Homebase, a Ho Chi Minh City-based proptech startup that helps people buy homes, announced today it has raised $30 million in equity and debt (the ratio was undisclosed). The company’s business model is similar to Divvy Homes and ZeroDown in the United States and, in fact, Divvy Homes co-founder and former CEO Brian Ma and ZeroDown chief operating officer Troy Steckenrider III are investors in Homebase.
Participants in this round were Y Combinator (Homebase took part in the accelerator program earlier this year), Partech Partners, Goodwater Capital, Ace and Company, Emies Advisors and Foundamental. It also included Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel, and operators and executives from companies like SoFi, Opendoor, Republic, Microsoft, Instacart, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Binance and others.
The startup's existing investors include Ma, Steckenrider, VinaCapital Ventures and Darius Cheung, the founder and CEO of 99.co, one of the largest property portals in Singapore and Indonesia.
Homebase works by acting as a co-investor, buying property with clients who put in a 20% deposit. Then clients pay back a fixed amount to Homebase each month or can decide to buy out the company's entire share. They can also chose to walk away from the deal and cash out their savings.
Clients have full usage rights to the home, so they can live in it or rent it. Contracts range from one to 10 years and An says people who buy homes to live in often chose 10-year contracts, while investors usually go for about three years, so they can see how the market appreciates before selling the property.
Homebase will use its new funding to continue developing its proprietary technology, form more partnerships with real estate developers and hiring. The company says it has doubled its headcount over the past year.
In terms of its technology, co-founder and COO Phillip An told TechCrunch, “a lot of it is how do we improve the customer experience and make it more customer-centric? Right now in Vietnam, buying property is really painful. It’s like 100 steps, you have to sign in blue ink on paper, at the bottom of every page. We’re thinking of how do you make the experience of buying a home or investing a one-stop shop where you can do everything digitally.”
He added Homebase is also thinking about developing asset valuation tools to help homeowners and passive investors gauge the value of their properties.
An said Homebase’s client base is split 50/50 between people who want a home and investors, including foreign buyers who can’t travel to Vietnam because of the pandemic and rely on Homebase to perform transactions for them.
“The concept of owning your own home is quite important culturally and if you look at the economy, real estate is one of the most popular types of investment,” said An. “People are investing more and more in crypto and stocks, especially during COVID, but I would say real estate still makes a really big portion of what people put their money in. And if you look at the historical track record of real estate in Vietnam, it’s really good.”
Homebase cites research from real estate consultancy CBRE that showed that increases in average landed property prices grew from 3% to 17% year over year, even during Vietnam’s COVID-19 lockdowns during the third quarter. This is good news for people who already own property, but means it is increasingly difficult for first-time buyers to secure mortgages.
Homebase works with agents and developers as a value-add service that helps them close more deals. “For a lot of agents, among the biggest hurdle for them is that clients cannot qualify for a mortgage right away because of the barriers. After COVID, I would say banks became even more strict in terms of criteria. Sometimes they require a 40% to 50% down payment.”
Having Homebase to buy property on behalf of a client makes the process more efficient and as a result, agents sometimes offer buyers a discount if use the startup’s services, An said.
The company will continue focusing on Vietnam over the next few months by expanding into more cities (it currently operates in Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, Hanoi and Danang). It is also exploring other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines.
“Investors, even customers have reached out to us on social media and asked if we’re available in their country, so I think there is a lot of customer demand for these types of services that help make affording a home more accessible,” An said.
In a statement about his investment in Homebase, Siebel said, “We’ve seen many innovative proptech companies at YC from around the world, and Homebase is among those leading toward a significantly better and more customer-centric solution versus current options, and radically transforms accessibility for aspiring homeowners.”