testing early 2015, launching late 2015. We are now the largest portal of our type in Alberta, and soon to be Western Canada with over 6,800 listings. To give you a sense of our market size, the Calgary market has just over 6,000 listings.
4. How did you determine who your audience might be for this product?
Based on our research, 52% of Canadians are looking for brand new homes instead of used homes. Millennials have grown up differently and - the reality is - they don’t have the hard skills or interest and time to renovate a used home. Baby Boomers have worked hard on their homes and want to retire in something that is essentially maintenance free.
We also spent a lot of time at trade shows talking to home buyers. While explaining our service, a woman at our booth suddenly burst into tears. We later found out that she had spent the past six months researching home builders, building a spreadsheet to compare features and visiting show homes with her husband. They couldn’t believe how much time they could have saved. That reaction was priceless validation.
5. If you could hire someone today to help you with one thing, what would it be and why?
Can I hire two? We would like to have a full time data scientist because one of the real powers of our site is that it can tell us what consumers are looking for. We have already collected over 6.2 million pieces of consumer search data that can help us identify what communities and cities are trending, how much demand there is and what features buyers are looking for. Builders can then translate that data to determine where they should build and how they should price their homes. Since there is so little data on new homes, my understanding is that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is using data from used homes to evaluate the price of a new home resulting in an unfair valuation, which is frustrating for the builders. I would also love to find someone to help me find investors so I can focus on running the business.
6. If you could learn one new skill what would it be and how would it help you build your company?
Programming – hands down. Because I’m not a web developer or data scientist, I have to trust that the people I work with are doing their jobs. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if a task should take 14 hours or 14 minutes. Thankfully I have a fantastic web developer who is a very talented, ethical, hard worker.
7. What are your greatest achievements so far?
We’re around a few years later, which is a big accomplishment because a lot of companies don’t make it past 1.5 years. We have grown from zero listings to over 6,800, with thousands of pages of content on our site – and we’ve done most of it on a budget. We have also partnered with ATB Financial who will be our exclusive mortgage sponsor in Alberta.
8. What are your future goals for your company?
In 2018, we want to make this a national site. Right now realtor.ca and MLS are the go-to sites for realtors, and we want to be the go-to site for new homes. MLS is controlled by realtors and builders have to work with them. On NewHomeListingService, the home builders control the content. Home buyers don’t care whether they are working with a realtor or a builder, they just want to find the right home.
We are planning our expansion based on advice we received from Skip the Dishes – start with smaller centres and move up to bigger centres. We are starting to expand out West into Kelowna and Victoria. Our Eastern expansion will follow, starting with the London and Ottawa areas. Once we grow in these areas and refine our model, we will move into the bigger centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
9. How can companies makes the most of their experience with Startup Calgary?
Connect with people in the community as much as you can in your company’s early stages. It would have been a great place for us to find a team and work through all of the pieces of the funding puzzle. Entrepreneurs tend to focus too much on researching the industry that they are about to enter, rather than researching how they are going to support what they are about to do. If you can take the time to build that knowledge base in the beginning, it may take longer to launch but you will be successful much faster.
10. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to take their idea from the back of a napkin to the marketplace?
It might sound like an exciting business, but does it still sound good if you have to work at it for the next five years? If you think it’s going to be a quick buck, don’t bother. You need to be 100% on board with the idea and be willing to put your blood, sweat and tears into it for the long haul.
On the flip side of that, make sure that your idea is solid. You might think everyone is thinking a certain way, but you may only be hearing what you want to hear. If you aren’t sure, get some independent research done.
11. If you could do one thing differently while building your startup, what would you have done?
I would have spent more time on our minimum viable product and secured investment before launching. Once you launch you are expected to grow quickly and if you are continuously pivoting and changing your model, it’s hard to grow because you don’t know where to put your money. You will keep chugging away instead of accelerating quickly.
12. If you could tell the rest of the world something about Calgary, what would it be?
My dad was stationed in military here in 1952. In 1998, I was showing him the Currie Barrack’s and he said that he used to have to hitch-hike into Calgary to get a beer. I told him that he should have bought something, anything, and it would have been worth money – but he wasn’t looking for it. My daughter said, “Well, gee dad, what are you buying for us?” If you don’t look around at all of the opportunities that exist, you could miss something huge. Car2go is a great example of an opportunity that could have been acted on if someone in Calgary had looked around and spotted the opportunity. I also want our investors to start looking at our tech industry and asking how they can better support it to make it easier to act on those opportunities and keep them here.
13. What was the biggest surprise you encountered when you were building your company?
I thought I understood the industry, but I was still shocked by how slow moving it was. Gaining awareness amongst builders and trying to get them to move away from the traditional bus bench model has been extremely challenging. I couldn’t wrap my head around why they would invest their money in advertising that provides no analytics or hard leads, rather than signing up for a website that would give them measurable exposure. “We’ve always done it that way” is the most annoying phrase I’ve ever heard. Just because it isn't broken doesn’t mean it can’t be better.
Learn more at: https://newhomelistingservice.com/
Published February 28, 2018