Finding your dream home, or indeed any home, can be an overwhelming adventure.
There’s so much to consider — the neighborhood, the price, the size and layout, how much sunlight gets in — and all the information somehow manages to be simultaneously endless and incomplete.
“Buying a home is really tough,” said Omer Granot, president and COO of Localize, the Israeli property-tech startup set up when its founders were about to make this biggest financial decision of their lives and discovered there’s little data to be gleaned from individual home listings.
“The reality is that before Localize there was no place for you to go and find those data points,” he said. “Our company was founded to make sense of real-estate data and provide full transparency and show the whole picture to the buyer.”
The business began in 2012 as Israeli real-estate platform Madlan. It extended its activities to New York in 2019 under the Localize brand, which has seen some 40,000 aspiring homebuyers sign up.
Matches and insights
Potential homebuyers fill in a free, simple questionnaire about preferences for neighborhoods or boroughs, price range and the number of bedrooms.
Then they tick off what’s important to them: a bright and sunny place, proximity to dog parks, bike-friendly homes, listings that include video tours or how near Trader Joe’s is.
Localize then provides top matches and insights, gathered by scouring huge amounts of data from multiple sources, aggregating it and making it accessible even to people who aren’t familiar with building permits and zoning regulations.
Once the suggestions come in, some back and forth begins, with users giving feedback and the platform asking follow-up questions. The answers are used to find further interesting listings using artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing and big data.
“When people are ready to go, that’s when they meet the agent, and it’s back to human interaction,” Granot said.
This is where Localize’s other users come in: Real estate agents, who, unlike the potential homebuyers, are paying customers.
“We offer services that include lead cultivation, nurturing, engagement,” Granot said. “They often have too many people in their system and can’t focus on everyone as much as they’d like, so they give us those leads. We introduce them to Hunter, our AI service, that then does lead qualification and user profiles.”
Localize, Granot said, is unique both in terms of the data collected and the scope of AI and automation that’s involved.
“We have a very small team of seven human advisers behind the scenes that helps the AI when it reaches its limit,” he said.
The Localize and Madlan workforce includes some 130 people: The business side sits in New York, while R&D, product and data science teams work out of Tel Aviv.
The company recently completed its $25 million Series C round, which was led by Pitango VC, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank and the European La Maison Partners investment club.
All this, while the global COVID pandemic has left its imprint on the real-estate world over the past year and a half.
“I think COVID changed quite a lot how people behave,” Granot said. “There was really a dip in March to May 2020; people didn’t know what would happen.But it’s since bounced back quite aggressively. We, as facilitators of transactions, are growing with that trend.”
He said that “as people’s perspectives and preferences changed due to the COVID situation, it becomes more and more important to understand the property that you buy.”
Workspace, natural light and street noise have become increasingly important factors, Granot said.
“All those things that people cared about before became more significant. It also contributed to the trust and engagement that we see from our customers.”
Granot said Localize’s platform is suited to any global market.
“We’re already operating in all of Israel and New York. The plan for the next three to six months is to grow our clientele in New York, and then probably within three to six months to other cities.”
When asked what kind of parameters he’d look for in a home, Granot describes himself as an outdoorsy, surfing kind of guy who’s not too fussy on the details.
“I really care about outdoor space, so when I look at the home I don’t actually care about many traditional things, but that it will be quiet, have open space and lots of light. Those are the three things I really care about.”
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Edited by Judith Isacoff and Kristen Butler
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