The World at Large
I’m sure that we all remember our early days out in the real world. Following years of education, there comes a switch, a moment when it’s finally time to put our skills to work and make our own way in modern society.
No matter a person’s skill set, no matter their personal history, the years following college graduation can be challenging for many different reasons.
For one, there’s a significant contrast between an educational environment, where everyone has your best interests at heart, and the world at large, where you’re completely on your own, left to defend yourself from those looking to take advantage of your goodwill for personal and financial gain.
Sadly, one area that remains especially difficult for young adults to navigate is real estate. This is an industry filled with kind-hearted people and charlatans alike. The search for a new home is beset by uncertainty, the naive hope that the professionals involved will be honest and forthright.
But that dynamic is slowly shifting, and over the last few years, one professional has been working to create a place where honesty isn’t just assumed, it’s guaranteed.
A Bright Spot
I recently met with Rodolfo Delgado in New York, the city where he got his start in real estate. Delgado also studied here, at NYU, getting a firsthand glimpse into the glamour and ferocity of New York real estate, as well as the more unsavory trends present in property marketing.
Delgado is still quite young but he comes off as an experienced professional, giving measured and enthusiastic answers to my questions.
In a situation like this, it’s difficult to maintain some sense of journalistic objectivity. Sure, Delgado is very much still a businessman, having created his own company, Replay Listings, which he now heads up as CEO. But he also seems like the rare kind of professional who actually wants to change things for the better.
This is a tricky line to walk these days. We don’t have to look far to find a massive company that uses the angle of goodwill to sell more product.
The big difference here is that Replay Listings actually has the potential to smooth out many problems that have been part of the real estate industry for many years.
In summary, the Replay Listings platform requires that all media and descriptions of any given property be 100% accurate and 100% specific to that exact property. The result is that users know what they’re getting long before visiting a property.
It’s a bold move in an industry that, for the most part, has been achingly slow to modernize and assure authenticity. During our conversation, Delgado had plenty to say about his work and how strongly he believes in the mission of his company.
Hopefully, the excerpts included here will make it clear that not many executives have such genuine, altruistic goals in mind.
See a Need, Fill a Need
Like many great business ideas, Replay Listings was borne out of Delgado’s personal experiences working in real estate.
He very quickly noticed that many customers were mistrusting of himself and other brokers, and for good reason: they’d been burned before.
“Our platform was born out of a need. I used to be a real estate agent, and I often noticed a client’s mistrust or skepticism when approaching brokers. Their fear was often due to past experiences they’d had with bait and switch techniques.”
For anyone who hasn’t experienced the bait and switch when looking for a place to stay, it basically works like this: you see a beautiful apartment online for an unbelievably affordable price. When you reach out to the assigned broker, they let you know that apartment is no longer available, but that they’d be happy to show you some other properties they currently have under their purview.
It’s a way for brokers to attract new customers, even if they don’t have great properties to offer, and while the ethics of the tactic are questionable at best, it’s not exactly illegal either.
The Replay Listings platform makes honesty the norm by making it easy to be honest.
“The purpose of our company has always been to provide real estate agents with the most modern tools to help them work in a trustworthy environment with their clients. We do this by bringing more transparency into real estate with our unedited video listings.”
Putting Tech to Work
Plain and simple, Replay Listings and its good work just wouldn’t be possible without the tech that Silicon Valley has been developing in recent years.
What makes the platform special is that Delgado’s first impulse was to use this tech to benefit people.
“The most recent technology advancements are what enabled our platform to be born and refresh the real estate industry. We believe technology should work for people rather than making people work more.”
The “recent technology advancements” Delgado is referring to here include high-quality in-phone cameras, enhanced storage capabilities, and server infrastructure options provided by big tech names like Google and Amazon.
The democratization of media that this tech has initiated makes the Replay Listings formula work. Property managers and licensed agents can take video and high-quality photos themselves, rather than hiring a professional videographer and photographer.
Agents get to keep costs low and end-users can access accurate media. Thanks to tech, this is a fairly easy win-win.
So how do real estate agents feel about the platform? After all, big changes are usually followed by a significant amount of pushback.
Delgado explained that, thus far, agents have taken to the platform quite nicely.
“Real estate agents who have monthly subscriptions are happily paying to continue using our platform, which is a pretty clear indication to us that the tools we’ve been offering have added value to their daily routines.”
In addition to the stable of agents currently using Replay Listings in New York, the company has also been approached by agents and renters outside of the city:
“We’ve also had many requests on our website asking us to bring the app to different cities around the country, like Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.”
At the moment, Replay Listings hasn’t expanded outside of New York, but it’s certainly a possibility. Even more, telling is that these other major American cities have not yet seen an equivalent to Replay Listing’s business model, despite the fact that many real estate markets are in desperate need of more honest practices.
“Real estate affects everyone to some degree, and so even a small change can have significant implications for the livelihoods of millions of people. Making sure that ripple has a positive impact on those who need it is essential.”
People or Profit?
Despite Replay Listings’ altruistic goals, it is still a business, and this sense of push and pull makes for an interesting question: is it possible to focus on profits and progress at the same time, or does one necessarily detract from the other?
Right away, I could tell that Delgado was excited to discuss the topic. More often than not, this question tends to be implied rather than asked outright, and he didn’t mind exploring the possibilities.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that we all have a purpose in life, and I know mine is to have a positive impact on the lives of others. So far, technology and real estate have helped me accomplish my purpose. I’m an architect who loves real estate and technology, and acquiring skills in these three fields has allowed me to combine them for the betterment of others.”
For Delgado, it’s perfectly possible to keep altruistic goals in mind while also building a successful product. This sensibility also aligns with modern conceptions of user experience (UX) design, which maintains that the most important factor is the user’s satisfaction with the product, the platform itself.
Should Replay Listings choose to expand to many other American cities, its ability to deliver an effective and straightforward user experience on a large scale will truly be put to the test.
While I did spend a couple of hours with the app version of Replay Listings, I, unfortunately, didn’t get to visit any of the real-life apartments themselves. However, the media associated with these listings was head and shoulders above what I’ve seen elsewhere, a far cry from the low-res, poorly lit model apartment photos that I’m used to.
Perhaps more telling than my own experiences with the app are the user reviews that I read through. As you might have guessed, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Some users go as far as telling stories about their past experiences with dodgy building managers, aloof landlords who shy away from problems that arise three months into the lease.
They talk about how Replay Listings is a significant step up. It’s not a God-given saving grace or the most innovative service of the startup era; it’s just something that the average person has needed for a long time, a helping hand in an industry that is notoriously difficult to navigate.
It’s an honest achievement in a time of uncertainty, and for many, that’s more than enough.