A Utah-based flat-fee brokerage that put up political campaign-like ads in Arizona earlier this fall has promised never to act like it is running for office in the state again.
Homie first made headlines in October when voters in Maricopa County noticed teal signs encouraging them to “vote for homie.” The signs directed viewers to the URL homieforsenate.com, which announced that “Arizonans want change” before conceding that it was in fact a real estate ad.
“We aren’t a candidate for senate but we do want you to ‘Vote’ for Homie when you buy or sell your home,” the site, which is still live, states.
I was torn as to who I should vote for in the #Arizona Senate race, I really want to vote for #Homie but I can’t find Homie on the #ballot. Apparently my other homie @Max_Gorden is looking into this Homie #candidate. Find out more on @azfamily #HomieDontPlayThat pic.twitter.com/iJ60nc0tZy
— Stanley Roberts (@StanleyRoberts) October 16, 2018
However, the ads eventually caught the attention of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who launched an investigation. That investigation led to a Nov. 16 agreement between the AG’s office and Homie in which the latter agreed not to “advertise itself as a candidate for any office.”
According to legal documents — which the AG’s office provided to Inman — the campaign “misled consumers into thinking that Homie was a Senate candidate, in an effort to drive consumers to Homie’s website.”
Homie also collected personal information from visitors to its website “under the guise of offering ‘campaign’ t-shirts, including the collection of phone numbers and email addresses,” according to the documents. The agreement requires Homie to delete that data.
In a statement, Brnovich said that “getting accurate information before you vote is hard enough without businesses pretending to be candidates.”
“Additionally, businesses should not be collecting your personal information under false pretenses,” Brnovich said. “This agreement should serve as a warning to other businesses that this conduct will not be tolerated in future election cycles.”
Joe Grover, Homie’s Chief Marketing Officer, told Inman Monday that the company didn’t break any laws, and the agreement didn’t involve paying any fines or fees. Grover declined to say how many signs Homie distributed, but said they were up through October and the beginning of November. The company has since taken the signs down.
“There was no intent to mislead voters,” Grover said. “It was all very clear that we weren’t an actual candidate for Senate.”
The controversy over Homie’s ads comes as the real estate tech startup space becomes increasingly crowded, with heavyweights such as Opendoor and Zillow dominating markets across the country. Homie is one of a growing number of flat-fee brokerages — others include Purplebricks and Reali — and offers to sell homes for a fixed fee of $1,500.
Grover also described Homie as a “tech-enabled” company, though he added that it does not purchase homes itself and is not an iBuyer.
The company’s marketing campaign was part of Homie’s initial push into Arizona after previously operating only in Utah. Grover described the company’s marketing style as “creative and disruptive” and said “we got a lot of positive feedback” from the political-style ads. As the company enters other states — where its agreement with Arizona doesn’t apply — it may consider “something similar that creates conversation.”
“It was interesting,” Grover said of the Arizona campaign. “It was a really, really effective campaign.”