This S’pore Renotech Start-up Aims To Empower Homeowners In The Renovation Process

Homeez, an AI-dependent platform is cutting out the middleman for interior designing and, recently, its financing.
by Alvin Lim

Photos: Homeez, Pexel Bay

The road to designing the home of your dreams is often riddled with potholes. There’s the difficulty of hunting down an interior designer with an aesthetic sense that matches your own — and a portfolio of work to back it up.

Then comes the issue of designing an actual working blueprint, which, once iterated upon and approved, has to be translated from paper to reality — according to specifications, on time, and, especially, within budget.

As you’d expect, that last part is where most of the problems come in. Interior design firms are notoriously finicky to work with, particularly regarding opaque pricing strategies and hidden markups.

On the other hand, prospective customers have responded with extreme price sensitivity, leading to wasted time on both sides of the transaction.

Photo: Pexel Bay

These are all bugbears that Tyson Lim, CEO and founder of home renovation platform Homeez, became intimately familiar with after 10 years in the field as a practitioner straight out of National Service and eventual business owner with designers under his purview.

“Fast forward to 2020, I wondered if there was a better way to serve this market — to make renovation easy and major cost savings possible. As we were in an era of going direct, with the rise of Taobao & Shopee, I thought to myself, ‘Is there a way to model the renovation process after this using tech and to enable homeowners to do-it-yourself?’” offers the 30-year-old. “And that was how Homeez (a combination of the words home and easy) was born.”

Interior designing with AI

Tyson Lim, CEO and founder of Homeez. (Photo: Homeez)

Lim’s reno-tech platform — which styles itself as the first of its kind in Singapore — works like this: You upload a floor plan of your residence, select the look you’re going for, and pick out a mood board for good measure before Homeez’s proprietary “AI design tool” (dubbed DesignNow) churns out a look and quotation for you within seconds.

“Homeowners can decide which walls they want to hack, what type of finishes they want to overlay their floors and walls with, which windows to replace, and so on,” Lim explains. “As this all translates into a renovation cost, at the end of the session, a quote will be generated summarising how much it would cost — and these are all direct costs with no markups.”

Photo: Pexel Bay

Instead of taking a cut, Homeez makes its money by charging a subscription fee to the renovation suppliers in exchange for a steady stream of customers.

Cutting out the middleman

End to end, generating a design and quotation with Homeez is a relatively quick and pain-free process that requires little more than a few clicks. In other words, it’s remarkably similar to shopping on an e-commerce platform — which Homeez was designed to replicate, down to cutting out the middleman for cost savings.

“It enables homeowners to connect directly with suppliers like hackers, tilers, and plumbers without paying a premium through interior design firms, which charge a high markup for their services,” Lim explains.

Photo: Pexel Bay

“It’s similar to how shoppers can ship something directly from China instead of going to a local furniture store and buying the same item at a much higher marked-up price.”

The potential savings, the company claims, can be substantial, going up to 60 per cent of home renovation costs.

Escrow safety net

In another move straight out of the e-commerce marketplace playbook, Homeez has adopted an escrow payment system, acting as a third party between homeowner and renovation supplier to protect their relevant interests.

Photo: Pexel Bay

This is not unlike “the usual way of performing transactions” in the industry, where “the homeowner makes payment directly to the interior design firm’s bank account”, except that payment is withheld by Homeez until confirmation of work that’s up to the mark.

“Adding escrow payment to the equation helps assure the homeowner that the supplier will definitely deliver, as they are also awaiting their payment upon satisfaction,” Lim says.

In the meantime, the funds aren’t invested, spent, or otherwise moved from the coffers of Homeez.

Should work ultimately fail to pass muster, the money held in escrow by Homeez “will be used to get another suitable vendor in to complete the works for the homeowners,” adds Lim. “As long as the work isn’t done, we will get another supplier to finish the work, ensuring all deliverables are met.”

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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