As an attendee of commercial real estate conference CRETech in 2021, Carlos Rousseau stumbled upon a booth manned by a member of the National Association of REALTORS®’ (NAR) Strategic Business, Innovation and Technology team.
To that point, unfamiliar with the REACH program and its inherent overlap with his own expertise, Rousseau told the NAR representative about his background in proptech and of the ventures started from his home in Monterrey, Mexico. She then suggested that Rousseau meet Dave Garland, a managing partner for REACH and for NAR’s investment arm, Second Century Ventures.
A little over a year after that first encounter, NAR was proud to announce that REACH would be expanding into Latin America. The venture began in earnest last November.
Rousseau is co-founder of the billion-dollar, multinational firm Orange Investments and serves as president of the Mexican Proptech Association. Having authored his country’s preeminent guide to real estate technology—and residing just 150 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border—Rousseau’s work has provided him with a unique look into the housing industries in both the United States and Mexico.
In his home country’s uncertain and unreliable residential real estate marketplace, Rousseau says, buyers and sellers often enter a transaction knowing the process will be, at best, cumbersome and confusing.
“It takes time. It involves a lot of people; it involves trusting people,” Rousseau notes of Mexico’s typical residential transaction. “And things don’t always end well for the consumer.”
This realization has led Rousseau on a crusade he hopes will help Mexican real estate firms operate more like their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe. This includes capitalizing on the technological and investment opportunities ubiquitous across Mexico’s northern border and elsewhere in the world.
It also means boosting the professionalism of real estate-related jobs in the region.
“Let’s say my mom wakes up and decides she wants to be a broker; she can just be a broker,” Rousseau speculates. “She could be a great broker, of course, but either way, she could sell a house tomorrow in Mexico if she wanted to without any formal education or certification.
“That creates a problem because there are people who don’t know certain basic elements about real estate. They confuse the market, they confuse their clients, and they may not compete in the most ethical way.”
Overall, Rousseau says, Mexico’s real estate industry is “disjointed and disorganized,” a classification that he contends extends broadly across Latin America. But these inherent shortcomings offer opportunities—and as they have served to do in the States, new innovations entering regional markets hold the key to making real estate transactions more viable for Latin American consumers.
“We’re seeing companies coming into Mexico to implement iBuying processes with the goal of reforming workflow and making all of these steps within real estate more efficient,” Rousseau says. “There is real value in that.”
Jointly based in Mexico City and Monterrey, REACH Latam will connect the region’s startups to international capital sources and innovators propelling the industry elsewhere around the globe. With Rousseau as its managing partner, REACH Latam will also work to facilitate numerous consumer-minded protections like those so common in the United States.
Latin America’s real estate industry represents nearly $1 trillion USD in opportunity. Factor in the region’s 78% internet penetration—a number significantly higher than that of India or China—and it’s clear why proptech has rapidly become one of the most attractive sectors for venture capital investment throughout South and Central America.
When NAR launched the REACH program, now more than a decade ago, we had hoped to facilitate opportunities like the ones offered through REACH Latam—programs and partnerships that can provide immense benefit to global consumers and real estate agents alike.
Rousseau, who aims to serve as a conduit between Mexican and American institutions, innovators and investors, sees clearly the potential before him.
“I want to be the bridge that connects Mexican and U.S. real estate,” he says. “We’re very close geographically, but we’re far away in terms of the way we conduct business and interact with one another.
“The opportunity is immense, and there are so many people who can benefit from that.”