Teardowns.com 'A Disruptor' in Real Estate Industry, Owner Says
Hinsdale resident Brian Hickey started Teardown.com in 2001 to directly connect sellers of property with redevelopment potential with interested buyers.
Brian Hickey pointed to an old black-and-white photograph of downtown Chicago above his desk in Clarendon Hills.
“You take a look at that skyline, it doesn’t look like it looks now,” Hickey said, referring to buildings in the picture that no longer stand. “They were replaced by something.”
Though controversial in towns like Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills, redevelopment is natural and the product of a “constantly evolving” market, the longtime Hinsdale resident and founder of Teardowns.com says. Hickey’s bluntly named business aims to serve that market by connecting sellers who own property with redevelopment potential with interested buyers.
“It’s not balloons and open houses,” Hickey said of his company’s real estate niche. “This is a business transaction for a property type that deserves a marketplace that’s unique to itself.”
Teardowns.com was behind the recent sale of the 206 N. Washington St. property, which got public attention this month when several members of the Village of Hinsdale Board of Trustees voiced disappointment that the house on the property, built in 1890 by a Civil War veteran, was slated for demolition.
Hickey said the house had been on the traditional market for two-and-a-half years with two different agents and had received no offers. A hidden-in-the-back chef’s kitchen and a master bedroom without a bathroom or a closet are among the hard-to-sell interior features of the home, Hickey said.
After the seller, a friend of Hickey’s, decided to list the home on Teardowns.com, the property sold in four days to a Hinsdale buyer interested in redeveloping it.
“The buyer’s happy. The seller’s happy,” Hickey said. “Really those are usually the two most important components.”
Hickey, a former hedge fund manager, started Teardowns.com in 2001 after selling his Hinsdale home at the corner of Hickory and Adams. He said he couldn’t find the right price when he went directly to builders, but sold it quickly to one after hiring a realtor.
“I kind of shook my head as a market guy and said, ‘Gosh this seems like a terribly inefficient transaction,” Hickey said.
Directly connecting sellers of possible teardowns with interested buyers, Teardowns.com took off during last decade’s housing boom as a national brokerage, opening offices outside the Chicago area in places like Greenwich, CT, Orange County, CA, San Francisco and Dallas.
“Then the market changed,” Hickey said, referring to the 2008 housing collapse. “We were caught with the wrong business model.”
Today, while Teardowns.com has a small number of licensees and will act as a realtor if a customer so desires, it mostly relies on its web-based system to make its connections. Sellers pay to post their homes on the site, as do, to Hickey’s surprise, a number of realtors.
Hickey calls his business a “disruptor” in a real estate industry that he thinks prefers “status quo and complacency” while doing its best to play down redevelopment transactions on sites like Zillow and Realtor.com.
“We should have 3,000 licensees and we don’t,” he said. “There’s got to be a pushback.”
Hickey, a father of four whose youngest is a senior at Hinsdale Central, said he’s lived in both new homes and old homes and “both have their own charms.”
“It depends on where you are in your life,” he said.
And while Hickey says Teardowns.com is "not riding the tractor" and he himself is not anti-old-homes, he admits that his straightforward and eye-catching brand name has been an asset to the business.
"We just need the brand out there and the marketplace really takes care of itself."
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