1. What gave you the idea to create Homing In?
I came up with the idea to create Homing In after years of doing a few thousand Broker Price Opinions for banks during the foreclosure boom. The banks would use this information to price their homes before listing them. Often, they would ask multiple agents to do them and pick which one did the best job to give the listing to. I decided this tool should also be something that consumers have access to. So I created the Exactimate, which gives any home owner the same power a bank has: getting accurate values quickly from actual professionals.
2. How does the app come up with the "exactimate" for the value of a home--and how many real estate agents are currently sharing their expertise through the app?
Right now there are about 200 agents nationwide signed up. We've completed value requests in Boston, Las Vegas, San Jose, and Durham NC. Up to five agents can respond. The Exactimate is just the mathematically most likely number, so if three agents all come up with $250,000 for a house, that's going to be the Exactimate. Since they don't see each other's values, they are truly doing their work independently without bias.
3. Why aren't the guesstimates on other sites more accurate?
Online valuation tools like the Zillow Zestimate use lots of data, but sometimes that data is misleading. If a person buys a fixer upper, and then puts $50,000 into repairs, they may have added as much as $100,000 in value to a property. Zillow doesn't know that because the computer can't see the inside of the house and get that information from the consumer. It just knows it sold for X. An agent makes a qualitative decision and can accurately value it. The computers can't.
4. Why did you decide to give the app away for free?
I felt this was something people need to have. Consumers should just have more access to information, and agents should be able to share their knowledge quickly and in a meaningful way. The agent may end up listing the house for sale if they do a good job, and the consumer might just find a really good agent in the process.
5. For people who are looking to sell, do you have any favorite tips for increasing the value of their home before putting it on the market?
The best thing people can do it talk to their agent before they sell. Agents tend to know which things add value and which don't. It depends on the house, the features, and the condition of the inside of the house. The key is to only upgrade things that add more value than the cost of the upgrade. With Homing In, they can get those recommendations through the app.