Technology

Housefax will extend offerings to real estate professionals

Backing by Clareity will also boost hiring in IT, marketing

Information is currency in the real estate industry, and real estate technology company Clareity Security is betting on a company that’s stuffed to the gills with data.

Clareity has made a mid-six-figure investment in Housefax, a service launched nationwide in 2013 that offers home history reports that include information on factors that may affect a property’s condition, such as building permits, fires, floods, sinkholes and meth labs, among other data.

The investment will help Housefax extend its offerings to real estate professionals, not just consumers, and boost the company’s hiring in information technology and marketing.

Eddy Lang

Eddy Lang

“We are excited about Clareity’s investment in Housefax and adding their valued expertise as we approach a pivotal point in our history,” said Eddy Lang, Housefax founder and CEO, in a statement.

“Expanding into the professional real estate industry while continuing to offer great products and services to real estate consumers has always been our goal.”

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Clareity CEO Gregg Larson declined to specify the figure invested, but said this is the company’s first capital investment and the first time Clareity Security has been involved in a consumer-facing product.

Why invest? No one has done what Housefax has done — put together so many data points into one report, Larson said.

“This kind of report has been the holy grail for a lot of information companies for many years. Consumers want more information than ever. [Housefax offers] good, proprietary data put together in an easy-to-use package,” he said.

As part of Clareity’s strategic alliance with Housefax, Larson will be appointed to the company’s board of directors.

Clareity anticipates integrating Housefax into its single sign-on dashboards for multiple listing services and brokerages, which have been implemented in more than 200 MLSs and reach 600,000 agents.

“(That) will make the Housefax a quick, simple order for any real estate professional and/or (allow them to) subscribe to the service. It’s a great way to reach into the real estate professionals'” daily workflow, Larson said.

Gregg Larson

Gregg Larson

The companies also plan to integrate Housefax widgets into MLS public-facing sites, brokerage sites, brokerage intranets, and third-party real estate portals such as Zillow, Trulia and Homes.com, Larson said. Housefax and Clareity are currently in development discussions with “a couple of leading portals,” Larson said.

Here’s how it will work: Consumers will order reports through the Housefax widget and provide their contact info, which will be verified by Housefax. That consumer will then become a lead for a real estate agent as well as other real estate professionals such as lenders.

The widget would appear on any listing, not just those for sale, and consumers would receive reports for free through a real estate professional, Larson said. Property history reports cost $59 each.

Even if consumers get the reports for free, “when somebody orders a Housefax, they’re pretty serious,” Larson said.

“Maybe they’d order two, but they’re not going to go out and order 20 of them.”

Clareity’s role in the partnership will be to introduce Housefax to its clients and recommend that they take a good look at it because it’s “super popular” with consumers, Larson said.

MLS data is not a part of Clareity’s partnership with Housefax, though in the future MLSs may themselves decide to provide the company with data that includes information such as whether or not a home is on the market, Larson said.

Michael Abdy

Michael Abdy

That information will determine which services Housefax offers, said Housefax President Michael Abdy. For instance, if a home is on the market, consumers may need real estate, home inspection, home appraisal or preappraisal services, he said.

Housefax declined to disclose its data sources, though company execs emphasized that none of the data is unlicensed or scraped, and that it all comes from paid sources, some of them exclusive, some of them public records. The company does not source multiple listing service data.

In terms of coverage, Housefax has incident and fire information for 85 percent of U.S. homes, building permit data for 70 percent, and property records and natural hazard info for 90 percent.

The company has some competitors, including Revaluate, AddressReport and Homefacts. What differentiates Housefax is its property-specific information rather than the neighborhood-level information offered by rivals, Abdy said.

“It gets down to the level [that] if that house is in the flood plain, it tells you what zone it’s in. It tells you if you’re in an earthquake fault line. Our reports will tell you what permits were pulled on that house and what contractor pulled [them],” Lang told Inman.

Whether or not rivals agree with this assessment, the company says it has at least three other things going for it: a matured model (Housefax was founded in 2002), a nine- to 12-page property history report that generates in 25 seconds or less, and a brand name that can’t be beat.

It’s no secret that, for many of the company’s potential customers, the name “Housefax” is likely to conjure a similar asset history product in another industry: Carfax. Housefax stressed that the companies are not affiliated, however.