When Krishna Malyala moved from Hawaii to New Jersey, he wanted to know how much it would cost him to commute from potential new homes to his workplace, but no real estate agent was able to tell him.
So Malyala, a Keller Williams agent and former vice president of technology at Citigroup, teamed up with Ravi Sreekakula, a former marketing director for Hawaiian Airlines, to co-found a company that would help homebuyers gauge the actual cost of living in a particular home, including commuting costs.
TLCengine launched in February and rolled out its first mobile application, tripTLC, at the Real Estate Connect conference. The company was one of 23 real estate startups featured in Connect’s Startup Alley.
TripTLC estimates commuting costs using more than nine variables — including make and model of car, real-time prices at nearby gas stations, tolls and parking costs — and users can easily compare costs for multiple homes, the company said.
The company’s patent-pending “True Lifestyle Cost” search algorithm takes into account 31 lifestyle and affordability factors relevant when searching for a home, including mortgage rates, property taxes, and area heating and cooling costs, as well as commute costs.
The algorithm also considers the type of buyer — a couple with children or a single man, for instance, because they could have different costs for the same house, Malyala said.
“Mortgages only account for 50 percent of the cost of owning a home; we do the rest of it,” Sreekakula said.
The cost of a living in a particular home can change drastically when commuting costs are considered along with mortgage payments, he said, citing an October 2012 report from the Center for Housing Policy. The report found housing and transportation costs rose faster than incomes in the 2000s, consuming an average of 48 percent of the median household’s income by the end of the decade.
“Let’s bring more transparency to the process (and show) what is the true lifestyle cost of living somewhere,” Sreekakula said.
TripTLC is the company’s first product. Buyer’s agents may use it to create personalized commuting cost reports for their clients or offer the tool itself to clients. Subscriptions to the service cost $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Until July 19, agents will be able to get a $20 discount on the annual subscription with the promo code: inman 20.
By helping people figure out what they can truly afford, agents will benefit from increased loyalty and referrals, Sreekakula said.
And by considering the multiple costs of owning a home combined, agents could point their clients to homes or areas the clients might have previously thought were unaffordable to them based on list price alone, he added.
TripTLC also includes a feature allowing agents to keep track of their driving costs for business in order to take advantage of business tax deductions, the company said.
The company eventually plans to roll out full Internet Data Exchange (IDX) products integrating the TLC search algorithm.