Rentsucks

Houston-area online resource launches to help new homebuyers purchase a home

A Houston real estate expert has launched a new resource for first-time homebuyers as rates of house sales soars. Getty Images

Between the expiration of a federal evictions moratorium and the coronavirus crisis, the housing market in Houston has launched into uncharted territory — jumping in June after two straight months of decline.

Houstonian and broker-and-owner of RE/MAX Top Realty, Freddy Rodriguez, launched an online resource and consulting website called Rentsucks.com to demystify the home buying process for first-time buyers who perhaps are not sure of where to start. The online resource educates and guides new buyers into a plan that works for them.

"I've been on both sides of the homebuying transaction with my experience in the mortgage industry and as a real estate agent," says Rodriguez. "I want to be a trusted resource for people who have dreams of owning their own home and need guidance and advice."

Potential buyers can use the tool to assess their options with the help of experts provided by the online consulting service. Renksucks.com touts a free no-obligation consultation that matches them with a loan officer and a local realtor, guiding them through the process from start to finish.

Rodriguez says that his inspiration for the project ignited after seeing the instability of the last few months as Houstonians struggle financially to make ends meet and pay rent.

"I saw how tough the situation is for some people, losing their jobs and not being able to pay their rent," says Rodriguez. "When I heard that I thought, 'rent sucks,' if someone has ownership of a home, they could use their equity to refinance and pull out some cash in case they need it but when you're renting you can't do that."

According to Rodriguez, most first-time buyers think you need to 20 percent downpayment to buy a home, but that's not always the case, with many first-time homebuyers eligible to pay just 3 percent of downpayment.

"I want to be able to provide brand new buyers with help on financial issues," says Rodriguez. "I want to be able to provide them with the best experts and connections using our network to link them with a realtor in their local market that has a proven track record of looking out for the best interest of buyers."

To start the process, potential buyers can apply online through the website where they will be matched with local homebuying experts with the goal to guide them into the best way of achieving their dream of a home purchase.

Rentsucks.com will also help them save money and cut down on closing costs, through a credit from the lender and a closing contribution from the realtor.

"Everyone needs a roof over their head," says Rodriguez. "While you can't change your financial situation drastically, you can build credit and make a plan to get where you want to be in a few years. Rentsucks.com is going to save you a lot of time by providing you correct information and advice, even if the best deal is with another lender or realtor."

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Meet MIA — Houston Methodist's new voice technology assistant. Photo via Getty Images

Hey, MIA. Start surgery.

These are the words Houston doctors are learning to say in the operating rooms, thanks to a first-of-its-kind voice technology developed by the Houston Methodist's Center for Innovation in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. In the same way we use programs like Alexa or Siri to make our everyday tasks easier, the Methodist Intelligent Automation, or MIA, is allowing medical professionals to improve the way they interact both with technology and patients alike.

"There's been a push in the industry for a long time that people sitting behind computers and typing and staring at a computer screen is inadequate," says Houston Methodist Chief Innovation Officer Roberta Schwartz. "There's been a desire to return people back to each other rather than physicians and look at a screen and patients look at a doctor looking at a screen."

Currently in its pilot phase, MIA is working to do just that through two key functions that shift the way medical professionals work in what Schwartz calls the "era of electronic medical records."

The first is through operating room voice commands. Here medical professionals can run through a series or checklists and initiate important actions, such as starting timers or reviewing time of anesthesia, through voice instead of by typing or clicking, which can become cumbersome during lengthy and highly detailed surgeries. Information is displayed on a large 80-inch TV in the operating suite and following surgery all of the data captured is imported into the traditional EMR program. The technology has been prototyped in two Houston Methodist O.R. suites so far and the hub aims to trial it in a simulation surgery by the end of the year.

Additionally, the hub is developing ambient listening technology to be used in a clinical setting with the same goal. Houston Methodist and AWS have partnered with Dallas-based Pariveda to create specialized hardware that (after gaining patient permission) will listen into doctor-patient conversations, transcribe the interaction, and draft a note that is then coded and imported directly into the EMR.

"For EMR the feedback is that it's clunky, it's click-heavy, it's very task oriented," says Josh Sol, who leads digital and clinical innovation for Houston Methodist. "Our goal with the Center for Innovation and this technology hub is to really transform that terminology and bring back this collaboration and the patient-physician relationship by removing the computer but still capturing all the pertinent information."

The ambient listening technology is further off and is currently in user acceptance testing with clinicians.

"They've had some great feedback, whether it's changing how the note is created, changing the look and feel of the application itself," Sol adds. "All feedback is good feedback at this point. So we've taken it in, we prioritize the work, and we continue to improve the application."

And the hub doesn't plan to stop there. Schwartz and Sol agree that the next step for this type of medical technology will be patient facing. They envision that in the near future appointment or surgery prep can be done through Alexa push notifications and medication reminders or follow up assessments could be done via voice applications.

"It's all going to be of tremendous value and it's coming," Schwartz says. "We may be taking the first baby steps, but each one of these voice technologies for our patients is out there on the horizon."

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