Buying a home is just about the most important financial decision a person can make. But every day folks spend hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of dollars on a home, and still have little to no knowledge of the neighborhood they’re buying in or the property itself — how reliable is the nearby public transit? What’s the bed bug or rat situation?
This lack of knowledge can lead to some major buyer’s remorse. In fact, a recent survey found that a whopping two-thirds of millennials have regrets about the home they purchased, and about a third of baby boomers do, too.
Here to stop that buyer’s remorse from ever happening in the first place is Localize, a NYC-based tech startup that aims to round up all the information you could possibly need in deciding where to live in one place. By combining its AI-enabled technology with human expertise, the platform has collected billions of data points in hundreds of selectable attributes that cover everything from proximity to a Trader Joe’s to the amount of natural light a space gets — in addition to the traditional square footage, bedroom and bathroom breakdown other sites offer. Homebuyers can tailor their searches using these attributes, and receive daily curated listings for nearby homes that fit their criteria.
“The goal is to give you full transparency and allow you to really understand a potential property that you want to buy,” Omer Granot, the president and COO of Localize, told Built In.
Localize is also designed to reduce the burdens so often felt by brokers and real estate agents in a hot housing market like New York. Today, the process of finding and helping homebuyers is often quite manual and inefficient, which can lead to lost time and (even worse) lost leads. Localize addresses this struggle by serving as a sort of virtual assistant for brokers, helping to qualify and cultivate leads, then reintroduce those leads back to agents when buyers are ready.
“We take all the manual, repetitive tasks that are better done by technology from the agent, and we cultivate, nurture and engage that buyer,” Granot explained. “When they’re ready to actually go see the place in person, and when a human is actually needed in the process, we match them back to the agent and we let them take it from there.”
Founded in Tel Aviv in 2012, Localize has raised $70 million so far — its most recent round of funding being a $25 million Series C announced Wednesday. The round was led by Pitango Growth, and will be used to further develop its platform and expand its reach into new markets. For now, Localize’s services are only available in New York City, but Granot says “at the push of a button” the company could expand into Chicago, and plans to launch in other cities soon.
This growth will be increasingly important as the real estate industry as a whole continues to digitize in light of the pandemic.
Until recently, Granot says the sector was notoriously slow to embrace technology in the same way others have, but this changed in March of 2020. The housing market over the last 18 months has been pretty volatile, especially in New York. Buying and selling was at a virtual standstill when Covid first hit, but when the market suddenly exploded back to life, the industry had to adapt quickly. In part, this meant implementing technology in new ways.
Indeed, several proptech companies have gotten renewed attention from users and investors alike for their techy takes on every facet of the real estate industry — from home appraisals to facilitating all-cash offers. And several brand new startups have launched in the last year, including Casa Blanca, an app that makes shopping for homes like using a dating app, and Pacaso, a marketplace that’s essentially reimagined vacation timeshares.
But Granot says Localize is the first company of its kind to take the tons of disparate, fragmented data points that make up the housing market and bring it to one, easy-to-use platform.
“From a data perspective, Localize is really doing something that no one has ever done in real estate, which is to make sense of the world of real estate data,” Granot said. “No one has really taken the new technologies that exist in other markets like big data, machine learning, AI, and implemented them in this way.”
In the end, Localize is working to solve what Granot calls the “biggest consumer problems of our time” — home buying — with this kind of technology. And he thinks this latest raise is just the beginning.
“When I think about the company, I think we’re just starting to massively scale. In a few years, or a few months even, we can be the operating system for real estate and really fundamentally change the process of home buying. Make it sort of a win-win as opposed to an industry that is usually a zero-sum game,” Granot said. “We’re thinking there is a world where everyone wins if we introduce a better process. That’s what we’re trying to do and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”