While looking to invest in property in May 2016, Steve D’Agostino and his business partner Josh Evans missed out on a good deal because their realtor didn’t show up on time.
“I said, ‘There should be an app that helps you go see a place instantly,’” said D’Agostino, a 2011 business administration alumnus who currently works as a principal broker at DRG Philly, a local real estate company. “Josh thought the idea for the app was great, and we went with it.”
D’Agostino and Evans, a 2010 political science and government graduate of Rutgers University, teamed up with Jonathan Katz, a 2010 supply chain management Penn State alumnus, to launch Jove, an app that matches realtors with people looking for property in minutes.
Jove is divided into two separate apps, one called Jove Agent, which is for real estate agents, and Jove Buyer, which is for people searching for a new home, apartment or business location. Both apps are available on the Apple store, while an Android version is currently being developed. It will be released in early 2019.
When a user opens the app, listings of all available places appear on a map as small house icons. After selecting a property to view, a user can schedule a time to see the property.
Every licensed real estate agent in the area who is registered on Jove then receives a phone notification allowing them to accept or decline the viewing appointment. Once an agent accepts, the app user receives a confirmation indicating the viewing is scheduled.
Agents, similar to users, download the Jove Agent app and then undergo a thorough verification process verifying the validity of their real estate licenses and screening for potential violations.
D’Agostino said there are currently about 250 users and 40 agents registered with Jove.
D’Agostino and Evans hired Alex Garashchenko, a 2010 marketing alumnus, as an app developer and put him in charge of hiring, while 2010 journalism alumnus Doanh Nghiem joined the team in July as business manager and takes care of day-to-day operations.
“They were looking for someone with my background,” Nghiem said. “Josh messaged me, I spoke with the team and it sounded like a great idea.”
D’Agostino said the team hired Nghiem to act as the “boss” because the three founding members hold equal positions.
“She holds us all accountable,” he added. “We all have other jobs, too, and it is really hard to balance both.”
The Jove team emphasizes privacy and safety, D’Agostino said. If an app user doesn’t feel comfortable with an agent matched with their property viewing, they can decline the match.
It is currently free for both agents and users to sign up on the app, but the future business plan is to charge agents a fee after they close a deal, D’Agostino said. The team plans for Jove Buyer to remain free for users.
D’Agostino said the app is similar to Uber in that Jove will soon have a rating process so users can rate the app’s realtors, while realtors can also rate their potential customers.
Despite the app’s few hundred users, the Jove team hasn’t spent much on advertising.
“We send emails to brokers in the city I know,” D’Agostino said. “We go to investment groups. So far it has been a word of mouth.”
Jove currently operates throughout Pennsylvania. While the team also has property listings in New Jersey and Delaware, they do not have agents there yet.
The Jove team has an agreement with TREND, a listing service that real estate brokers use to see one another’s property listings.
“If you go on Zillow and look on their properties, we have about 90 percent of the properties listed there in our app,” D’Agostino said. “We are working on getting the remaining 10 percent.”
He added his time at Temple played a large role in developing the app.
“The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute community was very supportive with formulating our business plan,” he said. “We got some free and good consulting from IEI. I am grateful to Temple.”
The Jove team hopes to reach at least 1,600 users in the Greater Philadelphia area before expanding to New York and across the east coast. After that, the team hopes to make its way west.
“We are not big enough to have a building named after us yet, but it is on the plan,” D’Agostino said.