By Jessica Naziri
1:34 PM EDT, March 24, 2013
Looking for a home or want to sell one but not yet ready to retain a real estate agent?
Homesnap, a Washington, D.C., start-up, has developed an Apple mobile app that provides real estate information for users who are on the hunt or curious about selling -- that can be found just by snapping a photo of a house.
Within seconds, the app will display on the iPhone or iPad the address of the house and other real estate information, including its current value, last sale date and price, lot size, bedrooms, bathrooms and local schools.
“The idea was the equivalent to Shazam for homes,” said Chief Executive Guy Wolcott, who has a background in technology and co-founded the company with Steve Barnes, a real estate broker.
The free mobile app, formerly known as Sawbuck, launched version 2.0 of Homesnap’s point-and-shoot home search iOS app last week at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The company has raised a total of $5.5 million in venture funding, including a $3.5-million Series A round in August 2012 from Revolution Ventures and real estate investor Robert Stewart.
Homesnap, which is approaching 500,000 users, wants to be one of the first real estate platforms built specifically for the mobile era. Homesnap’s patent-pending technology uses a combination of public real estate Multiple Listing Service data, tax records, census data and mapping data for more than 90 million homes across the United States -- listed or not -- to get property details.
Homesnap uses the iPhone’s GPS capability and its sensors to identify the house and then fetches the details from a server in the cloud. The app then tracks every home the user photographs and updates each one automatically with new information, including updated values as well as when the home goes under contract. If a home is for sale, it displays the list price, interior pictures and listing details.
The company intends to be more than just a utility for people who are shopping. According to Wolcott, 90% of the homes that people snap aren’t for sale, "so it’s not all people searching for homes because they want to buy.”
With the introduction of a built-in social graph and Instagram-style photo stream, users can connect with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, text message or email, making it simple to trade snaps, comments and recommendations. Interested buyers can then connect with local agents through the HomeSnap for Agents feature; the company gets 30% of the commission when a house is sold.
Homesnap is currently available only for users in the United States. The company said an Android version will be released by the end of the month.
I have been snapping homes for the last week and am surprised by Homesnap's fast and easy-to-use application. The app almost always correctly identified the house I was shooting, but there were a few discrepancies, and in one case, the app couldn’t identify the house.
But the developers are regularly working to update the information and improve accuracy. Despite its other con, which is that it requires an Internet connection, Homesnap’s immediacy and extensive information is very appealing, whether you’re seriously looking for a house or just entertaining the idea of buying one.
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