Editor’s note: We scoured the industry in search of behind-the-scenes technology innovators driving change for real estate. In this special Inman News series, we share their stories, but the five people and companies we chose are by no means the only pioneers in real estate. There are hordes of innovators out there, and we’d like to hear all their stories. Drop us a tip if you have someone in mind. (See Part 1: Age doesn’t stop Baird & Warner’s innovations; Part 2: Neighborhood real estate videos come alive; Part 3: A perfect online real estate marrriage and Part 4: Bridging islands of real estate technology.)
Greg Hansen of Fidelity Hansen Quality attributes his pioneering role in real estate technology to laziness.
The innovator launched San Diego, Calif.-based Hansen Quality in 1990 before the Internet gained popular acceptance. The company developed an automated valuation model in 1991, named Stat. Eventually, after the company was purchased by Fidelity National Financial, three AVMs were combined to create a new AVM, ValueSure, in 2003.
But Hansen’s involvement with AVMs began even earlier. He first worked with the models in the mid-1980s.
“I started out with my own appraisal firm in Southern California, which was sold to TRW in the mid-1980s,” Hansen said. “That’s when we started the AVM thing. TRW wanted to get involved in innovations.”
Hansen said, “I got the idea for an automated valuation model because I’m lazy and thought there was an easier way to do appraisals. In those days, lending was a cottage business. All appraisals were done pretty much the same.”
At the time, Hansen said, the idea of neuronet technology was just surfacing.
“We felt that given enough data we could feed appraisal data to the neuronets and the computers could start figuring things out on their own,” Hansen said. The plan was a success, and Hansen stayed at TRW until the late 1980s.
After the 1987 stock crash, TRW got out of the appraisal business, and Hansen founded Hansen Quality. When Wall Street started buying mortgages, needing quick decisions on the quality of thousands of mortgages at a time, Hansen saw an opportunity and jumped on it.
“We introduced the AVM process to Wall Street investment bankers using automated valuation tools which are mathematical programs along with data to estimate value,” Hansen said.
“Wall Street has been using our risk tools for eight years. What’s happening is those tools have gained acceptance and are being pushed by the investors and Wall Street to the front end where if you’re a lender you can use those tools at the beginning, the origination,” he said.
Indeed, AVMs are coming into wider use, validating Hansen’s pioneering work on the technology.
“One of the reasons we came to Fidelity is that AVMs and risk scoring, to perform well, are very dependent on data,” Hansen said. “Fidelity is one of the largest depositories of residential data in the United States. It’s one of the reasons Hansen Quality decided to become a part of it.
“You have to be where the data is,” said Hansen, who is still with Fidelity.
And it’s likely that this “lazy” innovator will continue to come up with unusual – and effective – uses for that data.
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