SAN ANTONIO – Alberto Pina is a mobile home geek, and a professional one at that.
Pina and his brother launched a tiny startup in a cubby on the eighth floor of Geekdom a year ago with the goal of making home ownership affordable. They've grown the family business by tapping into technology and operating a virtual dealership.
"Everybody needs a house, not just those who can afford a $200,000 house in the city of San Antonio," Pina said.
Although the brothers had been in the manufactured housing industry for nearly a decade, they launched their company, Braustin Mobile Homes, focused on offering entry-level housing the way people shop nowadays -- online.
"Being millennials, we're shopping for things on Amazon. Everything is online, and we just felt that this could really be applied to the factory-built housing world," Pina said.
Pina jokes that his backpack is his office as most of the sales are made over the Internet, cellphone or app.
Working out of his Geekdom space, Pina operates a virtual dealership. He taps into other entrepreneurs' techie tools like virtual reality goggles. With a few blinks of the eye, clients can get a tour through each model without leaving the chair.
The company's new app streamlines the buying process. Drones, operated by White Cloud Drones, fly over homes, capturing video of the carefully choreographed deliveries.
"It's really the beauty of being a virtual reality dealership and why we are able to offer the same home at a lower price." Pina said. "We're not paying for the additional stuff traditional dealerships are."
The brothers are mindful, however, that not everyone embraces the virtual dealership concept. They plan to open a lot south of town where people can come and physically tour a home.
Using less traditional tools, the company sold 35 homes in its first year and expects to triple the amount this year.
Leroy Chavez was one of their first buyers. He long dreamed of buying a house for his wife and five children on a mechanic's paycheck.
"Am I ever going to get there?" he wondered.
Chavez now has a 2,100-square-foot manufactured home with a front deck to enjoy the evening breezes.
"It's surreal to be able to come home and say, 'Wow, I have my own piece of Texas,'" he said.