Homespin home search debuts in stagnant industry
Homespin home search has launched in early beta as the visual beacon in a stat-driven industry that they say has ignored the rise of the visual web, and abandoned right brained people. Using the tile-style visual elements that coders began experimenting with years ago and made popular by Pinterest, Homespin visitors are greeted visually with images of all homes within their basic search, and while there is a sophisticated map function, the focus is on narrowing down homes by their visual appeal.
The company calls the experience intuitive, emotive, engaging, and personalized, as with every saved image or hidden image, the engine learns a user’s preference and begins changing their search results accordingly. Oh you keep saving images of vintage bathrooms? That’s what you’ll start seeing as the lead image when you search, instead of the standard driveway shot. You’re hiding (aka rejecting) pictures of galley kitchens? They’ll sink to the bottom of the photo display of any listing. Homespin adds, “consumers are seeing homes in the best light possible, as optimized just for them.” We would add that it not only celebrates the strides the industry has made in photography, but pressures agents to do even better as they visually optimize their marketing of a home.
High-caliber founders frustrated with holes in the market
Co-founders Jude Galligan and Chris Chilek had first hand knowledge of the holes in the market. Galligan is well known in his hometown not only as the Broker of REATX, but his popular “Downtown Austin Blog,” as well as for his involvement at the Downtown Austin Alliance. Chilek is the founder of the groundbreaking Pick-A-Prof ratings site, MyEdu, Advanced Student Marketing, and is most widely recognized for his development chops.
Between the two, a great deal of frustration was witnessed on the part of consumers and real estate professionals alike, particularly independent agents and brokers who were being outspent by bigger brands and consumers that are more focused on the feeling of buying than the nuts and bolts of data points.
Beta user Will Staney said of Homespin, “I loved it! My wife loves it! We are currently shopping for a home right now. I think once they tackle a mobile version, maybe even an app, and add a few capabilities, it will kick Trulia and Zillow’s ass.”
The map was the last big innovation
“The last major innovation in real estate search was the map,” Galligan tells AGBeat. And he’s right. Listing syndication and data accuracy has been a hot button issue and some of the back end technology has evolved, but consumers haven’t seen much change since the introduction of mobile search or the map.
So what exactly is innovative about visual search? Homespin emphasizes that they’re more than a visual search, they’re a trust and data machine. When a buyer logs on with their Facebook credentials, they can select one (yes, one and only one) Realtor that they can connect with, sending their ever changing preferences to, adding the ability to Facebook chat with their agent, demonstrating trust, and if the job goes well, a potential endorsement. But this isn’t your grampy’s ratings site – there’s no score, no five stars, no gaming, just individuals saying “yes, this is my Realtor, and I trust them.”
And guess what? If you’re a consumer and you select your Realtor, not only can they see your activity so they can provide you with more and better information, you’re automatically recommending your awesome agent, as they surface as possible connections to your friends when they log in to Homespin. The idea that agents don’t have to beg consumers for stupid votes is much more organic, and mimics the way the real world works. “More trust, less spam,” the company says.
The power of Homespin for agents
The real power of Homespin is in real estate professionals’ not being forced to spend high dollar for anonymous leads, which some have opined is akin to getting spam leads. Instead, the system cares more about real, existing relationships, adding legitimacy to the endorsement system.
The Realtor Toolbox visually organizes not only an agent’s potential social reach based on the Facebook connections of their own profile and their clients’ but reveals “buyer boards” displaying clients’ activities on the site. The cost during beta is $17 per month for agents to claim the connections an agent has already worked so hard for, and Homespin says they’ll grandfather in the earliest adopters at this rate.
Eight months of testing, testing, testing
Homespin has been quietly building and tweaking their product for eight months and assert that while many real estate search sites are out to be all things to all people, they are acutely aware that they (and all competitors) are just one tool of many that buyers will use during their search.
Galligan said, “we are not arrogant enough to think we are the only tool a buyer will use, we are one of a suite of tools they should use before making a purchase.”
Visual search makes Homespin the strongest contender for the nearly 40 percent of buyers who start shopping over 120 days in advance, as early shoppers are not ready to commit (thus they enjoy looking around and tapping into the emotion of buying), and the race in the industry is to be one of the three sites consumers rely on, as 78 percent of shoppers use at least that many sites in their quest to find the perfect home.
The model, the goals, the future
Their model is that of a virtual office website, so all data is pulled directly from the MLS through broker partners rather than some syndication options which Homespin points out are on a delay. The company says this setup gives them listings 24 hours before they appear on sites like Zillow.
Their goal is to give agents something social, a tool to pair consumers with their real estate professionals and lenders. They have gone live in Austin and will spread across Texas and say their goal is to provide nationwide coverage in the near future. Their technology is patent-pending, so while competitors may look to give their sites some sex appeal, don’t expect duplicates or clones that offer the full boat.
Homespin is young and they have a ways to go regarding scaling and improving their offering by going mobile and the like, but the introduction of Homespin could be just what the industry needs to shake things up.
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