The Modern House is a London real estate business based on the cheerful breaking of two unspoken industry rules. The first is that buying and selling property should be a hyperlocal business, with agents who specialize in niches like “beach houses in Ventura County’’ or “commercial property in Tribeca.” The Modern House doesn’t focus on a neighborhood, but a style of home. “Ours was a particular fragment of the market, which was post- and early modernist housing,” co-founder Matt Gibberd tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “Estate agencies [in England] have always undervalued modern architecture—they’ve been quite embarrassed about it. The sales write-up would say, ‘Lovely location, the house is a bit embarrassing.’”
The second broken rule is the way that real estate agents traditionally market their inventory—by working the angles to get a property published in newspapers and magazines. The Modern House is the magazine. Gibberd and co-founder Albert Hill were both architecture and design journalists before launching their site in 2005, and have long built their brand to be as much a true publication—The Modern House Magazine is complete with vibey, editorial-style photos and thoughtful design writing—as a hub for buying and selling. “What’s very unusual about us is we bring an editorial lens to the estate agency market,” says Gibberd.
Part publishing company, part real estate agent, The Modern House is a unique business. It’s also a thriving one, with more than 90 employees; a sister company, Inigo, focused on historic homes; and an eye on international expansion.
But whatever moves The Modern House makes, it won’t be deep into technology like AR, VR or 3D tours. Gibberd is very much a believer in the mystery and emotion that photographs can evoke. “There’s no substitute for a really great photograph. It can conjure atmosphere in the way that a 3D tour never could. If we’re saying that buying a home is an emotional process, then it’s incumbent on us to stir those emotions,” he says. “A photograph of a room with the light falling across it in the right way, showing how it connects to the nature outdoors, for example, is going to embed itself into someone’s psyche a lot more then them faffing around with a mouse trying to work out which door they’re going to go through on their 3D tour.”
Homepage image: Matt Gibberd | Courtesy of Modern House