COVER STORY: North Toronto Local Residents David Silverberg & Terry Moshenberg are Redefining the Online Real Estate Search Experience with Hometrics.ca
David Silverberg and Terry Moshenberg might know more about your home than you do. They’ve already analyzed over 500,000 dwellings in Toronto, looking at everything from police reports to the quality of nearby schools.
All that data mining forms the groundwork of Hometrics.ca, a searchable online database of housing histories and neighbourhood attributes that the two are launching this month and hope will make residential real estate dealings more open.
“One of the things that we think is important and that’s been missing from the real estate industry (so, not just for real estate agents but brokers, agents, inspectors, lawyers, buyers, and sellers) is there’s been an inability for transparency,” says Moshenberg, a local tech vet whose last project was developing an online bank debit card system.
As Moshenberg and Silverberg see it, the Hometrics app will change this by providing complicated data on homes in an easily understandable format.
To do this, they’ve linked their system up to a variety of publicly available sources, which allows it to generate up-to-the-minute downloadable reports on specific residential addresses, presenting the data in charts, graphs, text, and pictures.
If a fence dispute has occurred at an address, that’ll show up. Whether or not there’s a bus stop around the corner from a home will be reflected in a report, too. The system even goes so far as to probe DineSafe records on local restaurants.
“Every report changes from day to day based on activity on and around the property being reviewed,” Silverberg explains in an emailed statement. “Reports are never the same.”
For each address they search, users will be able to dig into seven different categories: Neighbourhood, education, construction, crime, hazards, complaints, and costs. “Whatever’s on record, we’re going to have,” Moshenberg adds.
“There are many complex algorithms,” Silverberg continues, referring to the mind boggling logistics involved with translating all this data into straightforward reports. “We’re breaking down any type of data that may affect property value and appraising users of potential lifestyle hazards on and around the property,” he adds in the statement.
For the time being, only Toronto resale homes—that is, dwellings that have already had at least one owner—condos, and apartment buildings will be put under the Hometrics microscope. There are no plans to cover the new construction residential market, but Hometrics does intend to extend services to Vancouver and Calgary next.
The company is partly banking on charging a subscription fee and selling individual reports to generate revenue. A single seven-category report will go for $99, with cheaper prices available for users who want more than one.
And in a move catering to realtors, Hometrics will also let agents “buy” neighbourhoods, so that each time a home-hunter searches an address in a particular area, a banner for the realtor who has bought it shows up. This ad directs users to the realtor’s profile, and once there, they can access a free full report through it.
You won’t have to pay to satisfy base levels of curiosity. By simply creating an account on Hometrics.ca, you’ll be able to access a limited level of information for free. But as with virtually any free Internet service, it’s not totally gratis. Users are, after all, providing Hometrics with certain information by signing up, and Moshenberg is forthright about the value he sees in knowing who is searching for what homes—and where. “It’s the holy grail, quite frankly,” he says.
However, Hometrics is not in the business of selling names to realtors, says Moshenberg. Nor will such information be made public in the hundreds of thousands of personalized reports soon to be available to anyone with a credit card, he insists. “We don’t give out John Smith’s name, but if there are reports at this address of noisy neighbours, they’re reported,” he explains.
Moshenberg pitches Hometrics as a Carfax for residential real estate. But that popular service has been providing consumers with its vehicle history reports since 1986. What’s taken so long for Hometrics to emerge? If all the data sources it uses are public, why hasn’t someone already done this?
The answer, according to Moshenberg, is three-fold. “It can’t be more than two or three years that this data has even been available,” he says. Not only that, but “big data”—the kind Hometrics cultivates—was more expensive to process with less advanced technology. It’s a different story now. “Smaller startups are able to harness big data and manage that data and do things with it that they weren’t able to do even five years ago,” Moshenberg says.
“And,” he adds, “we’re the guys that took a chance.”
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