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Homespin debuts as home search for right brained people – first look

Homespin launches in Austin with national ambitions, specifically targeting right brained people in the market for a home as it learns buyers’ preferences, giving each user a unique experience and offers Realtors a powerful suite of information on their clients.

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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.

To view images in larger format, right click and select “Open image in new tab.”
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Homespin landing page
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Homespin search by kitchen
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Homespin search by bathrooms
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Homespin search by living room
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Homespin social connection
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Homespin’s real estate professionals’ dashboard
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Homespin property listing page
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Homespin local market activity page
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Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Grant Hammond

    April 3, 2013 at 10:47 am

    The property details pages still miss the mark by not prominently identifying the listing agent’s information. This anonymous listing details page is still disingenuous in my opinion as the intellectual property holder is still hidden in small type at the bottom of the page. The first service to truly embrace the Realtor community is the only service that will last more than a decade as mass Realtor adoption will not occur until they are truly embraced.

    • Jude Galligan

      April 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Grant, Jude here with Homespin. Thanks for the comment. As as a listing agent in the trenches myself, I agree we (and other services) can do better at making listing office and/or agent much more prominent. Long ago, pre-launch, we recognized and placed the listing office below every single photo in the search page. That’s not something you’ll see on many other home search sites. How we surface that info is getting better, and as we get actionable feedback we can continue to rollout improvements, specifically on the property details pages.

      • Grant Hammond

        April 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

        It is not just the listing office, but it is the direct contact information for the designated broker who brought this listing to market. Unless you plan on using this page to sell leads, advertising or other nonsense to other Realtors, I cannot see why this information would be withheld. Of course, I am assuming you will roll this product out in more than just your market.

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Chatbots: Are they still useful, or ready to be retired?

(TECH NEWS) Chatbots have proven themselves to be equally problematic as they are helpful – is it time to let them go the way of the floppy disk?

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Man texting chatbots leaning against a brick wall.

All chatbots must die. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted, but was it really?

I understand the appeal, truly. It’s a well established 21st century business mantra for all the side hustlers and serial entrepreneurs out there: “Automation is the key to scaling.” If we can save time, labor, and therefore money by automating systems, that means we have more time to build our brands and sell our goods and services.

Automation makes sense in many ways, but not all automation tools were created equal. While many tools for automation are extremely effective and useful, chatbots have been problematic from the start. Tools for email marketing, social media, internal team communication, and project management are a few examples of automation that have helped many a startup or other small business kick things into high gear quickly, so that they can spend time wooing clients and raising capital. They definitely have their place in the world of business.

However promising or intriguing chatbots seemed when they were shiny and new, they have lost their luster. If we have seen any life lesson in 2020, it is that humans are uniquely adept at finding ways to make a mess of things.

The artificial intelligence of most chatbots has to be loaded, over time, into the system, by humans. We try to come up with every possible customer-business interaction to respond to with the aim of being helpful. However, language is dynamic, interactive, with near infinite combinations, not to mention dialects, misspellings, and slang.

It would take an unrealistic amount of time to be able to program a chatbot to compute, much less reply to, all possible interactions. If you don’t believe me, consider your voice-activated phone bot or autocorrect spelling. It doesn’t take a whole lot to run those trains off the rails, at least temporarily. There will always be someone trying to confuse the bots, to get a terse, funny, or nonsensical answer, too.

Chatbots can work well when you are asking straightforward questions about a single topic. Even then, they can fall short. A report by AI Multiple showed that some chatbots were manipulated into expressing agreement with racist, violent, or unpatriotic (to China, where they were created) ideas. Others, like CNN and WSJ, had problems helping people unsubscribe from their messages.

Funny, shocking, or simply unhelpful answers abound in the world of chatbot fails. People are bound to make it messy, either accidentally or on purpose.

In general, it feels like the time has come to put chatbots out to pasture. Here are some helpful questions from azumbrunnen.me to help you decide when it’s worth keeping yours.

  1. Is the case simple enough to work on chatbot? Chatbots are good with direct and short statements and requests, generally. However, considering that Comcast’s research shows at least 1,700 ways to say “I want to pay my bill,” according to Netomi, the definition of “simple enough” is not so simple.
  2. Is your Natural Language Processor capable and sophisticated enough? Pre-scripted chatbots are often the ones to fail more quickly than chatbots built with an NLP. It will take a solid NLP to deal with the intricacies of conversational human language.
  3. Are your users in chat based environments? If so, then it could be useful, as you are meeting your customers where they are. Otherwise, if chatbots pop up whenever someone visits your website or Facebook page, it can really stress them out or turn them off.

I personally treat most chatbots like moles in a digital whack-a-mole game. The race is on to close every popup as quickly as possible, including chatbots. I understand that from time to time, in certain, clearly defined and specific scenarios, having a chatbot field the first few questions can help direct the customer to the correct person to resolve their problems or direct them to FAQs.

They are difficult to program within the expansiveness of the human mind and human language, though, and a lot of people find them terribly annoying. It’s time to move on.

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Get all your digital organization in one place with Routine

(TECH NEWS) Routine makes note-taking and task-creating a lot easier by merging all your common processes into one productivity tool.

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A desk with a laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee settled into an organized routine.

Your inbox can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. Without organization, important emails with tasks, notes, and meetings can become a trash pile pretty quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of tools that aim to help you improve your efficiency, and the latest to add to that list is Routine.

Routine is a productivity app that combines your tasks, notes, and calendar into one easy-to-use app so you can increase your performance. Instead of having to switch between different apps to jot down important information, create to-do lists, and glance at your calendar, Routine marries them all into one cool productivity tool. By simply using a keyboard shortcut, you can do all these things.

If you receive an email that contains an actionable item, you can convert that email into a task you can view later. Tasks are all saved in your inbox, and you can even schedule a task for a specific day. So, if Obi-Wan wants to have Jedi lessons on Thursday, you can schedule your Force task for that day. Likewise, chat messages that need follow-up can also be converted into tasks and be scheduled.

To enrich your tasks, notes can be attached to them. In your notes, you can also embed checkboxes, which are tasks of their own. And if you have tasks that aren’t coming from your inbox, you can import them from other services, such as Gmail, Notion, and Trello.

To make sure you can stay focused on the events and tasks at hand, Routine makes it easy to take everything in. By using the tool’s keyboard-controlled console, you can access your dashboard to quickly see what tasks need to be addressed, what’s on your calendar, and even join an upcoming Zoom session and take notes about the meeting.

Routine is available for macOS, iOS, web, and Google accounts only. Overall, the app centralizes notes and tasks by letting you create and view everything in one place, which helps make sure you stay on top of things. Currently, Routine is still in beta, but you can get on a waitlist to test the product out for yourself.

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The paradox of CAPTCHAs: Too smart for humans vs AI?

(TECH NEWS) AI is catching up to our cybersecurity technology and often tricking humans too — so what’s next for CAPTCHAs and the internet?

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Person using phone with laptop to verify CAPTCHAs and code.

We’ve all encountered it before: The occasional robot test that feels impossible to beat. If you’ve felt like these tests, also known as CAPTCHAs, have gotten harder in the last couple of years, you aren’t wrong—and the reason is as ironic as it is baffling.

Simply put, AI are just as good as—and often better than—humans at completing CAPTCHAs in their classic format. As machine learning and AI become more advanced, the fundamental human attributes that make consistent CAPTCHA formats possible become less impactful, raising the question of how to determine the difference between AI and humans in the future.

The biggest barrier to universal CAPTCHA doctrine is purely cultural. Humans may share experiences across the board, but such experiences are typically basic enough to fall victim to the same machine learning which has rendered lower-level CAPTCHAs moot. Adding a cultural component to CAPTCHAs could prevent AI from bypassing them, but it also might prevent some humans from understanding the objective.

Therein lies the root of the CAPTCHA paradox. Humans are far more diverse than any one test can possibly account for, and what they do have in common is also shared by—you guessed it—AI. To create a truly AI-proof test would be to alienate a notable portion of human users by virtue of lived experience. The irony is palpable, but one can only imagine the sheer frustration developers are going through in attempting to address this problem.

But all isn’t lost. While litmus tests such as determining the number of traffic cones in a plaza or checking off squares with bicycles (but not unicycles, you fool) may be beatable by machines, some experts posit that “human entropy” is almost impossible to mimic—and, thus, a viable solution to the CAPTCHA paradox.

“A real human being doesn’t have very good control over their own motor functions, and so they can’t move the mouse the same way more than once over multiple interactions,” says Shuman Ghosemajumder, a former click fraud expert from Google. While AI could attempt to feign this same level of “entropy”, the odds of a successful attempt appear low.

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