How does real estate technology help you grow your business? This episode is just right for you to answer that question. Marnie Blanco has 24 years of experience in industry relations, business development, product management, product marketing, training, and support, with 19 years focused on the real estate vertical. In this episode, she shares insights on the technological aspects of real estate. Learn what Pacaso is and how Marnie manages her team effectively with the latest innovations!
Marnie Blanco, VP of Industry Relations, Pacaso
We're going to talk about fractional homeownership. Some of you know what I'm going to say, that's Pacaso. This was the Austin Allison, Spencer Rascoff company that was started a few years ago. It makes it possible for more people to enjoy the pleasures, joys, and experiences of owning a second home without having to own the entire home, fractional ownership, either an eighth, a quarter or a half. We have Marnie Blanco. She is the Vice President of Industry Relations. We're going to chat with her about first of all how she got into the business. Second, we're going to talk a lot about Pacaso, how it works, how it can be used by agents, and get an in-depth look at this new model. Let's get this thing started. Marnie, welcome to the show.
I am excited to chat with you. Pacaso exploded on the scene. I don't know any other way to say that. When Austin and Spencer got together, it makes perfect sense that those two guys would figure something out. First, we're going to talk about you. I want to find out about you. Specifically, you live in the Denver area, is that true?
Yes. I'm a little bit South of Denver in Castle Pines, Colorado.
You were born and raised in Colorado, correct?
Born and raised and I tell everyone I will live and die here as well.
Why Colorado? I don't want to say sell me on Colorado because you don't want more people moving there, but what do you love about Colorado?
It's funny you said that. I do always tell them. I'm like, "People, it's horrible here. No more people come." Born and raised and my family is here. It's all I've ever known and all I've ever lived. I am a creature of habit, but I can be that way because every job that I've had in my career for several years now has had some travel involved in it. It's pretty extensive travel. I still see all parts of the country. I still get to get out and spread my wings, but Colorado is special to me.
[caption id="attachment_4278" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Real Estate Technology: Take that leap and don't be afraid to make changes in your professional life.[/caption]
The number one reason is my family is here. Particularly, my sister, who lives about five minutes down the street from me. She has two girls. I have two girls. They're all a year apart from each other. They go to school together. I always say, "I would live and die here," with the disclaimer that if she decides for some reason to get up and move, then I would follow her.
You both are probably saying the same thing about Colorado. All is good. You're going to stay there. I asked this question a lot to people when we talk about where they grew up. Give me the biggest misconception about your home state.
Every time people hear Colorado, they say skiing. All you do is ski. People ask me all the time if I ski, and I did as a younger kid. I had to come to grips with the fact that if I'm being honest with myself, I don't like skiing. I'm not going to do it anymore. The biggest misconception is people think Colorado is all about skiing, where in fact, it's more of an outdoorsy type of state.
We have our Colorado mountains that are famous for skiing, but people go there just as much in the summer and other seasons than they do in the winter. It's a year-round type of state. We have 300 days of sunshine. You can't beat that. The climate is wonderful because you get a little piece of all four seasons. You get the snow, spring, and the falls are beautiful, and then summer and warm temperatures as well but not horrible. Colorado is a little bit of something for everyone.
It's a beautiful place. I've been there a few times. I'm always blown away by the vistas. I remember traveling to Grand Junction one time to help a buddy pick up a vehicle. It's a whole different part of the state. It's not the same thing. There are lots of different places. I'm sure you're a Buffalo then. You had to go to school in Colorado.
I did go to CU. What's funny too is in high school, I was a Buffalo. I went to my local high school here. We were Smoky Hill Buffaloes. I said, "Once a buffalo, always a buffalo." I then went to CU and I was Buffalo. If I'm being honest though, back to my sister, I went to CU because that's where she went. I didn't even apply to any other school.
As my kids are getting older, I have a high schooler and I have a niece that's graduating and going to college, I was like, "How dumb was I?" What if I didn't get accepted into CU? I didn't even apply anywhere else. Again, because I'm a creature of habit so if my sister did it, that's what I did. Luckily, I got in and it was a great experience. It was good to be able to stay instate, be close to home, and then also get a great education at the same time.
What was the plan after you graduated? Was real estate even a little blip on the radar at that time?
My college experience was a little bit different. I graduated from CU in three years with a double major because both my parents passed away while I was in college. You work hard in college. I was like, "If I'm going to work this hard, I better start getting paid some money." I needed to move on with the next chapter of my life.
[bctt tweet="Everything is about the consumer. That's the North Star to every company, every business." username="billrisser"]
When I graduated, I graduated with a Marketing and Information Systems major, so straight out of school, I was a developer. I was a programmer. I was horrible at it. It was so bad. It was a bad choice on my part. For two years I wrote code. I even did it for a little bit like a side gig after I left the consulting business.
I went into telecom consulting and I wrote code. I did a lot of systems integration work and technical work within the telecom industry for about five years. That started my travel gig when I was working. I literally traveled to Kansas City for two years, Monday through Friday, every single week. I spent weekends at home here in Colorado.
My husband and I got married. We wanted to have kids and that is difficult when you're not in the same state. I decided at that point in time that I needed to make a career change. It so happened to be that my sister's next-door neighbor was the HR director of RE/MAX, the franchisor, which is headquartered here in Colorado. That's how I got connected to RE/MAX. There was a position open ironically enough called an IT Marketing Manager. It took my two majors together and stuck them together.
I made the leap into real estate. I didn't know anything about real estate other than the fact that my mother was an agent. She was a RE/MAX agent. She was an agent for a few different companies in her younger years, but I didn't know anything about it. I knew about marketing and technology and whatnot from my degree and my experience, so I made the leap.
It was a little bit of a scary leap though because, in the mix of it, I took a good 50% to 60% pay cut. I knew that that lifestyle of being on the road, every single week, Monday through Friday was not going to work. I took the leap and I couldn't be more happy that I did. When I look back, what a great change that was for me.
How convenient that RE/MAX happened to be located in Denver?
It's like fifteen minutes from my house.
I would think that having that coding background, even if it was not the highest level had to be a huge help moving forward in your career. You've worked with a lot of companies now. There are dev teams, the marketing side of things, and operations. There are all these things working together. You have a great opportunity to be the person that can drive some conversations. Is that the way it worked?
You hit the nail on the head. While I was at RE/MAX, at that point in time in real estate, nobody had all the listings on their website except Realtor.com. As a franchisor or broker, you couldn't have them. A part of my journey at RE/MAX was we built the first national website that brought on all listings in the United States. Remax.com was the very first to do that and part of my career there is building that.
[caption id="attachment_4279" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Real Estate Technology: The entire mission of Pacaso is to make second home ownership more accessible and more enjoyable for more people.[/caption]
From that, I started with a team of two people at RE/MAX and I ended with a team of about 40, 45 people because we built the entire eBusiness team at RE/MAX. We handled all the technology that was outward-facing to agents and brokers, whether it was Remax.com or internal tools for the agents, marketing, lead generation, etc.
To your question, it did help me understand the background of building brand-new platforms and what it took in terms of not only the dev time, but QA, implementation, launching, and then integration with other systems. That was my background for quite some time. I was able to marry it to the business portion of what RE/MAX does for agents and brokers.
It was a very unique position. It all came into place in a nice little way. I have always been grateful to have at least a little bit of background on it because I can understand concepts and the high level. As I said, I was horrible at doing it. You would never want me to touch anything, but I could understand the rhythm of technology development.
What was difficult and what wasn't difficult? There are a lot of non-techie people in leadership positions that go, "That will be pretty easy." Famous last words to a dev team or an engineer.
A lot of times we partnered with a lot of technology companies and that helped as well to make good partnerships because we could speak each other's language and understand what are we capable of, what's a reasonable timeframe, and what's to be expected. To all the customers, clients, agents, and brokers, you can set reasonable expectations as well when you have the full gamut of what's coming down.
You are brand new to the world of real estate. Was there anything that surprised you about agents, realtors and brokers? It's a different world. They're fully commissioned. What was your takeaway from experiencing that for the first time?
One particular moment that sticks in my head is my second or third week on the job. The very first trip I took was to the Inman Conference in San Francisco because they used to always have it in San Francisco before they even started the New York one. It was just once a year in San Francisco. I was sitting there with my boss and I didn't understand real estate. I had bought and sold a house of my own. From a consumer's perspective, maybe I understood, but I didn't understand the true role in-depth of an agent and a broker, how those are different, and what topics are important to them or challenging.
During the conversation, a lot of the travel agent sites were getting taken down and replaced by the internet. That's when Expedia, Hotwire, etc. were coming. All the conversation of, "This is going to happen to real estate agents. They're going to be replaced by the internet." They kept talking about all the agents and what they were going to do.
I remember leaning over to my boss and saying, "Does anybody ask about the consumer, the home buyer or the seller?" She's like, "No, we don't talk about that." That was eye-opening to me because that was the only hat that I understood. I didn't understand anything else. It's interesting now in my career to see how that's come full circle. Everything is about the consumer. That's the North Star to every company or every business. It took a while to get there.
[bctt tweet="Have a clear vision on where you’re going." username="billrisser"]
I was in the title business when Dotloop launched. It was groundbreaking at the time. I remember connecting, meeting, and saying hi to Austin in Inman. I know he was in Cincinnati and doing his thing and he was getting this company rolling. Somehow, Marnie who will not leave Colorado ends up convincing Austin that you can work for Dotloop and stay at home. How did you do this?
That came about in a pretty interesting way. I had been at RE/MAX for about ten years and that's where I met Austin. He was always trying to sell RE/MAX on a bigger enterprise deal or a bigger vision of how to use transaction management. At the time, people didn't even pay attention to transaction management. They didn't understand it. They didn't know it. Everything was website, CRM, and lead generation.
I was familiar with it because I had worked with them. They had a decent amount of RE/MAX companies using transaction management using Dotloop, but it was a foreign concept. At that point in time though, I decided to leave RE/MAX and go back to telecom for about six months. I had an old colleague of mine talking to my ears saying, "This is a good opportunity. Come back."
After ten years of doing the same thing, I was like, "Maybe I'm ready for something new." If I look back on my career, it was the worst decision I made. I left RE/MAX. I went back to telecom and within 48 hours of that job, I knew that that was not where I belonged at all. That was a hard time in my career because I had always been on a very good path. I had always been very successful at what I was doing. I had a very clear vision of where I was going. I had to make a hard decision.
I had to go to a colleague and a friend and say, "This isn't going to work." I waited for about a month or two. I tried and I knew this isn't going to work. I went in and gave my notice even after about a month and said, "I'm going to give you about a month and a half to two months' notice. I will finish that project out so you have something to work with." During that time, I had gone back to all my contacts in the real estate industry and said, "I need to be in the real estate industry."
Austin was one of them. What had happened is some news releases came out about Dotloop and RE/MAX. I was like, "I can't believe it. Austin won RE/MAX." He got RE/MAX. It wasn't quite that. It was something a little bit smaller, but that kick-started the conversation. The company Dotloop was growing pretty quickly at that time. It needed more experience from industry players. I joined Dotloop in the very early stages. That was crazy because I had never been in a startup world. I had worked for a few companies in telecom and RE/MAX, very established companies, but I had never been in a startup world. That was my first entrée into that world. That's an interesting ride.
Decisions can be made quickly. It's not like turning a freighter. All those analogies are correct.
You have to learn to fail. That was hard for me. I don't fail. Why would I want to do something if I'm going to fail? That was something because you have to try things and you have to keep trying until you figure out the right path. I eventually did and Dotloop became a very successful company and sold to Zillow. I was there for about four years. I went through that entire acquisition process with Austin and Zillow. I stayed about another four years before I'm over at Pacaso. It was about an eight-year run there.
Let's talk about Pacaso and network platforms. I heard that phrase several years ago. Uber and Match.com are network platforms. People that have something that other people need and someone in the middle makes it simple. At its core, that's what we're looking at with Pacaso, another network platform that solves a problem for consumers. It's fantastic. For the people that maybe don't know exactly how this thing all plays out or haven't been paying as close attention as I have, can you lay out the process that Pacaso has perfected?
[caption id="attachment_4280" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Real Estate Technology: What's really important in being an agent is being able to have a conversation with your clients, because probably with the pace of our marketing and brand awareness.[/caption]
The entire mission of Pacaso is to make second homeownership more accessible and more enjoyable for more people. The concept is pretty simple. We took a decade-old do-it-yourself type of model of friends and family getting together, finding a second home, and owning the home together as co-owners. What we've done is just modernized that platform and we have built out a model so that people can have access to it. They don't have to go find friends and family because as we all probably know, if you've ever done it, it gets real messy real fast. "So-and-so wants to sell. You don't want them to sell. How do I get into the house? You have Christmas. I want to have Christmas. You had it last year." That gets tricky with friends and family.
The model itself, we come in and we buy high-end luxury homes. Typically, about 2 to 3 times the median home value. We put that home into an LLC and then we find up to eight owners per home. You can own an eighth, a quarter, or up to a half of a home. We're in about 35 to 40 markets throughout the US. We launched Spain and London as well, back in the fall. Now, we have a global presence as well. Pretty soon, we will be launching Mexico in Cabo.
As an old title guy, twenty years with Fidelity National Financial, we had deeds all the time that had fractional ownership. It's super common in the title space. It's not even new. Not even close. It's everything else that was built around that which is what we're going to chat about. I have to ask you about the name Pacaso. It sounds eerily close to Pablo Picasso, spelled much differently but said the...