Welcome Homes, an NYC startup that claims to offer the first fully online home building, customization and purchasing experience, announced Tuesday it has officially launched thanks to a $5.35 million seed round led by Global Founders Capital.
The idea for Welcome Homes was formed about three years ago, when founder and CEO Alec Hartman was looking to buy a new home. He and his wife were living in an apartment in Manhattan, but wanted to relocate up to the Hamptons where there would be more room for their new baby.
“We started looking and this thing that was supposed to be so enjoyable was terrible,” Hartman told Built In. “We saw so many homes, none of them were right. They would either be drastic overhauls or they were in the middle of nowhere. Nothing was new. It was just disappointment and compromise, one after the other. At one point I turned to my wife, really frustrated, and said ‘Why can’t I just go online, click a couple buttons, put in my credit card and get a house?’”
That’s about what Welcome Homes does.
The platform is entirely self-serve and online, removing the need for in-person interactions like open houses and meetings with realtors or contractors. Instead, users find an available plot of land in the area they want, then customize the cosmetics of Welcome Homes’ pre-set Medium home model. The home is more than 4,000 square feet, has four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, and costs about $969,000.
Using the company’s platform and relying on life-like renderings, users are able to purchase and design their new home without ever having to be there in person. The company claims it can get the new house built in just six months.
While Welcome Homes was founded before COVID-19, it certainly has a model that is well suited for this new, socially distant world the pandemic has created. In fact, Hartman says the concept for buying and building a home sight unseen is not a new one, but has been made more popular in the wake of the pandemic. He also doesn’t see the practice going away anytime soon.
“The industry has been going this way for a long time,” Hartman said. “I definitely think there was more of an inevitability of home design going online. But I think COVID has been a catalyst. I would assume that it is here to stay because having transparency from the comfort of your home is really important.”
Looking ahead, Welcome Homes will use this fresh funding to expand into new markets and bolster its product, sales and marketing efforts. The company currently operates throughout the Tri-State Region, including Westchester County; Greenwich, Connecticut; and Morris and Bergen Counties in New Jersey. It is also looking to move into Austin and Miami soon.
The hope, says Hartman, is to be one of the top 10 home builders in under a decade, and to improve people’s lives for generations to come.
“There is an opportunity to change so many people’s lives for the better in a very pronounced, meaningful way,” Hartman said. “When you think about your childhood and your upbringing, the home you lived in is always a very central role. We can dramatically make that better for so many people. That’s what excites me.”