Robinson, who played basketball for Navy and then for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, is making a personal investment in this fund-raising round in Houwzer, along with others, through his private equity firm, Admiral Capital Group. Lubert is making his $1 million investment through his family office, Houwzer executives said.
Robinson, known as “the Admiral” on the basketball court, cofounded the firm with former Goldman Sachs alumnus Dan Bassichis. Admiral Capital Group, with over $1.5 billion of assets under management, is a Manhattan-based private equity firm with a focus on real estate, hospitality, sports, and entertainment. Admiral will also choose a member of Houwzer’s board.
Having already raised $2.2 million in outside capital, Houwzer founder and CEO Mike Maher said the new funds will help the company continue its growth in the Philadelphia and D.C. metro areas and expand into another major market in the next 12 months.
“Our vision at Houwzer is to be the best real estate company in the world — and for the world,” said Maher, “An investment by Ira Lubert is a big validator for our model, and with Admiral Capital Group alongside us, we now have the network and resources to help us scale nationally.”
“Houwzer plans to streamline the entire home sale transaction for consumers with a one-stop shopping experience guided by a concierge. By integrating core home services like mortgage financing and title insurance, consumers benefit from a better, faster, and cheaper home buying and selling experience," Maher said.
Rather than agent commissions, Houwzer’s staff Realtors are paid salaries, and Houwzer home sellers pay a flat fee of $2,500 at closing, rather than a percentage — long the industry standard.
“We see Houwzer as the future of real estate brokerage,” said Admiral cofounder Bassichis in a statement.
Like Robinson, Maher also graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and both men are Navy veterans, having served on active duty.
Robinson also took note of Houwzer’s impact model as a certified B-Corporation, committed to social and environmental ethics, transparency, and accountability.
“The leadership team at Houwzer value their employees and communities, as much as their clients, and that’s not always the norm,” Robinson said in a statement.
Lubert is a Philadelphia private equity magnate and cofounder of Independence Capital Partners, the coleader for this second round of funding, Maher said. Repeat investors from Houwzer’s first round include Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners via their newly managed StartUp PHL fund and the Union League of Philadelphia’s recently formed angel syndicate, Broad Street Angels, Maher added.
Seventy percent of the $4.5 million investment comes from Greater Philadelphia, with the remaining 30 percent coming from New York investors.
Maher and Kevin Baird started Houwzer in 2015 in frustration over flat fees in the brokerage business. Since its founding, Houwzer has serviced over 1,000 transactions, representing nearly $500 million in sales volume, Maher said.
Houwzer was ranked as one of the region’s most impressive start-ups, winning a spot among the 2018 Philly Stellar Start-Ups.
“Houwzer does not believe in the high volume, low-margin model representative of the traditional brokerage model,” he added.
By charging a flat fee at closing, Maher said, Houwzer has saved home sellers over $8 million in fees since its launch. Houwzer began with 14 employees and now employs almost 70 full-time staff members.
With the funds from this round, “Houwzer will vertically integrate mortgage financing, likely through acquisition, as it seeks to become a true disrupter,” Maher said.