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CubiCasa President Jeff Allen discusses rising demand for floor plans in U.S.

Allen says providing technology for free enables large-scale industry adoption

CubiCasa, a Finland-based proptech company in the floor plan market industry, recently launched a free digital floor plan technology. The company now wants to standardize floor plans in American properties and help people take a step toward buying a home.

Jeff Allen, president of CubiCasa, says floor plans are now a highly sought after feature for today’s home buyers and sellers.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends 2021 Report also says floor plans rank as the third most desired listing feature for homebuyers(67%), after photos (89%) and detailed information regarding the properties for sale (86%). According to data accumulated by CubiCasa, however, only 10-15% home listings in the country include floor plans.

The new technology is also free, with the Clear Capital-owned proptech instead allowing users to purchase optional add-ons for each purchase based on their needs. 

“By offering a free version of our mobile scanning technology in the U.S., we’re helping potential buyers make more informed decisions, while empowering agents and sellers to market their properties more effectively, and supporting a modern valuation process for both appraisers and lenders,” Allen previously told HousingWire.

FinLedger recently spoke with Allen about the company’s expansion into the U.S. from Finland, the changes he has seen in the demand for floor plans since the pandemic and CubiCasa’s ongoing business growth strategies.

Q: What led you to start the floor plan business at CubiCasa?

A: We know that floor plans serve a really important role in real estate and in mortgage. They give buyers a very clear sense of a property before they visit, and they give people in the mortgage process very clear data on the property’s attributes so they can make better underwriting decisions. But actually producing floor plans in an accurate way is typically very challenging. It requires a lot of learning, a lot of training. It’s hard to do consistently right. 

And so, CubiCasa really is attempting to solve that ease-of-use problem, and make it possible for anybody with just a smartphone that they already have in their back pocket to produce something that’s credible, accurate and really helps move the real estate process forward.

Q: What led CubiCasa to expand its enterprise from Finland into the United States?

A: The US is a thriving market. But today, floor plans are still a niche product. By our estimates, they’re only used in a small minority of listings today, even though home buyers consistently state that their most desired add-on feature for a listing is to get one. 

So there’s this huge opportunity and that disconnect. In the U.S. today there are not a lot of floor plans being collected, but a huge consumer need for them. And in other parts of the world, it’s a little different. 

In Europe and in Australia, floor plans are already ubiquitous. Like the vast majority of houses go on the market with a floor plan. And so we know it can be done. It’s happened in other parts of the world and those markets are better off for it. So we have this huge opportunity now to replicate that in the U.S. thanks to our technology being incredibly easy to use. So it removes that hurdle, and then now with our new free floor plan option we’ve made it easier than ever for people to get started, at any cost that works for them. 

Q: CubiCasa estimates only 10% to 15% of American households have floor plans. Based on your observations while working in this field, have you seen any changes since the new technology has come out from your company?

A: We definitely have seen it increase over the last few years, so certainly there are more floor plans being collected in the real estate process now than there were a few years ago. There’s been an improvement, but there’s still so much room left to go. We still have 80% to 90% of the market where we can grow, too. With the new free floor plan option, by removing the pricing question of that hurdle, we think we’ve opened ourselves up to be able to be used more widely on that remaining 80% to 90%.

Q: Can you explain why you are offering this for free, and where do you make up for that cost? 

A: It’s free because we’re really trying to get it adopted as much as possible, because we want to change the paradigm in the U.S. So that consumers will start to see floor plans so often on most things so that people will just start to expect it, because it’s a better real estate process. We think the only way we’re ever going to be able to really change that dynamic in the U.S. is by making a free version available, that removes that question of, “Well, should I pay for this or not?” Now you don’t have to make that decision. If you’re a listing agent or a photographer who does marketing for properties, you have a free option to always make it available. 

In terms of revenue, we do have optional per order add-ons. You can pay additional money to have additional furniture details added, you can pay additional money to have a gross living area calculation which helps in the appraisal process. Those are two examples, and so we certainly still have a path to make revenue. And the more users we get on our platform, the more we have the opportunity to provide those types of optional, additional revenue sources in the future.

Q: Why do you think floor plans are so important? Could you compare the supply and demand of floor plans before and after the pandemic and how it has helped the rental space?

A: More and more information is being provided to potential home buyers and renters in their searching process, because I think the days of just putting one photo of your property and saying, “Come and get it.” are long gone. Consumers expect to have lots of information at their fingertips as they’re deciding what properties to take a closer look at. And that I think was accelerated by the pandemic, and that’s here to stay. So as more and more people get used to the idea that they should have really robust property information, images, media and data available in their homes search process, I don’t think we’re going to go back to the way things used to be.

Q: What have been some of your most notable partnerships and how are they faring currently?

A: We have partnerships with a lot of major real estate companies that use our product, and then we also have a lot of partnerships with home appraisal companies that use our product as well. Our product serves both purposes of marketing a property, like giving something that helps sell a property, and then also in the appraisal process—having a really accurate floor plan and data that enables a better appraisal process. So our partnerships are oftentimes with those two types of companies. And while we love our website users who come and use it freely, we also really want to forge even more big industry partnerships with enterprise customers to grow the use of this product.

Q: How do you add a human touch to the technology? This is a virtual space where you can scan floor plans with a smartphone. How do you make that extra step to help them decide whether they want to go forward or not?

A: For real estate a home is most people’s biggest investment they will ever make. And so I don’t think floor plans, virtual tours or property photos are a substitute for the human element. It’s not a substitute for a potential buyer going to see the property in person. Everyone’s going to want to do that, and they should, right? What things like floor plans do, though, is create a much better real estate experience for the buyer. So they’re more informed when they go to the property, and they’re closer at that point to knowing they want to do a deal. 

If I can clearly tell, because I’ve seen a floor plan, that my furniture’s going to fit in those bedrooms. And I love the layout, because I’ve seen it visually already on this site that I visited,  then I’m just a few important steps closer to being ready to make an offer. There’s still absolutely a human element, and there’s still visits to the property happening. But we just feel like we accelerate that and get people closer to a buying decision.

Q: What are some of upcoming plans that we can keep an eye out for at CubiCasa?

A: Now that we’ve just released this new free floor plan option, we’re putting the pedal to the metal in terms of meeting with people in the real estate industry and making sure they’re aware that we now have this free option. That really opens up so many new potential use cases for adoption. Really now that we have this product out, we’re going to be visiting I think every major U.S. conference for real estate and mortgage this Fall. Just making partnerships happen, meeting with people and trying to get as much adoption as we can. And then we’re going to just continue adding value to the product. We have ideas for future product enhancements that we’ll be making in the future, but really it’s all about adoption. Right now it’s all about focusing on the easiest to use tool in the industry. It’s free. Now we just need people to start using it. And so that’s where we’re focused.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the collaboration between your team in the U.S. and in Finland?

A: Our core tech team is all based in Finland. There’s really great talent in Finland with respect to computer vision, machine learning, and really deep tech that’s required to produce this really advanced product that we have. And so that team is all based in Finland. 

And a lot of our more exterior-facing, market-facing functions like sales and marketing and product are largely based in the U.S. But we do have a lot of great collaboration between the teams. We actually do have trips out to Finland a couple of times a year where the teams are all together, the American and the Finnish teams, to collaborate on strategy. We have frequent daily calls between the two sides, so there’s a lot of interaction and collaboration that goes on.

In other recent proptech news, HOVER expanded its digital twin solution to include blueprint uploads and service new construction. NewPoint also partnered with Morgan Properties to launch a new affordable housing platform.

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