Episode 320 – Marnie Blanco, VP of Industry Relations – Pacaso

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

 

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.

Thank you.

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.

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

Real Estate Technology: Take that leap and don’t be afraid to make changes in your professional life.

 

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.

Everything is about the consumer. That's the North Star to every company, every business. Click To Tweet

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.

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

Real Estate Technology: The entire mission of Pacaso is to make second home ownership more accessible and more enjoyable for more people.

 

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.

Have a clear vision on where you’re going. Click To Tweet

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?

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

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.

 

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 same. Is there a connection between those two?

There is. It’s paying homage to Pablo Picasso, his style of art, the fluidity and the collaboration of it. That’s how it built into the name of our company. We did not necessarily start out as Pacaso. The company has gone through a few names. Some early agents and/or owners worked with us under a different name before Pacaso came to be. Pacaso was very fitting for the style and the mission of the company going forward.

There have been a few bumps in the road. I call them bumps. I don’t think they were massive issues or problems, but they made the news, whether it was on Inman or where else, but the NIMBY problem or the Not In My Backyard culture who would hate to have an Airbnb anywhere near them and probably inside their CC&Rs or other restrictions there, so they’re not allowed. No big deal. They don’t have to worry about it. However, there’s nothing stopping a property from being sold in those communities to somebody who is then going to have multiple owners. Multiple owners are okay. First of all, it’s not even close to an Airbnb experience. Let’s talk about how that has been going.

As you said, in the news, our market popped up where there was a very strong stop Pacaso type of feel in the community. It’s people coming in thinking, “It’s an Airbnb. There’s going to be a different person in and out of this house every 3 or 4 days. I don’t want that next to me. I don’t want that near me.” There was a lot of education to be done. Not only with agents and brokers in the industry but also with the public, the community and neighborhoods.

Getting them to understand that these are people who have been coming to your community for years. They just want something to call their own. They want true ownership, somewhere that they can come back and bring their families and create experiences. It’s not a party house or short-term rental. As a matter of fact, our owners aren’t even allowed to rent their Pacasos. That is a part of our operating agreement.

It’s supposed to be for true experiences for our owners, friends, and families who might join them when they come to stay at their homes. There were some bumpy roads. There was some antiquated thinking in these communities. To be honest, there was some nasty thinking. People didn’t want different types of people next to them. They would flat out say, “This house is empty for 10, 11 months out of the year and that’s how we like it,” and not being able to think bigger from a sustainability perspective. That might sit well with you but that’s not good for the community. That’s not good for the neighborhoods and the surrounding areas.

A lot of these towns were struggling. They couldn’t keep restaurants open. They couldn’t keep any type of community in the area because they didn’t want anyone living there. That’s not our philosophy at Pacaso. We believe that sustainability is important. Utilization of our homes is about 87% to 90% versus 20% of a typical second home. We believe that’s better for the community. It gives opportunity. It even can help some housing affordability issues because we’re not in that mainstream housing. We’re more on the higher-end luxury homes. It brings resources to a community and it helps build it.

You just have to try things and you have to keep trying until you figure out the right path. Click To Tweet

This could be a wonderful thing for everyone in the area. Do you see that happening? They’re only there for 2 months, 6 weeks, 8 weeks or whatever it is, but when they’re there, they’re very active and part of what’s happening.

As I said, there are people who have been probably coming there for ages. They have their favorite restaurant. They have their favorite bike path that they like to go ride. They have their favorite park that they want to go to. We have some owners in Palm Springs. It was pretty interesting. It’s always a joy for us when we get to talk to our owners and say, “Why is Pacaso a good fit for you?” They have a place in Palm Springs and they’ve been there half a dozen times or so. They’ve started to get to know some of the neighbors around there, so much so that they have become such good friends with one of the neighbors that they go on vacation together now in different places throughout the United States.

It’s not this typical short-term rental type of model that people are scared of. It will take a little bit of time for people to experience it. Unfortunately, there is a thought process out there by some of these neighbors that, “If you can’t afford the whole home, you don’t deserve to be here,” which is an unfortunate type of thinking. Half of our owners can afford the whole home. They just choose not to put their investment in that way because they know they’re not going to be there all the time.

We now have quite a large group of owners that have multiple Pacasos. They have one in Malibu, Aspen, and Miami. They can share their experiences and travel to different areas and not be stuck in one place. The education of the model and the opportunities that it opens up for people are part of the process.

Another big piece is that at Pacaso, you’re handling all logistics and all of that upkeep. All the things that a neighbor would be nervous about being taken care of.

It is. It’s taking care of top to bottom. When Pacaso buys or purchases a home, we put a little bit of design work into it. We try to buy pretty turnkey homes, but we do come in and we put a Pacaso stamp on it. We have internal designers and people that will come in and make that home pretty special. We have this owner in Malibu, who said, “I love Pacaso. They do everything I don’t want to do. I don’t want to outfit the place, maintain it, clean it, and do the yard. They take care of it all.” It’s such a unique and special model for people who want to have great experiences that enrich their lives.

We have to talk about the opportunity for agents to work with Pacaso because you’re selling a fraction of a home, either an eighth, a quarter or a half. Whatever it is, there could be an agent attached to that.

That’s my favorite part to talk about, being in the industry and working with agents and brokers. It’s such an amazing opportunity for them in a few different ways. First and foremost, inventory is a challenge for everybody across any market you look at now. When Pacaso comes in, we buy one and turn it into eight, so we’re creating inventory for these agents and brokers.

When we do that, we know that we need buyers and agents have the buyers. They’re the ones who know second homeowners, people who have homes now and maybe don’t want the whole home, but a Pacaso would be a better model for them, or they know all the dreamers who have said, “I would like to have a second home. This is something that would be important to me and my family.” Maybe they can’t afford an entire home that’s similar to their primary home or they don’t want to buy the whole home. They would like to spread their investment out into different areas.

TRES 320 | Real Estate Technology

Real Estate Technology: Your clients are going to know about Pacaso. So it’s really important as an agent to make sure that you are well-versed in it and can guide them.

 

These agents know those clients. For us to be able to form relationships and partnerships with agents is extremely important to Pacaso. The way that it works is an agent can bring us a buyer for any Pacaso home in the United States or Europe. That’s a little bit of a mind shift for agents because they’re very localized and in my market. That has been a big education point for us, it opens up a whole new world for these agents because what they do is they bring their buyer, we partner them with our sales team, and they get paid a 3% commission on the share price.

If the share price is $500,000, $1 million or $ 2 million, they get paid the full 3% of that share price. They don’t even do a lot of the transactions. Our sales team takes care of it for them. Our sales team is the ones who understand the purchasing agreement, the scheduling application, how the whole model works and the operating agreement. They guide the buyer or client through the model. The agent gets paid a commission for it. It’s a huge additive opportunity for agents to add to their business, whether they work in second-home markets or not. That is our mission. It is to let people know that any listing of Pacaso is theirs to sell.

Agents know that they can go outside of their state. Every state is its own little kingdom when it comes to real estate. Having the opportunity to be telling people, “Let’s look at these listings over here in California or down here in Florida,” is awesome.

A typical mindset of an agent is agent to agent referrals because that’s the way it always is. “I’m in Colorado. I have a buyer in Miami. I go find an agent in Miami to help out with that buyer.” This is different. They can bring them straight to Pacaso and we will handle the transaction for them.

I did not know that. I’m sure a lot of people don’t know that.

It’s very mind-opening when we start talking about that. It’s a big eye-opener.

Let’s look ahead. Is there something that’s next for Pacaso? You mentioned Spain, London and Mexico. That’s huge. There are so many different markets around the world that you probably want to be a part of.

The expansion map that we have is very broad. We will be looking to expand into more markets. We’ll also be looking to take the existing markets we have now and broaden them even further. Now, we focus on the high-end luxury homes, but the demand we’re getting from buyers is saying, “That’s great, but we also want more price points. We want price points in the $200,000 or $300,000 range, instead of the $800,000, $900,000, $1 million range.” Being able to have more of those opportunities for more people is all a part of the mission. Again, second home ownership for anyone, regardless of their budget and location. That expansion is the plan going forward.

You mentioned families earlier. A family could use Pacaso. It would take care of all the other issues. Does that happen yet where someone has come in and said, “There are three of us. We’re going to use you.”

You have to learn to earn. Click To Tweet

I don’t know if it necessarily starts that way, but what happens is one person comes and finds Pacaso and then they talk their brother, sister and aunt into buying the other shares. Off the top of my head, we have a couple of homes where the entire ownership of the home is a family, which is interesting because a lot of our owners are anonymous. They don’t necessarily know the other owners in the home and they prefer it that way. A lot of them do.

We have some homes though where owners want to know everybody else who’s in the home. We can either help facilitate that as property management of the home and/or they get clever. They’ll leave little notes in the house for the next owners or they’ll start a Facebook group and say, “Join in here,” and then they all get to know each other. Every home is a little bit different in terms of how it works, but it’s a great option for everybody depending on how they like to live.

I want to ask you the same final question I’ve asked every guest. What one piece of advice would you give a new agent just getting started in the business?

I’ve been in this business for many years and I don’t like to admit that because that starts to age me a little bit. The biggest thing that I have seen from all the agents that I have worked with through my years is there’s one old saying that is tried and true. That is, “You have to learn to earn.” Agents have to continually keep learning. A lot of successful agents will get into a good rhythm. They have a good book of business. They have their sphere of influence.

If you stop learning, eventually, you’ll stop earning as well because there’s always like Pacaso. It’s a brand-new model. You’ve got to learn about new options not only for you but for your clients. There’s new technology out there all the time that can help you, whether it’s transaction management, CRM, new lead gen or social media. There’s always something out there that could enhance your business. As long as you’re open to learning continually, you will be successful as an agent.

Marnie, if somebody or maybe an agent wants to reach out and get some more information about Pacaso, what’s the best way for them to do that?

The best way is to go to Pacaso.com and you can see a lot of things. You can see all of our listings there and that’s what’s most important. Get familiar with the listings and see what might fit your clients. If you want to learn more specifically about the program, go to Pacaso.com/agents. What’s unique and helpful in that particular part of the site is we have an entire agent playbook that as an agent, you can go and download.

It will give you email scripts, social media assets, and play by play step process of how to introduce Pacaso to your clients. How do you put it into your business model? How do you add it to what you’re already doing? Also, offer it as a good opportunity for your clients. As an agent, what’s important is being able to have a conversation with your clients because, with the pace of our marketing and our brand awareness, your clients are going to know about Pacaso. It’s important as an agent to make sure that you are well-versed in it and can guide them.

When they ask about it, you better know about it. Marnie, this has been great. Thank you so much for your time. This was a lot of fun.

Bill, this was wonderful. Thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for reading. Please head over to RateThisPodcast.com/RESessions to leave a review or a rating and subscribe to the show.

 

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About Marnie Blanco

TRES 320 | Real Estate TechnologyWell-rounded executive leader with 24 years of experience in Industry Relations, Business Development, Product Management, Product Marketing, Training, and Support with 19 years focused in the Real Estate vertical.

Proven leadership and experience in strategic planning and execution of product development, management and marketing, project management, strategic partnership management, training delivery, system integration, systems architecture and implementation.

Specialties: Building strong, flexible teams that execute strategic initiatives and continuous innovation for business growth.

Bill RIsser, Bill Risser

Bill has been producing The Real Estate Sessions Podcast since July 2015. Passionate about learning the backstories of Industry Leaders, Bill seeks out established professionals as well as up and coming stars in real estate.

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