Tech startup tackles Ireland's housing crisis by connecting buyers with vacant properties

Homebuyer's Hero is using technology to solve Ireland’s housing shortage, uniting potential property buyers with long-vacant properties and leveraging data to reduce the risks associated with property development.
Tech startup tackles Ireland's housing crisis by connecting buyers with vacant properties

Homebuyer's Hero is a start-up co-founded by Colm Casey and Dr Constantin Gurdgiev, committed to solving the Irish housing crisis. The company has developed processes, technologies, and algorithms to connect buyers and sellers and reduce property construction risks. 

Founded by former real estate agent Colm Casey and macroeconomist Dr Constantin Gurdgiev, the company increases supply by using buyer demand data to derisk residential construction and bring vacant homes back into the mix. 

I spoke to Casey to find out more. He explains:

"We have developed new processes and technology to connect buyers to the early stages of residential development design and new processes around how buyers can together establish the price 'the market' is willing to pay for vacant homes."

Homebuyer's Hero sees the way forward using data to balance housing supply and demand "as opposed to a speculative lead model, which is prevalent pretty much everywhere."

This creates a pre-marketplace for builders and sellers, driving confidence in building and selling property. 

Casey contends that :

"A lack of market transparency means that currently, a lot of people are sitting on properties they believe are worthless because they didn't sell when they tried to sell them a few years ago."

The company is also interested in using data to drive planning decisions, such as the optimal layouts of proposed developments. 

And this has a strong sustainability bent, as Casey shared that one of their new build areas in mind is the surroundings of an old railway line.

The government is considering reopening the line for freight. Casey sees the potential benefits of expanding the use of passenger commuting. A Homebuyer's Hero database of people interested in living near the line would incentivise the passenger route and infrastructural development for builders and local planners.. The company is also focused on new builds in areas mostly outside of current construction finance lending norms, but brought within access of finance due to its models. This would represent a major and immediate increase in housing numbers.

Homebuyer's Hero's New Builds platform

The problem of vacant homes 

The value of data comes into its own when you realise that in Ireland, there are over 100,000 vacant homes that would be liveable with minor renovations—astonishing numbers in a housing crisis.  

Homebuyer's Hero is partnering with Mayo County Council to create a pilot programme, utilising variants of the Homebuyer's Hero technologies and processes to bring these vacant homes back into use. 

Mayo County Council has developed a vacant homes website where people can anonymously log possible vacant properties and alert local authorities, who can then follow up with the owners to see whether the house can be re-used quickly.

In December, Mayo County Council identified 9,166 vacant properties.

In Ireland, local authorities such as Mayo County Council have the capacity to Compulsory Purchase Order properties as a last majority under the government's Housing For All plan specifically sets a target of 2,500 such transactions.

As part of the public-private partnership, County officials will work with property owners to list vacant homes on the Homebuyers' Hero website. Interested buyers express their interest and indicate their budgets for each listing. Property owners review expressions of interest and select the best fit for their needs. 

The council hopes to fill 50 vacant homes by the end of 2023 without using Compulsory Purchase Orders.​​

The need for a Dedicated Proptech Fund to Address the Irish Housing Crisis

It's relatively early days for Homebuyer's Hero, founded in 2021.

The company is primarily bootstrapped and contends that the start-up ecosystem in Ireland, dominated by Enterprise Ireland, "often assesses innovative housing solutions through the inappropriate lens of SaaS models. This approach hinders the potential impact of market-altering innovations in the housing sector."

It calls for a dedicated Proptech Fund in Ireland that supports companies addressing the housing crisis, providing the necessary resources to develop and implement market-altering solutions.

Lead image: Rory Hennessey

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