This married couple are turning a major homeownership loss into a win for others by launching their new flagship product, Kataba.
In a special interview with AfroTech, Louis and Arlene Byrd share that they have faced several obstacles as homeowners residing in Kansas City, MO, an area that they describe as racially segregated.
In their first home, they recalled dealing with bad contractors and a slew of issues that were associated with their FHA 203(k) mortgage loan. Ultimately, they managed to sell their home, but they didn’t benefit financially from the transaction.
“We also ended up dealing with one of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers that violated a lot of things related to that particular loan product, and we’re in an ongoing litigation with that right now as we speak,” Louis Byrd told AfroTech. “We were able to sell that house in the ‘as is’ condition, meaning that we weren’t able to actually benefit from the housing.”
The Byrds’ fate almost appeared to be turning in a positive direction with their following home, which was fully renovated, boasting new plumbing and a roof, among other accommodations. They soon discovered within two weeks it wasn’t a good investment after all.
“Long story short, we ended up buying a lemon,” Louis explained. “We did everything right. We did the inspections. We toured the house. We looked at the seller’s disclosure. The seller basically said that they did all this work, and we ended up finding out two weeks in, we had a major leak coming from our third floor. It turned out to be a simple repair that could have easily cost about $15, and maybe 20 minutes of time to fix, but turned into a $2,500 repair.”
Within six months, the couple had spent over $10,000 in renovations. It was at this moment of difficulty that Louis and Arlene decided there needed to be something in the market that could protect future and current homeowners from this nightmare.
“We said there has to be a better way to do real estate with more transparency and more honesty in the process,” Louis expressed.
Arlene added, “and without having to fight legal battles.”
Created in good faith, real estate marketplace Kataba was born as a flagship product through the Byrds’ company Zanago.
The founders have built an end-to-end solution that will leave little room for uncertainty and say it will be possible for users to close a home within minutes. Better yet, it will make homeownership more accessible with the promise of guaranteed financing. No pre-approval will be necessary.
It all begins with the blockchain. Kataba plans to forge its own lane by allowing interested homebuyers to confirm titles, repairs, and warranties before an offer is placed. According to information provided to AfroTech, lejablox, Kataba’s digital ledger, is responsible for tracking the aforementioned features and will helps users vet through repairs more conveniently. What’s more, if a repair is paid using the platform, it will automatically be added to the ledger.
“Our digital ledger, that’s probably the most important part because the goal for Kataba is for it to be doing the full experience for home buying where you can shop, buy, sell, and then upkeep,” Louis explained. “We’re actually launching with the upkeep aspect because since it is a marketplace, you have to have people there for people to come and buy. So, we’re starting with existing homeowners, so they can have this ledger block system where they can go in and input this data, and they can start keeping records of their property.”
Another knockout feature on the platform is the integration of digital contracts, which cannot easily be changed. The purpose is to hold all parties involved accountable for their actions.
“Because it’s on blockchain, it’s immutable, meaning that once that information is entered on that smart contract, it’s not easy to change,” Louis said. “So, the assurance behind it is that it’s forcing sellers to be transparent.”
Arlene added, “Home buyers will be able to be well-informed before feeling pressured to make such a huge financial investment.”
Even after the home is transferred from the seller, Kataba will send reminders when it’s time for home maintenance such as changing HVAC filters or clearing gutters. By keeping top-of-the-line records, the company assures homeowners can demonstrate their house’s worth, as well as increase its value.
Lastly, Kataba could also transform how the world approaches homeownership. The founders’ vision for the platform is that users can purchase a piece of property as a small investor. As a result, they think that groups that historically face greater barriers to homeownership will still be able to participate in the market.
“Maybe we’re creating an ecosystem through the technology that will allow for what’s called tokenization, meaning that I can buy a fraction of this property,” Louis said. “So, that gives me an opportunity to become a homeowner, but from an investment standpoint, and we can receive returns and just different things by participating on that side. So that’s the way we’re really thinking about Kataba. It’s really about creating social impact, leveraging technology, and really focusing on creating more opportunities for people who have been historically excluded, and that’s what we hope to see come out this, this first flagship product.”