In our latest real estate tech entrepreneur interview, we’re speaking with Stephen Arifin from The Closing Docs.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Stephen Arifin and I am one of the founders of The Closing Docs. Prior to serving as a software engineer at Microsoft, I had launched and supported several other revenue generating software tools. I am the technical founder and lead for our company. I graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin.
I love bringing new technology and creative ideas into outdated industries, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with The Closing Docs. Our automation has streamlined the income verification process for companies managing more than 635,000 units.
What problem does your product/service solve?
The Closing Docs provides automated income verification to property managers and lenders. Historically, screeners and underwriters are collecting paper pay stubs and bank statements from applicants. This manual process is ripe for fraud, is really cumbersome and is burdened by many start/stop cycles in the set of related activities. By expediting deal closings and eliminating fraud, we have significantly compressed vacancy periods and underwriting cycles, getting applicants approved in minutes, not days or weeks.
We provide a real solution to a very real and cascading problem. Even before COVID-19, pay stub fraud was on the march. And now, with rampant job loss, fraudulent pay stub and bank statement submittals are apt to increase in prevalence significantly. With the current rate of unemployment announcements, it is more important than ever to have a clear view of applicant income.
The outdated method to verify an applicant’s income involves scanning or taking pictures of bank statements, W-2’s, and pay stubs. This form of income verification was a very manual process, which involved screeners deciphering bank statements and playing detective investigating whether the documents were falsified. Each applicant’s income documents arrived in a different format, which led to huge inefficiencies in approving a rental applicant. Many property managers also call the applicant’s employer, which can take days to get a hold of the right person in HR to confirm employment. Each day it takes to approve a tenant means your property is remaining vacant and not generating income.
Using The Closing Docs, we pull the applicant’s bank statement data directly from the applicant’s bank account, with their permission. Since our data comes directly from the bank, our income verification completely eliminates fraud. Once the applicant decides to share the data, a standardized report is generated for the property manager instantly, verifying the applicant’s income in minutes rather than days. That means shorter vacancy periods, more income, and faster, more accurate data.
What are you most excited about right now?
Well, implementing new customers on first phone calls and inside of 30 minutes is pretty exciting – I’ve never experienced that before now! Property managers know how painful the income verification process is, and when they finally find a product that makes it easier by light years, their eyes spark up. It’s really fun to know you have true product market fit.
What’s next for you?
Growth, growth, growth. With the customer adoption and retention we’re experiencing, it’s time to grow the business hockey-stick style. We’re leveraging sales channels through integrations with a bunch of property management software programs, like Appfolio, Buildium, Yardi, and Propertyware, and we also support Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge browsers for our integrations. We’re focused on increasing our sales and have expanded our marketing budget to expedite uptake.
What’s a cause you’re passionate about and why?
Being an entrepreneur myself, I’m extremely passionate about helping other entrepreneurs succeed. The best place I’ve found to give back in this way is through Seattle’s Community Carrot program.It takes another founder that’s been in the trenches to truly understand what starting a business is like. While building The Closing Docs, I’ve received a tremendous amount of support from my friends and family, along with other like-minded founders and mentors. Now, I am happy to step out of my way to help other aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.
Thanks to Stephen for sharing his story. If you’d like to connect, find him on LinkedIn here.
We’re constantly looking for great real estate tech entrepreneurs to feature. If that’s you, please read this post — then drop me a line (drew @ geekestatelabs dot com).
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