Home sweet home: How Compass is using technology to reimagine the home-buying process

by John Siegel
August 17, 2018
compass los angeles real estate tech company
photo via compass

Purchasing a home is one of the most empowering, fulfilling and terrifying experiences a person can go through.

But thanks in large part to emerging technologies, the home-buying process is changing. While some legacy companies still adhere to the old standard — that is, physically showcasing a handful of pre-selected homes and helping clients pick from among that sample — buyers are no longer content with being passive bystanders in one of the most important financial decisions of their lives.

That’s where Compass comes in. Founded in 2012, the company offers real estate agents and their clients a suite of tools designed to help identify and purchase the ideal home. With offices across the country, the company has developed a culture rooted in collaboration and trust, best evidenced by the close working relationship between its engineers and its own internal agents.

Recently, we spoke with Head of Engineering Dash Deshwal about the company’s collaborative environment, how their tech stack has developed over time and what qualities Compass team members need to succeed.

 

compass los angeles real estate tech company
photo via compass
Dash Deshwal
Head of Engineering

How does Compass leverage technology to change the real estate buying process?

The real estate buying process is all about collaborating with your real estate agent. It starts with searching for properties, assembling a collection of properties that are potentially interesting, touring these properties to see which ones you actually like, refining your search criteria, collaborating with other people (parents, spouses, etc.) on the decision, preparing the documents to make an offer, actually making an offer, and closing a transaction.

Before Compass, agents would use different, unrelated tools to assist their clients through each of these workflows. With Compass, agents get a single, one-login-one-platform solution which enables them to collaborate with their clients through the entire buying process.

Compass agents can use our technology to curate a collection of interesting listings and schedule tours with the click of a button. In other words, Compass is reimagining the entire home buying/selling experience from the initial search all the way to the final closing signature.

 

What does Compass’ tech stack look like?

Compass technology is architected as a collection of micro-services running on AWS. Users access our functionality through a web front end written in JavaScript, a native iOS app written in Swift and a soon-to-be-released Android app written in Kotlin. Our web servers are written using a combination of Python Flask and Node.js. Our backend servers are written in a combination of Java, Go and Python. For storage, we use MongoDb for the most part, but many of our newer applications are being built using Amazon RDS.

Compass is reimagining the entire home buying/selling experience from the initial search all the way to the final closing signature.”

How has it evolved as the company scaled?

Initially, the stack was much simpler, using just Python and JavaScript. As we added more functionality, we felt the need to break it into smaller parts that became independent micro-services. As we added engineers, we saw different teams stepping on each other’s toes. To solve those problems, we are looking to scale our codebase by breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be owned by individual teams.

As an example, we used to have one giant Mongo instance that all teams in the company would write to. We now have separate Mongo instances for the major storage use cases and all our newer applications are being built to use independent RDS instances. The guiding principle is to decouple teams as much as possible to ensure they can all run at maximum velocity.

 

How does the product impact Compass’ culture?

Real estate agents are CEOs who run their own small business. In that sense, Compass is a company that is built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is highly valued and celebrated here, and our employees are encouraged to be bold and take risks.

Another unique aspect of working at Compass is the luxury that our users — the real estate agents — also work at Compass. ‘Talk to agents,’ is a huge Compass mantra. That is one of the big ways in which we learn and make decisions about how to improve our platform. It feels incredible to be a part of such a tight product feedback loop.

Entrepreneurship is highly valued and celebrated here, and our employees are encouraged to be bold and take risks.”

What qualities do you think the ideal Compass employee possesses?

Compass employees dream big and inspire everyone around them. They move fast, focus on results over process and set the pace for the industry. They always learn from reality and spend a lot of time with customers.

Compass employees are solutions-driven optimists who are grateful for challenges. They obsess about opportunity and care so much that it’s their competitive advantage. They collaborate without ego and maximize their strengths by focusing on doing what they love and what they’re good at, and bounce back with passion if something goes wrong.

Culture is extremely important for us, and all the people we hire live by these principles.

 

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