You may have done this to find a date. Now, a new app is asking users to swipe right to choose their next home.
The app, called Casa Blanca, has a swipe interface in the style of dating apps to find and buy real estate in New York. Users list preferences—whether they want to buy or rent, or if they are looking for a place that allows pets—then swipe right if they like what they see, or left if they don’t.
The company is also hoping to stand out in the scrum for buyers by offering up to 1% cash back at closing, displaying the cash rebate on each property’s listing.
“Part of the experience of the app is every single apartment you’re looking at, we tell you how much you get back,” said Hannah Bomze, chief executive and co-founder of H.E.S.C. Company LLC, which operates Casa Blanca.
But Casa Blanca is far from alone in promising to make house-hunting easier through technology, particularly with streamlined user experiences and notes borrowed from social media.
Homesnap Inc.’s app and website have adopted the stories format popularized by
Snapchat, for example. And companies like
Zillow Group Inc.
and Realtor.com, which is operated by Move Inc., offer 3-D virtual home tours. Move Inc. is part of
which also owns The Wall Street Journal.
Nor are cash incentives unique in digital real estate; Prevu Inc., a digital homebuying platform, offers up to 2% cash back to buyers.
But real estate is a prominent concern during the pandemic, with many still working from home and looking for more space. Sales of previously-owned homes increased by 20.9% in September over last year, said the National Association of Realtors. In New York, housing demand has been uneven, with Manhattan suffering a 42% drop in contract signings from year-ago levels in September, but Brooklyn seeing a 21% jump compared with last year, according to Douglas Elliman.
Casa Blanca borrows the swiping user interface first brought into vogue by Tinder, a dating app owned by
Match Group Inc.
The swipe has spread to a plethora of apps—to help find new pets, jobs, shoes and more—but it is no guarantee of an app’s success.
Real-estate apps such as Skylight and Doorsteps Swipe have also tried the swipe; each was eventually acquired and no longer operates. Skylight abandoned the swiping feature because the company wanted to expand beyond mobile and the experience no longer aligned with the company’s pivot to a marketplace model, said Michael Lisovetsky, the founder and former chief executive of the company.
When buyers or renters want to move forward on a home they see on the Casa Blanca app, they are matched with one of the company’s 15 agents to schedule showings and receive other information.
New timesavers like Casa Blanca’s app and others will end up as necessary tools rather than novelties, said Susan Tjarksen, managing director of multifamily capital markets at
Cushman & Wakefield
PLC, one of the world’s largest commercial-real-estate-services firms.
“We’re all going to go back to very busy lives, and any application that can help make our time use more efficient and still get what we want and not feel like we’re settling will have a very big impact,” Ms. Tjarksen said.
Casa Blanca makes money by taking a cut of any sellers’ commissions generated by listings on its app.
H.E.S.C. started out in May of last year as a brokerage without an app under the name Let’s Real Estate, facilitating $100 million in sales, it said. It rebranded this month as Casa Blanca and rolled out the app.
Casa Blanca is arriving when there is more inventory available than usual, said Ross Goldenberg, an adviser to the real estate tech industry.
“Casa Blanca may have gotten lucky that the market is softening and renters or buyers in New York are starting to have more choice,” he noted.
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