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Home and Rental Search Apps Are Getting More Sophisticated

Published: 22/11/2018
By: larry

I ran across this article in The Washington Post last week that talked about some of the things that the HomeSnap app does for house hunters and real estate agents. It says:

House hunters have reached a point where they don’t necessarily need to set foot inside a home to make an offer on it. Smartphone technology allows them to take virtual tours of properties, giving them a pretty good idea about the flow of the rooms and the dimensions.

Now, app designers are enhancing the technology to give home seekers more information at their fingertips even faster, helping them become smarter and more successful shoppers.

Artificial intelligence is being used to help prospective buyers narrow their searches. Increasing the amount of data available directly to consumers gives them more bargaining power.

I'm familiar with most of the things the Zillow mobile app does but I had not looked into the Homesnap app until I read this article. It does some amazing things both for house hunters and for Realtors. It appears that Homesnap is becoming a major competitor to Zillow.

I guess it's not surprising that the whole real estate buying and selling process is being taken over by smartphones!

7 comments on “Home and Rental Search Apps Are Getting More Sophisticated”

  1. A friend of mine's ex-wife bought some properties on the other side of the country without ever visiting them and then remotely hired a contractor to bring the homes up to a level so that they would qualify for Section 8 subsidies. Want to guess how that went? Ok, I'll spoil the mystery, she lost thousands of dollars on tear down homes and a crooked contractor. Using technology to search for a home is a great way to avoid wasting time going to see homes that are not in the slightest way suitable. It isn't a substitute for getting a showing and a feel for the neighborhood before submitting a binding offer. I'm very suspect of anything that suggests that people should even consider making such a major purchase from just an online representation.

    The smell and the sound of a home can be factors and those are rarely discussed. If a home smells musty or rooms in a basement do, it could be an indication of mold and thousands of dollars of remediation. Even if insurance or the former owners are paying for it, it's not what you want to find with the moving truck just outside or after you have moved in. The sellers may have had a herd of dogs with poor potty training that no amount of carpet cleaning is going to mask even if the photos aren't showing pet stains (that spot removal tool in LR and PS does a really great job). The train tracks may seem miles away, but the buildings in the neighborhood seem to channel the horns with little attenuation. The adjacent homes may be a battle ground of budding DJ's, bands, off-road vehicle mechanics, etc. The virtual tour, videos, floor plans and 3D scans aren't going to show that there seems to be several homes on the street where gang members or bikers tend to hang out. I've shot homes on very middle class streets with one home that was very obviously a hang out for a gang. I wasn't going to make a photo of that and I'm certain that the agent wasn't going to volunteer the info. They knew exactly which house I meant when I mentioned it to them.

  2. As someone who has moved many times (4 of them cross-country), I can’t stress the importance of being able to actually walk through (and smell!) a home before even considering it. Do the neighbors have six barking chihuahuas?

    As a real estate photographer, there are many homes I’ve shot that after post, I was amazed the house looked as good considering the “turd” I’d just polished. Only in person can you truly see previous owners’ cleaning habits (cabinetry and appliances ruined by excessive food frying for example) which to some may not be a big deal. Maybe I’m just too picky, I don’t know, but I do believe than an app will never fully take the place of an actual walk-through.

  3. I look back to when my family got our first (black & white) TV, and I wonder where this business will go in the future.
    Virtual viewing today, 'beam me up' tomorrow?
    Amazing transformation in only a few decades!

    Happy ThanksGiving to all!

  4. @Brandi, I've polished a lot of turds. One broker I do a lot of work for calls me his miracle worker. The funny thing is that I'm not post processing images to remove blemishes. I just choose compositions that don't show or minimize defects. It's a toe just behind the ethics line in some cases, but it's still behind the line. I just did one recently where I wasn't trying to hide anything, just show the space and let the chips fall where they may and the images came out looking great, but the house really needed almost a total refresh. The sellers had tried to do some of their own upgrades such as the floor and it was very rough. Obviously not done by a pro, but from a few feet away, you wouldn't notice the flaws. Walk on the floors and you instantly feel that it isn't going to last long.

    @Larry, The agent in the video can't even set up his mobile phone on a tripod and that gives his presentation a very amateurish feel. Any good agent is going to upload listings to Zillow and all of the other sites even if they have to do it manually. The ones that don't aren't going to reach the maximum audience since MLS's are typically not accessible directly to the public.

    The photo identification feature that returns information on a property is really creepy. The video I watched didn't show what details are given, but it would be very easy to go too far. Since HomeSnap is advertised as "free", I'd be reading the fine print very carefully. I expect that there some real problems with data sharing. The big emphasis on FaceBook makes me a bit suspicious about HomeSnap's backing.

  5. Ken, I hear ya! I rarely remove blemishes unless they're things like blue paint marking tape spots, etc. When I made that comment, I was specifically thinking of a home I recently shot that smelled horrendous yet looked great on camera. The people likely never cleaned until just before our appointment. Looking at these photos, you would never be able to tell that the house reeked or that nearly every surface had a film of filth. All reparable or replaceable but that can be an unplanned expense for a buyer. (That was originally clear glass by the way!)

  6. @Brandi. I would never have guessed that house was not maintained from the photos. I certainly believe you, though. I don't have the cleanest house on the block, but cleaning something is a daily task. I visit so many houses that I really can't fathom how people can have tolerated living in some of them. I worked on one for the landlord and every cover plate on every switch and outlet was gone and 25% of the outlets were broken. I still can't see how that's possible and how the former tenants could have let that happen with small kids in the house. Oh well, we just have to hold our noses sometimes and make the photos. I do a large percentage of rehabs so mostly I just have to deal with paint fumes.

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