How Opendoor has evolved its approach to construction management and the applicability of emerging construction technology
Residential real estate has gone undisrupted for decades. It’s been outdated and offline in a predominantly online world, and in many ways, construction has historically been the same way. However, recent innovations are transforming traditional processes, where digital and virtual technologies in construction and home renovation are leading the way to make processes more streamlined for everyone.
Over the years, Opendoor has taken steps to make its in-field operators and trade partners more efficient. Typically, construction lead times give teams ample amount of time to prepare scopes of work, job assignments, and more. But, this can also result in long project timelines and uncertainty that harms both trade professionals and end consumers. In contrast, Opendoor focuses on starting jobs as quickly as possible. This way, we can ensure trade professionals aren’t living with the uncertainty of waiting for their next job and operators are getting homes renovated and ready to sell on the market. Queuing up homes accurately and efficiently is important to Opendoor’s success.
To do this, we’re constantly evolving our processes and using digital and virtual technology to deliver the most seamless experience. Here are a few ways we’ve innovated home renovation and construction over the past year.
Virtualizing the assessment process
While major parts of the business were virtual and self-serve before the pandemic, our core renovation operations still required real-world interaction at multiple points throughout the project lifecycle, like home assessments and repairs, for example.
Innovation is in our DNA and we have learned a great deal over the years to benefit our customers and trade professional partners. As part of our response to COVID-19 and our push to bring a simple, convenient, and safe way for homeowners to sell their homes, we reinvented the approach to assessing homes prior to purchasing them. We found that we can be even more efficient utilizing a centralized team to review properties.
In response, we adjusted our interior home assessment experience to be a virtual one—using live video with an Opendoor representative to make it easier and safer for customers, while still preserving the quality of our assessments. And in August 2021, we launched self-guided home walkthroughs, allowing sellers to use a smartphone, computer, or regular camera to capture the home on their timeline. The new process can be done in about 10 minutes, compared to a two-hour in-person assessment.
The data we gather from our home assessments directly informs our home renovation teams, so we can queue up that work concurrently and start on repairs much more productively. Whether it’s at scale, as in Opendoor’s case of supporting hundreds of home sellers every day, or as an independent contractor or trade, leveraging emerging video technologies and software to assess job scope, quote repairs, and identify materials prior to arriving on-site can dramatically increase operating efficiency. And for Opendoor, we’ve found our customers overwhelmingly love the faster, simpler, and safer experience.
Evolving home renovations
Similarly in the home renovation space, Opendoor is focused on virtualized renovation project management. By utilizing high-resolution streaming video, we are partnering with trusted trade professionals to validate project progression, status, and quality without operators needing to be at the property in person. This budding capability is showing tremendous potential to once again upend the construction project management status quo by enabling significant scalability.
Data and automation are other promising areas of innovation. We are constantly using vast amounts of data that we have collected on thousands of homes to diagnose issues with roofs, foundations, plumbing, HVAC, and general repairs. This data feeds back into our systems to help us scope and price the repairs we will need to perform before we show up at the job site for the first time. We also can use this data to spot trends. For example, whether it's for new build homes or remodels, there's a clear rise in homeowner demand for integrated home automation, including connection and smart home features. Across home security, automated or connected lighting, sound, and temperature, consumers want to be able to control their environment with a touch of a button.
Overcoming challenges as an industry
While there’s been plenty of technological advancements, there are still hurdles to overcome. Lack of skilled labor continues to be one of the larger challenges for the construction industry. And with many skilled workers getting close to retirement age and fewer young people looking to the trades as a viable successful career, this gap may continue to be exacerbated. As an industry, we should invest in encouraging younger generations to fill this much-needed gap in skilled workers. We are focused on educating the workforce on what we do and how partnering with Opendoor can help contractors both big and small grow their own businesses.
Technology can be a very powerful tool in the construction, and the broader real estate, industry. In order to make the most of it, it is critical to not only build tools for your internal teams but also for external partners like trade professionals, municipalities, utility providers, and the Multiple Listing Services (MLSs).
Moving forward as an industry, if we can ensure seamless workstreams between all parties involved, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.