Get to know Tim Heyl, CEO and Founder
Tim Heyl is a real estate agent and the CEO and Founder of Homeward. He has deep experience building real estate teams and businesses. At 24 years old, Tim was named Austin's #1 real estate agent by the Austin Business Journal. He ultimately led his brokerage, The Heyl Group, to be a 4x Inc 5000 company. Tim built several real estate businesses, including Mint Title and a lead conversion call center called Phone Animal. In 2018, he founded Homeward, his first venture-backed business and was soon named Inman News Innovator of the Year.
Homeward was proud to be the title sponsor of ICLV 2021. In this interview, Tim sits down with Julie Youngblood, one of Homeward’s partner leads and a native Las Vegan, to talk about how the market is changing, why cash will always be king, and what’s so great about Inman Connect.
Julie: Where did you get the idea for Homeward?
Tim: I got the idea from my clients. From their problem. I kept running into the same thing. Buyers couldn’t make an offer on a new home until they sold their old home. I kept watching buyers try to work around this, but they got stuck paying two mortgages, moving twice, or even missing out on a home they loved altogether.
It bothered me. Buying a home should be fun and exciting. But a lot of my buyers were anxious and stressed. They felt rushed to make decisions — and sometimes they made really bad ones. There were tech companies trying to address this issue. There were iBuyers. But these solutions were either cutting into the agents’ commission or trying to cut agents out of the picture entirely. And I really believed agents should be part of the solution.
So I stopped waiting for someone else to solve my clients’ problem. I did something crazy. In December of 2018, I bought the home my clients wanted with cash from my savings account. That cash unlocked the home equity my clients had tied up in their old house. Then they sold that old house and got a mortgage to buy the new house back from me. It was an epiphany. My cash made the process easier, calmer, and more certain for that client. And it gave them the ability to move when it was good for them, instead of when it was good for the buyers. They didn’t have to rush out of their house.
I wanted to figure out how to scale that. How to give other agents the ability to do the same for their clients. I knew the problem I was seeing wasn’t unique. I knew that other agents kept bumping up against the same limitations with the traditional real estate transaction. Most importantly, I knew solving a problem like this would get my past clients talking and referring their friends to me, not for me but for them - and it worked!. So that idea became Homeward’s first service: Buy before you sell. And top teams we partner with have been using it to generate their own seller referrals ever since!
Julie: We’ve seen phenomenal growth in only two and a half years. As the market begins to cool off, will the Homeward Cash Offer still be popular?
Tim: Look, cash is king in any market. And here’s why: sellers prefer it. You’re right, in the multiple-offer situations we’ve seen over the last year or so, cash’s number-one advantage is that it can beat traditional offers. In fact, cash offers are four times more likely to beat financed bids. But in less competitive markets, sellers still prefer the Homeward Cash Offer. Why? Because it’s a contingency-free offer. It’s a cash offer backed by our institutional funds, so it eliminates the home sale, finance, and appraisal contingencies. Sellers can be confident that it’s going to close without hiccups or surprises. So they’re going to choose the Homeward Cash Offer over a traditional offer.
And as the market cools off, they’re going to continue to do that. So, what does that mean for the buyer? That even in a buyer’s market, cash gives them a competitive advantage. It empowers them to command better terms when they’re negotiating a deal. That may mean they can close on their timeline, get some conveyance they really want, command seller credits, or even pay less for the house.
Cash is still the gold standard of offers — regardless of market conditions.
Julie: Other innovators in the space won’t work with just any agent. They have their own team of agents or will only refer clients to certain agents. Why did you decide that Homeward would work with anyone?
Tim: Real estate is going to continue to evolve. And that evolution puts the agent’s future at risk. But buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people ever make. And it’s also one of the most stressful — second only to divorce. So people need an expert guide when they’re going through this. I want all of those guides — all of those agents — to have access to our solutions.
I am an agent. I have my own team of agents. I understand the importance of agents. So I want Homeward to be an agent-centric company. Most of our Customer Experience Managers and Partner Leads are agents themselves. Our senior leadership, our customer experience managers, our agent advisors — many of them are real estate agents. That’s important to us because it enables us to deliver our solutions in ways that drive business growth for agents and keep them at the heart of the transaction.
We have established relationships with a lot of brokerages. But if you’re an agent in one of our markets and you want to innovate with us, we want to work with you.
Julie: The last year and a half has been a crazy time for real estate — mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What changed for Homeward during that time?
Tim: It’s been a roller coaster, hasn’t it? When COVID-19 first hit, everything came to a standstill. We thought we’d close the office for a few weeks, but our future was really uncertain. Real estate’s future was really uncertain. It was hard to imagine people showing their homes during a pandemic. It was hard to predict what the economy would do. But it came back. The market came back — in fact, it came back with a vengeance.
The new normal — remote work and all that comes with that — made people rethink their real estate choices. And the market exploded. We saw a 600% revenue increase in just six months. We offer a certification program — a webinar agents can attend — for agents who want to use our solution. Over 12 months, we saw 4.5x growth in the number of agents who did that.
So what happened at Homeward during the last year and a half? In May of 2020, we had a successful but challenging series A round of funding that raised $20MM in equity. Raising money during a pandemic is no joke. And this was early in the pandemic, when everything was still up in the air, so we thought that was a real testament to our potential. In January of 2021, we introduced our second solution — Buy with cash — the cash offer upgrade for clients who want to make a cash offer, but aren’t also selling a home. Demand was through the roof. Agents had been asking for it — they wanted to be able to make all of their buyers cash buyers — so they were ready and waiting for it.
In May 2021, we closed an incredibly successful series B round of funding that included $136MM in equity. That was big. That money has allowed us to do a few things. Most importantly, it enabled us to scale service and support to meet the huge demand we were seeing. So those funds allowed us to do a lot of hiring. Actually we’re still hiring if anyone’s looking. We’ll also use that funding to expand to new markets.
Julie: What’s next for Homeward?
Tim: We’re getting ready to roll out our solutions to more markets and we’re really excited about that. That’s one of the other reasons we did a big fundraise last spring: we want to make the Homeward Cash Offer available to even more agents. Stay tuned to hear more about our expansion news.
Julie: What are you looking forward to most about ICLV 2021?
Tim: Brad Inman and his team always do such an incredible job of giving us the macro context of what's going on - what's working, what's not, and where we need to up our game. I'm really excited to learn from the best.
If you're an agent interested in turning contingent clients into cash buyers, schedule an appointment with a Homeward Advisor here.