Industry NewsTechnology

Real estate startups hawk their wares

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CORRECTION: The original article misreported the number of companies participating in "Start-Up Alley" at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City. Over one dozen companies participated in this exhibition. This article does not present an exhaustive list of every company that participated in "Start-Up Alley."

NEW YORK — Over one dozen startups showcased their wares during the "Start-Up Alley" exhibition at Real Estate Connect in New York City last week. Products offered by the eager entrepreneurs include property and mortgage evaluation calculators, social media tools, community neighborhood forums, jazzed-up property Web sites, and prospect-to-close transaction management systems.

Many of the tech tools — which have been around for less than a year — are still in beta form and the companies are seeking consumer feedback.

Property and mortgage evaluation

Before consumers become buyers and sellers, they have to figure out what the property involved is worth and whether they can afford to take the plunge either way.

Silicon Valley-based SmartZip Inc. provides free independent investment ratings for real estate. For those willing to tolerate price volatility over time, a property’s SmartScore notes its potential for appreciation in value. For the risk-averse, an Investor SmartScore notes a property’s potential for regular cash flow.

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The company’s proprietary methodology takes into account economic, market, housing, government, community, property, demographic and lifestyle data gleaned from both public and private sources, according to SmartZip’s Web site.

The site rates these factors for a property and compares them to performance at the city, metro and state level. Users can also calculate a property’s monthly cash flow and return on investment. Once the consumer makes a decision to buy or sell, the site can connect him/her to a local agent for that property.

For those wishing to refinance their homes, San Francisco-based is a free mortgage-finding service that aims to find the best loans for which a user qualifies.

Developed with real estate industry expert and Inman News columnist Jack M. Guttentag, the company’s definition of "best" takes into account annual percentage rate (APR), principal, lender’s fee, loan origination/discount points, optional mortgage insurance, and income tax savings over the time borrowers expect to own the home.

The site evaluates users’ credit scores and gives them a mortgage "grade." If the users don’t "pass," the site suggests quick fixes, such as paying off a small medical bill, to improve their credit score, or directs them to a related site,, to "work on increasing their lender attractiveness," the company said in a statement.

If the users do pass, they see offers from numerous prequalified lenders, including interest rates, monthly payments, fees and monthly savings over their current mortgage. Once users pick an offer, they can lock in that rate for 48 hours. The lender the user chooses pays the site a flat fee.

Social media

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs: For real estate professionals who want to jump on the social media bandwagon but don’t want the hassle of navigating each of these networks individually, SocialMadeSimple automatically posts to multiple networks and combines all of a user’s contacts and posts in one place. …CONTINUED