A new iPhone app from online brokerage company Sawbuck Realty reveals details on more than 90 million homes in the country — including current value, last sale date and price, and local schools — simply by snapping a picture.
In the 13 markets where Sawbuck Realty operates as a broker, the HomeSnap iPhone app can tap into multiple listing service (MLS) data. If a home is for sale, users see the current list price, interior pictures and complete listing details, and can schedule a showing. For recently sold listings, HomeSnap shows the final sale price and complete listing history.
For properties not listed in the MLS, and in markets where Sawbuck Realty lacks access to MLS data, HomeSnap relies on property tax and other public records to serve up details like last sale date and price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, lot size, and school attendance boundaries.
The app relies on information about the user’s location — not the image that’s snapped — to determine what property to retrieve information for, said Sawbuck co-founder and CEO Guy Wolcott.
The iPhone is equipped with a number of sensors — GPS, magnetometer, gyroscope and accelerometer — that can help determine where the user is, and where they are pointing the phone at the moment they snap the picture, Wolcott said in an email.
"We pass much of this to our server where we use several different algorithms to compare the sensor data to our data on homes, lots blocks and streets," Wolcott said. "The result is the home you snapped."
He said Sawbuck is also crowdsourcing photos, so that in the future it will be able to employ image recognition as part of its suite of tools for matching.
"Of course, the idea is that it feels like a bit of magic (for users) — not lots of sensors and math," Wolcott said.
Sawbuck Realty released its first iPhone app in January, providing access to 550,000 MLS listings in 13 markets: Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Boston; Providence, R.I.; Chicago; Dallas-Ft. Worth; Houston; California’s Inland Empire; Los Angeles; the San Francisco Bay Area; San Diego; and Phoenix.
"HomeSnap does not replace our existing iPhone app, which stands on its own and is used by thousands of home shoppers every day," Sawbuck Realty President and co-founder Steve Barnes said in an email. "The goal of HomeSnap was to make a real estate app that was simple, fun and useful to as large a group as possible."
Sawbuck also announced the closing of a new $2 million round of funding led by Washington, D.C., real estate investor Robert Stewart. Barnes said the new round of funding will help Sawbuck expand into roughly 20 new MLS markets over the next year.