Interview with Proptech Guru Nate Smoyer

Interview with Proptech Guru Nate Smoyer

In proptech (property technology) circles, Nate Smoyer is a well-known name. 

Since 2018, he’s hosted the proptech podcast “Tech Nest,” where he interviews industry leaders about the latest real estate innovations. He’s also been the head of marketing at Avail (a landlord software company), Obie (a real estate investor insurance company), and most recently Roofer.com (an AI and drone-powered roofing company).

With a background in digital marketing, he created an advertising business to help proptech startups grow. 

I met with Smoyer to discuss how he got into proptech, his predictions for U.S. real estate in 2024, his advice for first-time investors, and more.

Smoyer’s Winding Path to Proptech

Smoyer’s interest in real estate began when he bought his first home. At the time, “No one explained to me how the [homebuying] process was supposed to work,” he said. “I didn’t even know you weren’t supposed to call multiple agents. No one told me that.” 

He ended up buying a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) property without an agent in 2015. “That was the first time I was like, ‘Man, this experience sucked. There’s got to be a better way to do real estate.’” From there, he also experimented with house hacking, where he recognized the need for better rental management software. 

By 2017, Smoyer became a real estate agent in Bellingham, Washington. “I learned a lot about the need for tech, the experiences, and how everything was working,” he said. 

However, it wasn’t until Smoyer and his wife moved to Nashville for her job, that he started getting serious about entering the proptech business. With a background in digital marketing, he created an advertising business to help proptech startups grow. 

“I recognized that early-stage [proptech companies] would need help in getting growth to justify their Series A and Series B [funding] rounds and that this would be one way to do that at an accelerated pace,” Smoyer said. “So that’s really how I got into proptech.”

“One of the areas that has fully yet to be understood is weather patterns and storm damage and how you can underwrite storms and storm patterns into property values as well as property risks,” Smoyer said.

Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for Property Valuations

Smoyer believes the biggest way artificial intelligence (AI) can help real estate investors is in property valuations. 

For example, his current company, Roofer.com, flies drones over roofs in predetermined flight patterns to capture aerial footage. It then runs the images through a proprietary AI model to detect and rate signs of curling, deterioration, cracks, and weather damage. 

Other potential uses of AI in property valuations include predicting and measuring interior maintenance needs, neighborhood walkability, and weather patterns. 

“One of the areas that has fully yet to be understood is weather patterns and storm damage and how you can underwrite storms and storm patterns into property values as well as property risks,” Smoyer said. “This is something that I think lenders and insurance companies have started doing already and will likely increase how much they do this, and the amount it’s going to affect investors will increase as well.” 

“We’re seeing this in markets like Texas, California, Louisiana, and Florida—areas that are prone to a lot of insurance claims.”

Ultimately, the biggest challenge is still a lack of inventory. “We’re just behind on supply, and supply is not magically going to come online,” Smoyer said.

The U.S. Real Estate Market in 2024

When asked about his outlook for the U.S. real estate market, Smoyer said he doesn’t expect much change in the near future. 

“In markets that had an aggressive appreciation in pricing, you may still see some corrections in those markets this year,” Smoyer said. “… I think markets that are a little bit more stable will remain stable. There’s just no reason to have sharp corrections.”

Smoyer acknowledged that interest rates are likely to fall this year. “That should be reflected in lower mortgage rates for residential homeowners,” he said.

In terms of home sales, however, Smoyer said, “I don’t think we break 5 million transactions in residential real estate. I think they’ll be up year-over-year, but it’ll be down from historical averages.”

Ultimately, the biggest challenge is still a lack of inventory. “We’re just behind on supply, and supply is not magically going to come online,” Smoyer said. “I do not foresee any sort of major breakdown of real estate and homes. There would have to be an utterly catastrophic event that would force people to see liquidating their home as their only option.” 

Given that most homeowners are in stable financial positions with fixed low-rate mortgages and plenty of equity in their homes, this seems unlikely to Smoyer.

“I’ve got yesterday’s interest rate on yesterday’s price on a property that continues to increase in value and increase in rent and cash flow every year.”

How will the 2024 presidential election impact the housing market? Smoyer’s not sure. But he pointed out, “The fourth year of a president’s first term has historically 100% been an up year for the economy,” which means the economy (and the real estate market by extension) may benefit. Already last quarter, gross domestic product (GDP) surpassed expectations by reaching an annualized rate of 3.3%

At the same time, “The markets seemed to respond pretty favorably when Trump was last elected,” Smoyer said. “I have a hard time believing that it wouldn’t do the same thing again.”

Smoyer’s Advice for First-Time Real Estate Investors

If you’re new to real estate investing, Smoyer recommends house hacking. “If you’re able to figure it out, buy a four-bedroom house and rent the bedrooms,” he said. “Look, you’re going to be living with other people regardless. You might as well be living with other people and build equity.”

That’s how Smoyer got his start, and he still owns his first house hack property: “I’ve got yesterday’s interest rate on yesterday’s price on a property that continues to increase in value and increase in rent and cash flow every year.”

Smoyer also recommended investing books by BiggerPockets. However, he stressed how “you should probably go and prioritize your landlord and tenant laws of your city over any book.”

Furthermore, “if you’re just trying to get your feet wet … it’s more a matter of taking action than it is going to be sitting and reading a whole bunch of books,” Smoyer said. “That’s my only regret. I just didn’t get the knowledge and ask the questions fast enough to take action quicker.”

“There is a giant asleep within every man. When that giant awakes, miracles happen.”

Stretching Yourself to Reach New Milestones

Outside of work, Smoyer continues to push himself—whether that’s by completing 60+ mile ultra marathons, riding his motorcycle across the Black Hills and into Wyoming, or growing his proptech podcast. 

“To some degree, I’m always on. There’s not really an off,” Smoyer said. “Even when I’m reading, I always have a pen with me, because oftentimes, I’ll read something, and then there’s a moment where an idea triggers, and I want to capture the idea.”

This relentless commitment to learning and working hard is undoubtedly behind Smoyer’s success as a real estate investor and proptech expert. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when he told me his favorite quote was this by Frederick Schiller Faust:  

“There is a giant asleep within every man. When that giant awakes, miracles happen.”

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Christian Allred

Christian Allred is a real estate investor and freelance writer. He's written for top online publications like VentureBeat and HackerNoon as well as major companies in the real estate and proptech space.

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