Real estate valuation startup HouseCanary has launched a new property listings portal that already includes thousands of homes, though it has left some multiple listing services confused about how their data landed on the site.
HouseCanary’s portal ComeHome.com launched quietly and without fanfare in November 2018. The site is still in a beta mode, but company spokesperson Denise Dunckel told Inman the goal “is to create a compelling and differentiated home search experience for consumers focusing on our deep property analytics.”
“For example, instead of just showing the value of a home is $300,000, we show you how we got there,” Dunckel continued.
In practical terms, that means ComeHome listings include a sidebar showing how a given property compares to surrounding homes.
For example, when Inman clicked on a listing in Los Angeles, the sidebar showed that the home had one bedroom fewer than other similar properties, which reduced its value by $24,900. However, the home also had more than the typical number of bathrooms, which added $11,300 to the overall value.
The feature also leans on the strengths of parent HouseCanary, which promises to crunch data and use contextual information to produce better home valuations. The San Francisco-based company has indicated it wants to become the Amazon of the appraisal industry and offers a suite of services including price forecasts, market analysis geared toward investors, and home valuations.
ComeHome would not say how many homes it currently has listed, citing the fact that it is still in a beta stage, though a scan of several U.S. cities displayed many thousands of homes, with numbers that appeared to be comparable to more established portals. The site displays listings in a map view similar to the ones found on sites such as Zillow or Redfin.
How exactly those listings showed up on ComeHome’s map, however, remains is unclear.
Dunckel said that all current and past ComeHome listings come “directly from MLS feeds that HouseCanary has agreements with.”
That sounds straightforward enough, except that two different MLS chief executives told Inman Thursday that they found their own listings on ComeHome, despite not having an agreement in place that would allow the new portal to share that information.
One of those execs, Lauren Hansen of IRES MLS in Colorado, said she found out about ComeHome earlier this week and was still trying to figure out what exactly was going on. As far as she was aware, ComeHome did not have an agreement with her MLS, nor had anyone from the portal reached out and asked to use listing data.
“We will be looking into it because obviously we want to make sure whatever information is displayed is license and authorized,” Hansen said, adding that answers could be available within days or in as long as a month.
Hansen explained that web portals do need a legal agreement in order to pull listing data from an MLS. She gave the example of Zillow, which has a deal with IRES and pays an administrative fee for set up costs. Hansen declined to say exactly how much Zillow pays, but noted that companies running portals typically play by the rules.
“Most who deal with the MLS world understand that they need to go through proper licensing and provisions,” she said.
Hansen also speculated that ComeHome may simply have made a mistake.
“It could be that it’s an oversight on the part of the company,” she said, “that they forgot to tell us.”
However, following the publication of this piece on Friday, Hansen told Inman that ComeHome had reached out and said it was “actively working on removing” the listings it had pulled from her MLS. Hansen said she appreciated the response.
Shortly after Hansen received her note, ComeHome revealed that it had deactivated all of its listings while it reviewed its MLS contracts.
In California, CRMLS experienced something similar Thursday. CEO Art Carter told Inman that his MLS also found out earlier this week that some of its listings had appeared on ComeHome. Carter’s MLS is now “in the process of asking them to take down those listings.”
Carter said that his MLS does have a contract with HouseCanary, and provides data to the valuation startup. However, HouseCanary is only allowed to use that data to “populate their backend systems and crunch numbers,” not to display it publicly as ComeHome is currently doing.
Carter did not know how or why ComeHome is displaying CRMLS listings, but speculated that one possible explanation is the company misunderstood its contract.
“They could be signing a bunch of different licensing deals and were just not aware that public display was not allowed,” he said.
Like other listing services, CRMLS does have agreements with other online portals such as Zillow, and Carter said he’d be willing to enter a similar arrangement with ComeHome if the portal wanted one.
Several other multiple listing services did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment about their relationship with ComeHome Thursday.
When Inman asked about IRES and CRMLS, Dunckel replied that “our policy is to only include MLS listings where we have agreements in place.”
“Any time we determine we are not in compliance with terms of any MLS license,” she added in an email, “we will remove those listings from the site until we have the proper paperwork in place.”
However, the situation prompted some speculation this week that ComeHome’s listings had something to do with HouseCanary’s relationship to social network Nextdoor. Eric Stegemann, CEO of real estate web services company Tribus, raised that possibility in a Facebook post.
But both HouseCanary and Nextdoor denied that that was the case. While the two companies both confirmed that they have a contract to work together, that contract is limited to HouseCanary pushing data to the social network, where it shows up for users as home listings.
Dunckel, the spokesperson for HouseCanary and ComeHome, also reiterated that the company only “receives data from both multiple listing services in specific markets and from brokers [with] whom they have agreements.”
This post was updated after publication with new information about ComeHome removing listings from Colorado MLS IRES.