A Dayton Startup Wants to Give More Power to Homebuyers

How Unlisted is flipping the script on how you buy a house

It might be a challenging process, but everyone knows how to buy a house. You see something on the market, you race to make an offer, and you hope that it’s accepted. It’s a stressful, competitive process that leaves buyers frustrated and exhausted. But what if it didn’t have to work that way? Rather than choosing from homes for sale, what if you could choose from any home? Dayton’s Unlisted has a different dream for homebuying, and they think the country is with them.

“Unlisted is where off-market is no longer off-limits,” founder and CEO Katie Hill said. “We’re kind of flipping the script on how people approach the residential retail market. The usual process is that a homeowner initiates things by putting a home on sale. What we want is to give the buyers a path to initiate that process by reaching out to homeowners who are not currently on the market, and we’re using technology to facilitate that connection.”

The Unlisted website functions to similar house searching sites that you’ve used before, but with one major difference: It has every single house in the country, not just those that are for sale. A buyer searches for any home (with typical parameters such as bedrooms and baths), finds the one they want, and sees a recommendation score based on fit and Unlisted’s algorithm that estimates the likelihood of a sale. When a buyer chooses a house, they draft a personal letter that is delivered to the homeowner in a sparkly golden package along with chocolate or cookies, and the homeowner gets a code that they can use to open a dialogue with the buyer. It may not be the traditional way of buying a home, but Hill knows it can work. She developed the idea after approaching her neighbor during the pandemic. His house had a pool, and her daughters were desperate to swim, so she went out on a limb.

“I walked across the street and told my neighbor that if he was ever interested in selling his house, I was interested in buying it,” she said. “He got excited; his face lit up. He said, ‘Are you serious? I’ve been starting to think about retirement, and I can’t believe you just marched up to my house and told me you were interested.’ We were both excited about the idea, and we agreed that I would have the right of first refusal whenever he decided to sell. I didn’t want to come home one day and see a ‘for sale’ sign and have to scramble. So, whenever he’s ready, I will be.”

The site is also available to agents, which represents their main focus for the future. And momentum is building. Unlisted won the University of Dayton’s Flyer Pitch competition, bringing home $60,000 in funding. They’ve already sold their first house through the platform, with another sale pending. Hill even reached out to Kayak CEO Paul English after hearing him on a podcast, and the entrepreneur connected her with his technical team, who both invested and helped with software. Now, there’s very little question about whether Hill’s idea can be successful.

“The question was, ‘Will this idea work?’ and the first phase of that was whether homeowners would respond,” she said. “Right away, we saw that they would. So, then it became, ‘Would we get deals done,’ and we are. That’s helping to fuel the onboarding of agents across the country. We’re signing up agents in multiple markets around the United States, and each month, we have more and more mailers going out than we did before. We’re doing the things we should and growing month over month.”

Hill knows how to grow a company, and she knows how to do it in Ohio. She founded CommuterAds in 2008, which brought her to the state, where she fell in love with entrepreneurship and the Dayton community. She eventually became entrepreneur-in-residence at The Entrepreneurs’ Center, where she stayed until she left to pursue Unlisted full time. Passionate about boosting other entrepreneurs and growing the Ohio startup scene, she credits the Ohio Third Frontier for opening doors for her and countless other entrepreneurs.

“I kind of became an Ohioan at the same time as I became an entrepreneur, so I’ve walked that walk, and I know what it’s like and how hard and thrilling it can be,” she said. “What I see in the Ohio Third Frontier is an opportunity to support entrepreneurs that’s really unique, special, meaningful, and actually moves the needle. The Third Frontier is a huge amount of help, it isn’t just a little, minor thing. For an industry where every little thing matters, to have a program like the Third Frontier is a huge help. I think it’s really great that entrepreneurs in Ohio have someone who has their backs.”

That passion for the Ohio startup scene and the Dayton community shapes Hill’s goals for the future. Right now, she’s focused on revenue, expansion, and hiring, and is aiming to raise another $1.5 million in funding by the end of the year. But she’s got her eye on bigger goals as well and wants to be a leader in the Dayton startup community for years to come.

“My dream is to grow and eventually sell the company for a huge figure, make all my Dayton investors a ton of money and then come right back to The Entrepreneurs’ Center and work with startups with that new experience and that much more credibility,” she said. “I want to put my money right back into startups in the same way people put money into me. That’s my ultimate vision. Success breeds success, and I think I’m already a product of the momentum that other people have worked really hard to build in Dayton, and I want to be part of that story.”

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