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New real estate search engine reveals “the truth” about properties

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Is Localize changing the house hunting game or are they just fooling themselves?

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When I heard Localize describe itself as “Netflix but for houses,” I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow (is anyone else exhausted with the X but for Y techie trend, or is it just me?).

That tagline is not just tired, it’s also confused. Judging by its description on producthunt.com, this new NYC-based startup is much more like Carfax-meets-Nextdoor than Netflix.

Localize is a real estate search engine for house hunters. Their claim to fame is how they record complaints about the properties and neighborhoods in their listings, as well as providing details like nearby transportation, construction, crime rates, and demographic stats for the area.

They are currently only operating within New York and Chicago, with plans to expand to other US cities and Canada.

Localize does sound promising – it tries to give users an impression of what it might be like to live somewhere long before they decide to move in. I could see this service encouraging more direct lines of accountability between property managers and potential (or even past) residents. Listing accessibility concerns like elevator functionality within apartment complexes is a great move too, since that can be a make-or-break factor for disabled and aging people.

A few aspects of Localize give me pause, though. For one, it has a strange fixation on emphasizing that they will provide users with “the truth” in their marketing language. Yes, their goal is to improve transparency in the process of searching for housing, but it’s also like they’re trying to imply that their competitors are lying, and that’s a pretty cheap trick.

Huge real estate players like RE/MAX and sites like realtor.com all rely on local Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) information, which comes straight from individual realtors – who are, by the way, legally obligated to disclose “the truth” about their properties.

Plus, there’s something kind of tone deaf about Localize’s model. There are lots of issues with trying to find housing in cities like New York and Chicago: They are expensive and competitive markets, and right now lots of New Yorkers and Chicagoans are housing insecure because of the economic impact of COVID-19.

On their blog, Localize highlights how it conveniently lets users browse detailed listings while staying quarantined.

But I admit that I have serious doubts that this does anything to really address the needs that the majority of their target demographic currently faces. Sure, Localize could help folks find their dream home, but is that really a viable business plan for the present moment? Especially with so many people struggling to just keep a roof over their head?

I’ll give them this: there’s little doubt that Localize’s mission is sincere – plenty of attempts to “disrupt” an industry are. But sincerity and naivety are by no means mutually exclusive.

Desmond Meagley is an award-winning writer, graphic artist and cultural commentator in D.C. A proud YR Media alumn, Desmond's writing and illustrations have been featured in the SF Chronicle, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, The Daily Cal, and NPR among others. In their spare time, Desmond enjoys vegetarian cooking and vigorous bike rides.

Real Estate Technology

How fake images are infiltrating suburban geography

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) The rise in quality of deepfakes has even lead to the development of fake images in geography and housing. Here’s what to look out for.

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A digital map open on a computer, where one has to be wary of fake images.

With the onset of the computer age, we have seen a great deal of false information spreading around the world. From photoshopped images to presidents broadcasting fake information, there is a lot to be wary of. The internet is rife with data that truly needs to be verified at any given turn. The dangerous part is not only what people can do with that information, but also how they can hide things with it.

Satellite imagery has been on the rise for a few decades. An image that is already grainy and hard to see would be child’s play to alter. Maybe even to create from scratch. Tagging GPS coordinates are a simple alteration inside of photoshop too. Fakes, upon fakes, upon fakes.

In 2019, the US military warned about the possibility of fake geographical information being perpetuated across the internet. It then actually came true to the embarrassment of the Chinese government. Satellite “evidence” was used to report detention camps hidden away in the countries. The “camps” turned out to be re-education facilities for China’s mentally deviant populace. However, that’s another rabbit hole to run down. The point here is that the images that were released in 2015 showed absolutely no facility and then pictures in 2018 showed a massive facility.

An assistant professor, Bo Zhao, with the University of Washington decided to illustrate this again with a study. His opinion was “the first step to tackling these issues is to make people aware there’s a problem in the first place”. He and his colleagues published a paper on “deep fake geography”. They conducted experiments in generating and detecting imagery for suburban homes. Showing the affect of this technology on our economy. They were able to easily convert the shape and layout of a neighborhood in their images.

From this work we have a few new terms to be aware of. Threats of “paper towns” and “trap streets” are two of the new resounding terms. These new ideas can lead to a modicum of potential issues. The team actually created a software that has the ability to create these fake images. They did the work themselves, leading one to believe that the basic knowledge is there for anyone with a little know-how.

The moral of the story is, don’t trust anything from the internet. It’s all an opinion coming from some other flawed human being, and you don’t ever really know why people are putting that information out there. Always know and check your sources.

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Real Estate Technology

This company puts robot legs on buildings to ‘walk’ them to new locations

(TECH NEWS) China is balancing preserving its architectural heritage with rapid modern expansion, using unique technology inspired by 19th century.

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Looking up at a building in a city environment.

It’s a big enough pain to rearrange the furniture in my living room. Whether permanent, or looking for that cookie I swore I dropped behind the couch, even something that might take me 30 seconds of exertion is usually above my tolerance threshold.

Let’s magnify that problem by about a billion and start asking questions on how an entire building might be moved.

Not a shed in your neighbor’s backyard (which makes odd sounds some nights), not something designed to be portable on a trailer, and not a glorified tent or collapsible structure. We’re talking about a concrete structure weighing hundreds of tons and the need to have it move to a new permanent location.

Shanghai Evolution Shift has developed support that act as robotic legs, and a few hundred of them together can be placed under a building and literally have it walk to a new location. I’m simplifying it a bit here, so don’t let it sound too insane – there’s still a lot of physics and real world and astronomically heavy things involved, so it’s not exactly some miracle fix that can be deployed in one afternoon. But it is still remarkable – half the supports lift, the other half move into place, the load-bearing first group shifts the building forward a few feet, the second half rise to hold, and this process repeats.

Ultimately, a structure can be moved across the ground and be placed elsewhere; in this case, it was the Lagena Primary school – an 85 year old building weighing 7600 tons built in 1935 by the former French Commission – moved 62 meters (203 feet) along a curved path over the course of 18 days, turning 21 degrees in the transition. More impressive, the historical building is not a standard square/rectangle, but instead an odd T-shape. This was done to make room for new commercial and office space, which is set to be completed by 2023.

Some of you are thinking crutches don’t sound too awful right now.

This has set off a debate about conservation of architectural history, as there is a concern to keep storied buildings of the past in the ever-increasing march toward modernized expansion. Former Chinese Emperor Mao Zedong even waged a cultural war on “The Four Olds” in an attempt to erase previous examples of earlier Chinese civilization, prompting the destruction and razing of monuments and numerous buildings. Even with this type of mandate no longer in place, urbanization has become relentless and threatens to erase entire cultural cornerstones.

There have been attempts to draft plans to ensure conservation of such sites is achieved, and in doing so, this has brought about the need to see building relocation as a viable option. Shanghai has especially been a strong example of this preservation, setting itself as a leader in making sure the past is represented, saved, and respectfully maintained.

Interestingly, some of the ideas here are literally from over 150 years ago, and were deployed en masse in Chicago. At the time, there was a drainage problem – the city had no clearance above Lake Michigan, making all of its roads and buildings at water level. This meant that water and sewage would not run off, causing stagnant pools to appear across all roads, leading to outbreaks of diseases yearly.

Here, too, was an outlandish solution proposed and then executed – raising Chicago itself several feet. Trenches would be dug under a building, thousands of giant jackscrews would be placed in a giant grid pattern, and hundreds of workers would turn them in unison until the building was suddenly well above its original footprint. Interestingly, not only did this work, but there were no fatalities and only a small handful of incidents.

This process went on for twenty years, and despite some hiccups with sidewalks being hilariously uneven during that time, the results were a resounding success. The increase in height meant that a sewer system could be installed on the roads and buried, which fixed the original problem. Maybe the craziest thing about this is that so few people remember it, despite Chicago having always been a hub of American history.

There’s actually an entire history involved with moving houses using logs and animals and other means, in case anyone is interested. Apparently it is much more common than you’d think; we’ve got better technology today, but sometimes people just made do.

Last joke because I would be disappointed in anyone who didn’t reference this (including myself): Howl’s Moving Castle anyone?

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Real Estate Technology

Transcribe your flood of meetings with Tony

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) With all the audio meetings that have to take place now it might be useful to get a transcriber, TonydoorAI is a free one that’s perfect for you.

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While meetings sometimes (rightfully) get a bad rep for being a waste of time, there are often moments where meetings are crucial for the betterment of your work. And, in these cases, meetings can be particularly daunting.

You’re worried about how to dress, what to say, and how to say it, all while retaining the information presented and taking helpful notes for your future self. It’s impossible to do all of that at the same time and feel like you hit it out of the park.

Even with our current world of video meetings from home, it can still be hard to manage all of those components and take detailed notes that will make sense in the future. However, there may be a friend who can help.

TonyDoorAI is an AI assistant for calls and video meetings. Users can turn it on to record meetings on Zoom or Google Meet.

The AI can transcribe in 120 languages and can summarize in two minutes with 95 percent accuracy. This is a largely untapped system of record that is designed with remote teams in mind.

The system also provides time-stamped notes and works to keep the communication between customers or employees smooth and transparent. TonyDoor has strong analytic skills built into the platform that track a conversation’s theme and structure – in only one hour, the system will review an hour-long meeting into your CRM.

There are plans tailored for all business types, including a free plan that offers four hours of transcription per month, records Zoom and Google Meet, provides time-stamped notes, and integrates with Slack and Calendar.

On the website, Tony states that only the user owns the data and that they do not sell or use data for their interests. Additionally, Tony explains the encryption of data as, “We encrypt your data at rest, including emails, calendar events and other personal identifiable metadata. We use a 256-bit AES encryption in storage and a 256-bit SSL/TLS encryption in transit. Our database is hosted in a Virtual Private Cloud with AWS.”

Tony sounds like an ideal helper for new client calls, interviews, and anything where you want to retain information. Give us your thoughts on AI transcription in the comments!

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