Locating a real estate agent is a funny process. On one hand, you need a professional with a proven track record, great negotiating skills, an innate knowledge of the local market, and more. After all, buying or selling a home is a big deal, and there’s a whole lot of money on the line. On the other hand, most of us found our last agent browsing online (or even swiped their number from the back of a park bench). Can you think of any other large, personal transaction in your life where you leave your fate up to a (almost) complete stranger?
Enter HomeLight. Instead of spending hours combing through agent bios, researching their sales history, and learning about their online client reviews on multiple websites, HomeLight’s Matching Engine automatically analyzes 18 million+ home sales and client reviews to bring your only the highest performing (top 5%) agents. In just two minutes, agents are screened based your specific criteria, including whether you’re buying or selling, whether or not they specialize in your target area, their skills and experience, and more.
All together, HomeLight claims their service can help you “find the perfect real estate agent” and save you time and hassle, while remaining 100% free—no catches.
Granted, it’s difficult to beat free. But even though HomeLight won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time, does this still make them a good option for locating your next agent? Are there other similar services? You’ve got questions and in this review, we’ll uncover some answers.
Let’s start by looking at how the HomeLight process works.
How Does the HomeLight Matching Engine Work?
Here’s how the company describes it:
“HomeLight is the leading resource for finding objective agent performance data online. We've spent years collecting, normalizing and summarizing historical data across millions of transactions. With this unique data set, we apply statistical data analysis and machine learning methods to predict who will bring the most experience, expertise and negotiating power to your home transaction.”
Specifically, after answering a few simple questions, HomeLight’s Matching Engine searches and analyzes over 18 million transactions since 2009, along with 2 million agents and 200,000 brokerages, all aimed at matching you with an agent. It will look at things like recent listings an agent has completed, educational background and bios, customer reviews from individuals who have interacted with the agent, the agent’s transaction volume by year, and more.
Then, the Matching Engine filters the information into five different categories:
- Location: In other words, someone who specializes in your current area, or the are where you’re looking to buy. Here’s how the company puts it: “Using spatial IP and geo-distance analysis, we can target real estate agents that have hyperlocal expertise within your city, neighborhood, and even those that know your street.”
- Buy or sell: Here, HomeLight’s Matching Engine will filter results by the agent’s historical expertise, whether buying or selling.
- Property Type: HomeLight will analyze transaction data “to identify agents’ expertise in your exact type of property,” whether single family, condominium, multi-family, and more.
- Price: Any agent you choose must be familiar with your price range. After all, there can be huge differences in the needs of a luxury buyer versus a first-time homeowner.
- Agent type: Finally, HomeLight wants to make sure that an agent’s personality matches your needs. For example, some clients might require an agent who can spend lots of time with them, while other might need a tough negotiator.
Finally, HomeLight’s machine learning algorithm will use “Bayesian statistical models to predict which agent will get the best results for you.” Then, you’ll be provided a personalized list of the best agents across all major brokerages in your area, who you can reach out to at your leisure.
Pro tip: HomeLight only returns results for agents employed by Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Sotheby’s, Keller Williams, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, and Re/Max. While these are certainly many of the largest firms in the industry, it’s certainly worth keeping in mind.
Sounds like a lot of technology, right? How much will it cost you to use HomeLight?
Is HomeLight Really Free?
If you’re a homebuyer or seller, then by all appearances, HomeLight is completely free to use in order to connect with local agents.
If you’re an agent, you can obtain leads from HomeLight with a 25% referral fee, while other real estate professionals (lenders, title companies, general contractors, moving companies, etc.) can advertise through the company.
Need help using HomeLight? The company claims to have a “team of dedicated real estate concierges with 50+ years of experience” standing by at (888) 998-1909.
Given its apparent usefulness and the fact that it’s completely free, are clients over the moon about HomeLight?
What Are HomeLight’s Clients Saying?
Although HomeLight was founded by Drew Uher in 2012 and is backed by huge investors like Google’s venture capital arm, there wasn’t a whole lot of online feedback about the company at the time of our research.
RealtyBizNews.com wrote a fairly in-depth review about their experience using the HomeLight website (they didn’t reach out to an agent). Overall, they liked the interface but were a bit on the fence about the number of questions they were asked. They also found that they received the same recommendations even after changing some of their criteria, although they concluded that HomeLight is the best “buyer-seller-agent conduit” they’ve ever seen.
Outside of this, there were 3 closed HomeLight complaints over at the Better Business Bureau, where the company had an A+ rating (as of 3/18/16). Of these, only two provided details, both of which referenced removing an agent’s information from the company’s database.
Is HomeLight a Shot in the Dark?
Like we mention above, it’s difficult to beat free. In other words, by giving HomeLight a try, your bank account won’t be any lighter, but you also won’t be able get back the time you spent.
Is HomeLight worth trying? Ultimately, that’s something only you can decide. But given the fact that they’ve been in business for more than three years and are backed by several industry giants, they might offer an easier, faster, and more accurate way of connecting you with an agent. Just remember that HomeLight currently only serves 38 U.S. markets, so you might have some difficulty locating agents in smaller markets.
Did you use HomeLight to locate an agent? If so, let’s do something about the lack of online feedback for the company. How? By writing your very own review below and adding to the conversation!
As an agent in a non-urban market and not a member of a gigantic nationwide brokerage (and always looking for good leads), I signed up, signed their contract to give them 25% of any commission, and then discovered the back story.
They sent me an Excel spreadsheet where I was to enter every detail of every transaction I'd ever had, including names, email addresses and phone numbers of every client for every transaction. If you've been an agent for a very long time, and especially if you've changed markets (I've gone from San Diego to the High Desert) or brokerages (I've been through several!), it's hard to remember them all, and often the records are with your previous brokers.
Then, apparently, they take the list and vet your completed transactions by contacting the clients you listed. Ridiculous. If they vetted through the MLS, it would be more accurate, but they don't. Also, I don't want them calling all my past clients because it's invasive to them.
Unless the agent completes every cell of every line for every sale they've made in their lives, no leads will be delivered. So, as a client user, you're not actually getting the benefit of being matched with every possible agent in your market, but with only the ones who have employees with enough time on their hands to fill out the ridiculous volume of data they demand. And, if the agent has not done millions and millions in sales, they're not considered "successful" and therefore not up to snuff for this website.
So, an ethical, educated, and experienced agent who dedicates themselves to the personal needs of each and every client they serve is passed over in this service, and the client-seeking personal service never has the chance to engage with you. I was extremely disappointed, considering the big hype they tout, and am offended by the entire premise of their platform.
I highly recommend that agents think twice before turning over all the personal information about their entire client base to this system, in expectation of getting those juicy leads they promise and don't deliver.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
0 out 1 people found this review helpful
The premise sounds good, but no one acts on it?
We are looking to retire and relocate to Ohio. The HomeLight invite we received by email seemed just the ticket to start our search. I answered it and filled out the questions it asked. I got a response right back, saying we would be contacted by a top realtor.
We waited a week and received no email or call. Then they responded back again with the same thing, but I got no answer or call. I tried again the following week to get the same email and got more of the same no response!
Sorry, but this seems to be just a scam for info.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
6 out 6 people found this review helpful
Works as advertised
Got introduced to 2 agents, both were very high quality. The one we selected conducted 3 open houses and had our home sold in under a month. Very happy with the result and definitely recommend the service.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend