HOW Real Estate — Helping First-Time Homeowners Build Wealth

Based out of Conshohocken, PA, HOW Real Estate is not your typical brokerage. With their unique Home 360 program, HOW is leveraging their expertise to help clients build wealth and financial security one fixer-upper at a time. We caught up with Jesse Johnston, Managing Partner at HOW, to learn more about their unique offerings to clients and how Updater fits seamlessly into their process.

Can you tell us a little about HOW’s Home 360 program? How does it help streamline the fixer-upper experience for your clients?

HOW’s Home 360 program is all about helping people become homeowners and build wealth through homeownership. We do this by guiding them through the process of purchasing a fixer-upper and then actually fixing it up!

Our offering is quite unique in the marketplace. We’re the only real estate company that has all the pieces of this puzzle under one roof. This means that one group is handling all aspects for the client. From the real estate agent to the finance team to the construction team, everyone is all in one place.

Because of this level of integration, we offer greater efficiency, superior pricing, and value for the client, not to mention an extremely smooth communication process. There is also a high degree of accountability. It’s all the same company, which means no finger pointing — your contractor isn’t going to just disappear.

What are the greatest challenges facing first-time buyers when trying to build wealth through real estate investment?

Renovating a fixer-upper is a great way to take a piece of real estate and increase its value. But the process can be overwhelming, especially the first time. I’d say there are four main challenges for a first-time homeowner undertaking a fixer-upper project.

First, understanding the finance and mortgage space is a big issue. First-time buyers don’t necessarily know what they can get for their money. For example, most people assume they still need to put 20% down on a mortgage. However, there are renovation/after-repair mortgage options that require a much smaller down payment.

Second, clients often struggle with the vision of what their home will look and feel like when it’s complete. We help them with this by providing them with a digital representation. They are then able to visualize what the end product will look like. This way, smart buyers can look at an “ugly” house and get excited at the possibility of making it their own. Instead of paying a premium to a flipper for doing the work, they can work with us and receive a ton of potential built-in equity.

Third, designing the home can be a serious undertaking — options around materials and decor can be confusing. We’ve worked with professional designers to create pre-built design packages and color palettes, which make things super easy for clients. And since we’re active in the industry, we’re always up on the latest home design trends.

Finally, hiring the right construction team is essential, but can also be pretty tricky. For renovation projects, builders generally need to be approved by FHA and/or other agencies. HOW is pre-approved to do this kind of work. And because of our scale and the fact that HOW projects are self-funded, it means that we won’t have to stop work for bank approvals and funding draws, as often happens with smaller construction firms. Plus, we have proven experience with examples of previous work, along with built-in trust carried over from the home-buying process. Last but not least, with everything under one roof, there are no messy handoffs to an outside construction team.

In your opinion, what need is Updater filling and how does it support/complement your Home 360 program?

Updater is a great fit for our Home 360 program, truly extending our full-service, end-to-end approach. It really rounds out the toolbox we provide our clients. At the end of the day, the program is all about improving the client experience, and Updater creates a seamless process during their move. We’re closely aligned in our vision of giving clients fewer things to worry about.

How have your clients responded to Updater?

It has been great! We always get lots of positive feedback about Updater, which reflects in our strong engagement numbers. Lots of value-add solutions don’t provide actual value, but Updater really does. I’ve personally used Updater three times to help me move! The product keeps improving, and we have a great relationship with the Updater team.