Flyhomes joins portal wars with launch of AI-powered search


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Cash-offer pioneer Flyhomes says it’s poised to expand nationwide after acquiring assets from ZeroDown and launching an AI-powered search portal aimed at taking on household names like Zillow, Realtor.com and Homes.com.

ZeroDown co-founders Laks Srini and Abhijeet Dwivedi have joined Flyhomes — Srini as chief technology officer, and Dwivedi as chief growth officer — and the company on Tuesday launched its new “conversational real estate search” portal, Flyhomes AI, in 28 states and Washington, D.C.

Seattle-based Flyhomes, a vertically integrated real estate brokerage and mortgage lender, will expand into markets where it doesn’t yet have a presence by partnering with agents and teams who work for other brokerages. Those agents will receive leads and access to Flyhomes’ technology and its cash offer and buy-before-you-sell financial products, Flyhomes co-founder and CEO Tushar Garg told Inman.

Flyhomes executives say pending changes in how real estate agents get paid — including a new rule stipulating that buyer’s agents sign contracts with would-be clients before showing them a home — should help accelerate adoption of Flyhomes AI, which pulls data from more than 40 sources to answer questions about a home and its surroundings.

Tushar Garg

Tushar Garg

The new rule “is the most significant change to real estate in over 100 years and will fundamentally change the buyer-agent dynamic,” Garg said in a statement. “This barrier of signing a contract upfront will cause many buyers to delay reaching out to an agent, limiting their access to the information agents provide. This will create a massive friction in the market, and AI is reaching technical maturity at just the right time to be the solution.”

Based in San Francisco, ZeroDown launched in 2019 as a rent-to-own service before developing what it touted as “the most advanced home search on the planet.”

ZeroDown — and now Flyhomes AI — taps into 900 data points on each home and its surroundings, including permit history, natural hazard risk, investment potential, and cell and broadband coverage.

While other search portals also supplement multiple listing service data with information from other sources, Flyhomes AI makes that data discoverable through “conversational search” — natural language search queries.

Ask a general question (“Show me homes near good schools”) or specific questions about a listing (“Are there high-voltage transmission lines near this property?”) and Flyhomes AI delivers property results or answers in plain English.

“If I’m looking to buy a home, I’m asking all of these questions,” Garg told Inman. “People are opening 50 Google tabs, and asking these questions in different places. We’re putting it all together in one place. It’s just super easy.”

Having helped integrate ZeroDown’s conversational real estate search engine into Flyhomes AI, Srini and Dwivedi will be part of the company’s initiative to expand its capabilities and bring it to new markets.

Laks Srini 1

Laks Srini

“The past two years have shown all of us that consumers are ready to embrace AI,” Srini said in a statement. “They’re talking to ChatGPT like a person and entrusting their lives to driverless cars. Real estate has remained largely untouched by AI, but the commission lawsuits are going to rapidly accelerate the need for information that you can’t get from photos or drone videos.”

Prospective buyers can use Flyhomes AI to go “as far down the homebuying path as they’d like,” on their own time and without sales pressure, Srini said.

Abhijeet Dwivedi

Abhijeet Dwivedi

“Buyer’s agents are still going to play an important role in the transaction, but you can’t ignore that the buyer-agent relationship is going to change after August 17th,” Dwivedi said, in a statement. “No one knows exactly how buyers and agents will work together in this new world, but we do know consumers will need access to information and that agents will be under pressure to demonstrate value like never before.”

Garg expects Flyhomes AI will be “a tremendously powerful tool for the agents because if you’re walking into a house with a customer, they ask you a bunch of questions,” he said. “Well, now you can ask [Flyhomes AI] and you have the answers.”

Other portals are looking for ways to incorporate AI into their search processes. RocketHomes.com’s new visual search tool Explore Spaces, for example, uses an AI capability known as computer vision to recognize and process listing photos to help homebuyers zero in on properties of interest.

But Flyhomes executives say that having acquired technology developed by ZeroDown, they have a two-year head start on the competition.

“This is definitely not just a ChatGPT plugin or manipulation of filters,” said Justin O’Neill, Flyhomes’ head of public relations. “This is purpose-built for real estate.”

That helps explain why Flyhomes thinks it can compete in the search portal wars with names like Zillow, Realtor.com and Redfin.

“It’s not a brand new product,” Garg said of ZeroDown’s user base. “We’ve got 1 million users organically coming with no SEO, marketing, PR, backlinks — nothing. Just because the product is very compelling.”

While Flyhomes has historically hired its own in-house agents, it will partner with agents and agent teams in new markets to fuel its ambitious expansion plans.

“In some markets, we have our own teams, but in every other market we’re looking to expand nationally with partner agents,” Garg said. “We’ve been partnering with tons of great teams across every community. They can get super qualified leads from us, access to our tools, and they’ll get access to financial products so they can help their customers as well.”

Launched in 2016 by Garg and Stephen Lane, Flyhomes Inc. provides end-to-end homebuying services through affiliated businesses including Flyhomes Brokerage, Flyhomes Mortgage (which also does business as Sailbridge) and Flyhomes Closing.

After landing $150 million in Series C funding in 2021, Flyhomes expanded its presence in California and entered new markets including Texas, Colorado and Idaho.

Acquiring ZeroDown is Flyhomes’ latest effort to rebound from the punishing impact rising mortgage rates have had on home sales.

Flyhomes announced two rounds of layoffs as mortgage rates climbed in 2022, followed by another round in December. Flyhomes co-founder Lane left the company in August and is head of ventures at Insurify.

Last fall, Flyhomes launched a partner channel to make its buy-before-you-sell service available to mortgage lenders and brokers nationwide. Garg said Flyhomes financial products are now available to agents and lenders in 40 states as a wholesale offering.

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