Can Social Entrepreneurship Transform House Sales?

House Sales : Can Social Entrepreneurship Transform House Sales?

Can anything make buyers trust real estate agents? A new startup for the housing industry is hoping its service will do just that.

Giveback Homes, which launched in August, is a network of real estate agents, home builders, mortgage brokers and interior designers. Members pay $50 each month to get listed on Giveback Homes’ website and receive marketing support. Individuals then decide how much, and how frequently, they want to donate to a good cause—an amount that is typically cut from commissions they earn by helping to buy or sell a home, for example. All of the donations—$56,000 raised, to date—have been passed on to the nonprofit group Habitat For Humanity to help build 12 homes in Nicaragua and put toward future houses set for Dallas and Los Angeles.

Blake Andrews says he conceived this venture after working at TOMS Shoes, another for-profit social enterprise, which donates a pair of shoes to someone in need for each one sold. That particular company is run by Blake Mycoskie, who happened to play tennis with Andrews for a few years when they were young boys. After losing contact for 18 years the men ended up on the same fishing trip several years ago, where they recognized each other and Andrews learned more about Mycoskie’s one-for-one business model. A couple of years later, when Andrews was working in his family’s beer business, he says he called up Mycoskie to transition into a more “fulfilling” career from the ground up. Soon, he was working at TOMS Shoes, where he stayed for a few years in various roles. (TOMS Shoes did not respond to a request for comment.)

More recently, Andrews discovered that his real estate agent and others in the trade often donated a portion of their commissions to charitable causes but didn’t always know exactly where their money was going. “There are 2 million real estate agents in the U.S. and no way to differentiate yourself,” says Andrews, 39. “Giveback Homes makes it seamless for our members to become humanitarians and turn their clients into humanitarians as well while building homes for families in need.”

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