There has been a lot of controversy in the American real estate marketing sector recently over the alleged incursion of portal companies into agent facing software.
There is one company that has been both a public-facing portal company and a provider of agent-facing software tools since 2012 without generating any significant negative headlines though.
Homesnap was an interesting company with some really cool features and tools even before it was bought by CoStar Group for $250 million last year.
Homesnap is now looking to use the backing of its multi-billion-dollar parent company and the agent outcry against its rivals to put those tools in the hands of more agents and home seekers and give Zillow a fright. We spoke to Homesnap’s SVP of Product Development, Lou Mintzer, to learn more...
OnlineMarketplaces: So Lou, for those not too familiar with Homesnap, can you briefly run us through the history of the company?
Lou Mintzer: With easy-to-use mobile technology fueled by unmatched, real-time data intelligence, Homesnap has changed the way real estate agents connect with consumers and serve their clients.
We saw a need in the market for a platform that provided residential real estate data to agents and a home search site for consumers. Since then, Homesnap has evolved and grown to become the highest-rated consumer home search app on the App Store and the industry-standard mobile business platform for agents.
Homesnap was acquired in December 2020 by CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics, and online real estate marketplaces. At the core of everything we do, Homesnap adheres to five core principles:
OMP: Homesnap is the public face of the Broker Public Portal (BPP). What is the BPP, and does it conflict with being owned by a big company like CoStar Group?
LM: The Broker Public Portal (BPP) is an industry initiative designed to build a national search portal that puts listing agents next to their listings and sends them free leads from those listings, rather than allowing other agents to buy ads on other agents’ listings.
This provides a better experience for consumers and allows agents to reap the value of their listings. Homesnap is the technology partner and public-facing brand of the BPP. The BPP partnered with Homesnap because Homesnap has always followed “Your Listing, Your Lead,” the industry-friendly model that the BPP was built on.
CoStar Group is also fully committed to “Your Listing, Your Lead” across its residential brands, which is one of the reasons that Homesnap was an attractive acquisition target.
OMP: Homesnap has just developed its own showings tool for agents to rival ShowingTime which was controversially bought up by Zillow recently. Could you tell us a bit about it and why a rival in the market is necessary right now?
LM: This month we plan to launch Homesnap Showings, an all-new showings management tool that works great on mobile with deep MLS integrations. Homesnap Showings will be a user platform for agents and brokers to seamlessly schedule property showings.
Homesnap Showings has been designed to simplify the process and enhance agent productivity from their phones. With a modern interface and simple scheduling features, Homesnap Showings will allow agents to customize showing details for a home based on their clients' needs.
We’ve been working on Homesnap Showings for quite some time now because at Homesnap, we believe that agents should have access to tools that help them perform their essential functions while also protecting their confidential information and client relationships.
OMP: So I first heard about Homesnap because of its flagship ‘snap’ feature. Could you briefly tell us a bit about that? Are there any privacy issues?
LM: Agents and consumers can walk up to any property, whether on or off the market, and take a picture of the house to instantly load all MLS property details, or historical MLS data if the property is off-market. Both agents and consumers can use this feature.
It is a great tool for any property that you quickly want to access listing details. As for agents, when one of their clients snaps a picture of a property, they are instantly notified via a push notification on their phone. Within the newsfeed in the Homesnap app, agents can see exactly what their clients have been looking at.
Homesnap is committed to protecting the privacy of our users. We do not sell or distribute email addresses or other personal information to unaffiliated parties without consent and we are compliant with the California Consumer Privacy Act.
OMP: Every realtor who is an MLS member gets free access to your basic agent-facing software tools, Homesnap Pro. What sorts of features are included, and if it’s free, where does the money come from to build them?
LM: Homesnap Pro is the agent-friendly platform for real estate professionals to operate their business, collaborate with clients, and carry their MLS with them in a mobile-friendly format. Homesnap Pro differs from the standard Homesnap service because Pro is connected directly to their Multiple Listing Service (MLS) providers. MLSs pay Homesnap to provide Pro to their members, and the Homesnap Pro app is free to agents, courtesy of their MLS. Homesnap Pro offers many features including:
Homesnap Pro Agents can also purchase Homesnap Pro Plus+ for an annual fee. Homesnap Pro+ includes:
OMP: I read recently about your Off-Market Marketplace and Speed Sell products and I was impressed. Could you tell us a bit about those two features?
LM: Yes, first the Off-Market Marketplace feature uses machine learning to assign homes a Likelihood To List score, allowing agents to identify potential sellers or properties in their market that match their buyers’ search criteria before they go on the market. Likelihood To List scores are presented in color-coded heatmaps that give agents the ability to visualize a wealth of property information through their filtered searches.
The Off-Market Marketplace is an advanced adaptation of machine learning. We built a feature that uses a predictive algorithm that leverages AI to find patterns across disparate data sources to determine which homes will likely go on the market in the next year. Homesnap Pro agents can identify potential sellers before they’ve started the selling process, putting them one step ahead of the competition.
Second, Homesnap Pro Sell Speed is a proprietary artificial intelligence algorithm composed of hundreds of up-to-the-minute real estate market data points that predicts how quickly a home will sell at various prices.
This feature gives agents confidence in recommending price levels in a rapidly-changing real estate environment. For Homesnap Pro and Homesnap Pro+ users, Sell Speed helps agents better understand their market and develop pricing strategies.
Agents can view the Sell Speed of their current listings or any off-market property. With Sell Speed, agents can: advise sellers on pricing strategy and likelihood to sell, enhance listing presentations with pricing insights, and use Sell Speed to assist buyers in negotiations (Pro+ agents only).
OMP: Part of the premium Homesnap Pro+ package is a concierge service that helps agents craft campaigns for their listings on social media. This might seem strange to some in the real estate portal industry where social media is seen as a competitor. How does Homesnap see it?
LM: We don’t view social media as a competitor, we view it as a great way for agents to build their brands, generate leads and market their properties.
Homesnap Pro+ Concierge, is our most powerful advertising solution for real estate agents that uses machine learning to run custom ads on Facebook and Google and deliver pre-qualified leads, connecting agents to real home buyers and sellers. With Concierge, agents get access to Homesnap’s in-house team of marketing, design and engineering experts who plan, develop and execute marketing lead gen campaigns, leveraging powerful machine learning algorithms to target prospective buyers and sellers.
As leads from agents’ campaigns come in, Concierge handles vetting these leads via phone, text and email. Once leads are fully-vetted and qualified, Concierge provides agents with key details including location, price range, timeframe and homeowner/mortgage status. Agents can then instantly decide which consumers to reach out to immediately, and which to nurture long-term. Additionally, unlike other platforms, once an agent’s campaign generates a lead, it will never be offered to another agent.
Concierge is Homesnap's best advertising solution for top agents. We've spent years testing and perfecting the Concierge campaign strategy to generate an abundance of pre-qualified home buyer and seller leads, ultimately saving agents hundreds of hours each month.
OMP: I recently read a piece written by an American realtor who was crying out for tools that met her needs. Do you guys consult with realtors in the field before coming up with products? Are there still a lot of realtor needs that don’t yet have matching products?
LM: Yes, we absolutely listen and talk to our agents as we strategize and develop our new features. For example, we launched All-New Homesnap Pro, the newest and most advanced generation of our home search platform, in February 2020. Prior to launch, we conducted extensive research over three years to learn exactly which features real estate agents want and need in order to grow their businesses and operate more efficiently and successfully.
We listened to our agents and discovered that the most requested features for a real estate app are tools that give agents comprehensive property and homeowner information and ways to identify potential sellers. This feedback is at the heart of the All-New Homesnap Pro technology.
OMP: I’ve always been impressed with just how much data is available on properties in the US market. How has the availability of data helped you guys build tools recently? Is there any data that you wish you had to help build products?
LM: Homesnap provides real estate professionals with over 500 data sources on a single platform -- more than any other mobile solution in residential real estate. The platform leverages AI, machine learning, big data, and over 230 MLSs to provide more than one million U.S. agents with access to powerful mobile software that automates workflow and optimizes the search and sell experience for their clients.