OpenHouse Lands $13.5M in Quest to Redesign Home Searches

The Wall Street Journal   | November 19, 2015 

OpenHouse Lands $13.5M in Quest to Redesign Home Searches

Online real-estate search is getting a social era makeover.

OpenHouse Realty Inc., a real-estate agent recommendation service, is tapping into social data that it mingles with demographic information in an effort to serve up more insights into neighborhoods for people searching for homes.

Santa Monica, Calif.-based OpenHouse aims to make home searches more like browsing Airbnb or Facebook , bringing large images and personalized content to real-estate searches.

OpenHouse extracts information from images in the multiple listing service. The company uses its own image recognition and data extraction technology to get details from photos associated with home listings. It also uses geo-tagged images from Instagram as well as geo-tagged Twitter feeds to provide more local information around property searches.

While the number of people who offer such metadata in social posts is a small percentage, the concept promises unusual insights, albeit limited, into the lives and interests of people in neighborhoods.

The company also fuses U.S. Census Bureau and Nielsen data into a picture of neighborhoods. All of the data options combined allow OpenHouse users to see what people watch on TV, what they read, what kind of car they drive, what their income level is and many other clues about neighbors. By design, the company has melded the voyeuristic world of social media with real-estate searches.

Investors see an opportunity: OpenHouse has picked up $13.5 million in Series A funding, The Wall Street Journal has learned. The funding was led by Triangle Peak Partners and March Capital Partners and had participation from undisclosed investors.

The startup is competing in a crowded category of real-estate search incumbents including Zillow, Trulia and Redfin.

Formerly known as Agent Ace, which was first launched in May 2013, the company has now changed its name to OpenHouse. The company also said it has acquired Fypio, a personalized real-estate search startup from Ontario, Canada, and combined the two startups under the new brand. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Before the acquisition and merger, Agent Ace had raised more than $6 million in funding. Fypio, founded in 2013, had received $2.4 million in funding. Agent Ace was founded by Mazen Fawaz , and Fypio was founded by Michael Koh and John Kvasnic. Under the deal, Mr. Fawaz will be the chief executive of OpenHouse and Mr. Kvasnic has been named chief product officer.

OpenHouse also uses historic home sales data to match potential home buyers and sellers with the most experienced real-estate agents for the specific home and area, the company said.

“If you’re looking for a house, we’ll calculate the best agent,” said Mr. Fawaz.

It makes money by taking a 30% gross commission from agents, averaging $2,900 per deal, according to the company.

OpenHouse declined to disclose its sales data as well as the valuation given the startup at the time of funding.

The OpenHouse app works in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Denver, Dallas, Austin, Houston, Chicago, Massachusetts, Maryland, Miami, Tampa and Detroit. The company plans to add more cities in early 2016.