(Above) After Curbio’s renovation, this kitchen is show-ready.
For Home Sellers, Curbio Eliminates the Hassle of Renovating
Despite the iBuyer promise, for most home sellers, closing the deal doesn’t happen overnight—and neither does preparing the property for sale.
By investing in cosmetic improvements or large renovations prior to selling, many homeowners hope to maximize returns, without adding to an already expensive process—but, depending on the project, this can be a costly, stressful undertaking. There’s calling contractors. There’s choosing and ordering materials. There’s paying for the project. It’s no wonder most say “no thanks”—and, knowingly or not, lose thousands.
For Rick Rudman and Matt Siegal, the pain of the process prompted them to co-found the company Curbio, a pre-sale home renovation platform quickly racking up accolades in the industry. Over the summer, the company was crowned the startup winner at the Innovation, Opportunity and Investment (iOi) Summit, hosted by the National Association of REALTORS®, and more recently, recognized as one of Remodeler Magazine’s Top Remodelers. The company is also a member of NAR’s REACH Accelerator Class this year.
Here, Rudman, CEO and president; Rikki Rogers, vice president of Marketing; and James Bruno, senior vice president of Construction, discuss the fast-growing platform, and the company’s goal of helping homeowners keep more in their pocket.
In the past two years, Curbio’s gained impressive traction. How did the company get off the ground? Rick Rudman: In 2017, our co-founder Matt Siegal was approached by a friend who was getting ready to sell his home. He told Matt that his real estate agent said the home would sell for an additional $90,000 if he were to invest just $45,000 to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms, paint the house and refinish his hardwood floors. Matt was a little skeptical about the agent’s claim—he knew that flippers were making money, so he didn’t doubt the profit potential, but he also knew it took a lot of time and expertise to do this type of renovation successfully. He knew instinctively that this was probably a huge problem for millions of home sellers, and he and I recognized that technology could transform the slow and archaic renovation industry.
Your mantra is “Renovate Now, Pay When You Sell.” Can you break that down for us? Rick Rudman: To overcome all the obstacles to pre-sale renovation, Curbio had to basically reinvent home renovation. We started with the easy part, by creating a 100-percent, pay-at-closing business model. We don’t charge interest, fees or surcharges, and we will wait as long as necessary for the home to sell. Next, we built a talented team with experience as real estate agents, flippers and designers, so we could work with the sellers agent to create a scope of work that would lead to faster sales and the best possible ROI. After the scope of work is defined, we use our on-site project manager, curated and pre-selected materials and extensive network of pre-approved and trained contractors to create a true turnkey solution that takes the time burden off of agents and home sellers. Curbio handles the entire renovation from beginning to end, selecting materials based on what is popular for buyers in each market. Our proprietary supply chain ensures that everything we recommend is readily available and will not slow down the project.
How does your technology work? Rick Rudman: As software pioneers, we knew we could dramatically improve so many of the broken steps that seem to ruin most renovation projects. One example of this is the wildly different pricing on proposals for similar work. Most small business owners aren’t trying to pull a fast one; they just don’t have a structured or consistent way of estimating jobs, so they resort to guesstimates or simply look at how busy they are that month. We saw an opportunity to use technology and market-driven pricing to not only speed up the process, but also ensure that every customer would get a fair proposal every time. What the customer sees is same-day estimates and detailed fixed-price proposals without ever having a contractor or crew tromp through the property. The customer also sees fair pricing and projects that get completed 60 percent faster than industry average.
During every project, the REALTOR®, homeowner and project manager share an online project portal with complete visibility into the project schedule and on-time performance, from contract signing through final walkthrough. Real-time notes, pictures and videos eliminate the frustrating task of tracking down contractors, reviewing progress or wondering about completion dates. It’s all online, updated in real-time with complete transparency.
So, are you farming out projects, or bringing contractors on full-time? James Bruno: Curbio is the licensed general contractor on every project we do. We employ full-time general contractors to manage every project in every city where we do work. That’s a big difference between us and other solutions on the market.
Rick Rudman: Our project managers manage a network of subcontractors in every city, too. We’re asked a lot about how we find our subcontractors—there’s a common belief that there’s a shortage of them, but there are over 650,000 contractors in the U.S. that focus exclusively on residential remodeling. It’s an algorithm problem, based on matching real-time project demand with real-time contractor availability. At Curbio we’re solving this problem similar to the way Uber solves the problem of matching drivers with people looking for rides. The homeowner and agent use Curbio to get a market-rate, fixed-price contract. Curbio uses its proprietary platform to let qualified contractors select work that meets their schedule, geography and skills, at a pre-negotiated price. Contractors love this model because they can select a job, do the work and get paid by Curbio in a matter of days. Curbio in turn gets a loyal following of great contractors and better pricing.
If I’m the average homeowner, what can I expect as far as project recommendations and ROI? James Bruno: Ninety-five percent of our renovations include updates to the kitchen and baths. Overall, we are going to collaborate with the real estate agent to recommend improvements that will increase the value of the home. For some homes, that might just be interior paint and landscaping. For others, it might be a six-figure renovation of the entire property.
Rick Rudman: According to ATTOM Data Solutions, the average home flipper made a profit of $65,000 per home in 2018. We are seeing similar results for our home sellers, who are averaging a 209-percent return. To illustrate, if the homeowner spends $55,000 with Curbio to renovate their home, the listing price goes up an average of $115,000. So after paying Curbio, along with the additional commissions and closing costs, the homeowner would net an additional $50,000.
What about agents and brokers? How is Curbio partnering with them? Rikki Rogers: Agents across the country are leveraging Curbio to strengthen client relationships and win more listings. By partnering with Curbio, they can offer sellers an easy solution to sell their home quickly, make much more money and pay nothing until closing. We’re also helping agents save time and avoid becoming the de-facto general contractor. Many REALTORS® end up investing a great deal of time and energy managing projects for their sellers. Curbio lets agents offer all the value of pre-sale renovation without adding more work to their already full plate.
We also have strategic partnerships with larger brokerages of 1,000 or more agents, including Ebby Halliday, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Fox & Roach, REALTORS® and PalmerHouse Properties. These create a joint marketing, education and rewards program to ensure agents maximize the benefits of working with Curbio to win listings, generate more referral business and reclaim their time previously spent on project management.
You’ve expanded rapidly in a short timespan. What’s next? Rick Rudman: We’re currently in the metro regions of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, South Florida, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Phoenix and Chicago, with plans to launch in Minneapolis, Boston, Las Vegas and Seattle within the next few months (at press time). Early next year we will be in New York City, LA and San Francisco, and an additional 20-30 of the largest metro areas by the end of 2020.