Habi, a real estate startup digitizing home buying and selling for Colombia’s middle class, announced Wednesday that it has raised $100 million of equity in a Series B funding, marking the largest round raised by a female CEO across Latin America.
In Colombia, a country where few online listing services exist and the most common way of selling your home is by hanging a phone number and a for sale sign in your window, real estate transactions are incredibly opaque. The Bogotá-based iBuyer startup aims to change that.
Habi buys, renovates and sells homes, generating revenue off the margin. Its centralized database—built using data from real estate, banking and government partners—drives its automated pricing model, offering transaction services to home buyers and sellers.
The startup also allows homeowners to estimate the value of their homes. Some 100,000 Colombians have received pricing from Habi between home offers and the company’s free online valuation, says cofounder and CEO Brynne McNulty Rojas. Between May 2020 and May of this year, transaction volume grew 40% month-over-month on average.
Wednesday’s funding round—led by the SoftBank Latin America Fund alongside previous investors including Inspired Capital, Tiger Global, Homebrew and 8VC—also represents the second largest Series B raised by a startup in Colombia, following delivery app Rappi’s $185 million raise in 2018, according to Pitchbook. Habi declined to disclose its valuation.
According to an analysis by real estate agency Galería Inmobiliaria, new home sales in Colombia’s five largest cities—Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga—were up 31% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a year prior. Currently, Habi operates in four of those markets: Bogotá, Medellín, Barranquilla and Cali. With the equity raised, Rojas said the company is looking to expand its footprint to Mexico, starting out in Mexico City. Habi also hopes to continue to build its team, which has grown nine times over the last year to 300 employees.
However, Habi isn’t the only startup in Latin America raising big money by trying to bridge the digital gap: Brazil-based Loft closed a $425 million Series D funding round in March, valuing the iBuyer at $2.2 billion. One place where Habi shines: In its proprietary data platform, which holds over 16 million unique data points, and synthesizes everything from location to property size to number of parking spots to whether the building has an elevator. This is a selling point in a country where MLSs—which, in the U.S., are private databases created, maintained and paid for by real estate professionals to help their clients buy and sell property—don’t exist, says Clelia Warburg Peters, president of Warburg Realty and venture partner at Bain Capital Ventures.
“In an environment like Brazil or Colombia where there isn’t an MLS, [companies like Habi and Loft] have the possibility of coming into the market and creating a one-stop experience where they could own the buyer experience, the seller experience, and the search experience by becoming the de facto MLS,” she says.
In the U.S., the iBuyer market is dominated by San Francisco-based Opendoor, which went public at an enterprise value of $4.8 billion in September of last year. Proptech companies like Zillow, Offerpad and Redfin have also entered the space.
Despite its success, iBuying comprises just 0.5% of the $1.6 trillion home-buying market, according to The Real Deal. And former Zillow President and CEO of Tomo Greg Schwartz says startups like Habi are faced with a bumpy revenue stream in a relatively flat or declining market, such as during the early days of the pandemic, when many iBuyers paused home purchases. Plus, they generally cost home sellers more in service fees, about 13% to 15% of a home’s sale price, while traditional agents cost just 5% to 7%.
“It’s really accessible only to some people,” Schwartz says. “iBuying is not a solution that is generally available in urban cores.”
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