The days of homeowners looking up a local painter or handyman in the Yellow Pages are gone. Instead, consumers are turning to online hubs like Craigslist, review sites such Yelp or Angie’s List, or on-demand newcomers like Thumbtack to find the right person for the job. As a result, local businesses can miss out on prime opportunities with their neighbors. Perhaps they don’t have enough five-star reviews or maybe they just didn’t pop up first on a Google search.
HomeKeepr, a home vendor recommendation web and mobile app, is poised to help out the store next door. Co-founded in 2014 by CEO Rob Morelli, the app connects homeowners and soon-to-be homeowners with a network of home service professionals and local businesses. Unlike Yelp or Angie’s List, which rely on consumer reviews, HomeKeepr’s recommendations are submitted by local businesspeople intimately acquainted with the home and area: real estate agents.
Street Fight spoke with Morelli to learn more about how the service works for not just small businesses but also the real estate industry at large.
What problem does HomeKeepr solve and how?
HomeKeepr was launched to solve a problem that every new homeowner encounters: locating trustworthy home service professionals. Because of the intimate nature of contracting with a home service provider (you let them into your home) and potential for a high price tag, you [may] want a recommendation from someone who has had lots of experiences with many different home service providers, someone who would feel accountable for their recommendation, and someone you know and trust.
Rather than crowdsourcing lots of reviews from strangers, we source recommendations from “local experts:” real estate agents. Agents create their own personal [list] of favorite local businesses, upload it to a fully branded mobile and web app, and then gift it to their clients to help them manage and maintain their homes.
HomeKeepr solves a real problem for real estate agents, too. The NAR [National Association of Realtors] issued a report demonstrating that 88 percent of homebuyers love their agent at closing, but only 25 percent actually use the same agent to sell their homes. This is lost business simply because the agent lost touch. Staying “top of mind” and remaining valuable to past clients is instrumental in securing the referral and resale opportunities on which the most successful agents build their businesses.
HomeKeepr is simply an extension of what is already happening. For decades, agents have kept a rolodex of their favorite local businesses and relied on it to field client inquiries one call at a time. Some have proactively included a piece of paper with this info in the closing binder. Why? Because their clients have always turned to agents for suggestions on who to work with before and after a home is purchased. Intentionally or not, real estate agents direct how thousands of dollars are spent locally for every transaction in which they play a part, from movers to inspectors to contactors and everyone in between. As such, they are supporting local businesses and local economies.
How do realtors get started using HomeKeepr?
Agents first sign up at www.homekeepr.com or download the HomeKeepr for Professionals mobile app from iTunes or Google Play to create their profile. In the first few steps, agents enter contact details and upload profile pictures and logos. The next step is for agents to upload their favorite local businesses. This can be any type of local business that their clients might find valuable, but the focus is primarily around the home. The mobile app allows agents to upload these businesses directly from the contact list on their mobile device.
The HomeKeepr list is editable in real time and fully branded so the agent gets the credit for the recommendation every time clients use it.
Where do the homeowners and their preferences/needs come in?
Clients receive an email invitation to view HomeKeepr. Upon creating an account, we ask homeowners to answer a few short questions about their home. Based on the answers to those questions, we create for them a customized home maintenance calendar complete with explanations of each task as well as recommended home service pros to help with the job. These maintenance tasks are sent via email and push notification to drive engagement with the app and the recommended businesses.
The directory of local businesses is always readily available in its own tab. Each business profile is complete with contact details as well as any specials or discounts the business might want to post.
How does HomeKeepr define a “home service pro?” Can anybody be recommended?
We define a “home service pro” as anyone who performs services in or around the home (painters, plumbers, electricians, etc.) as well as businesses that sell products for the home (window treatments, furniture, etc.). The recommended home service pros listed in a HomeKeepr directory are exposed to prospective new clients through the agent’s directory and maintenance reminders.
Realtors most often introduce HomeKeepr to clients just as the home search process begins. This places HomeKeepr in a position to be able to reach these consumers at a critical point in time when spending decisions are starting to be made. Home service pros and local businesses listed in the agent’s directory begin branding themselves and developing name recognition in these weeks and months before the home is actually purchased. This is important as new homeowners spend thousands of dollars on home services in that first year after the purchase is made.
Tell us about HomeKeepr’s recent partnership with Keller Williams Realty —how will you two work together?
Keller Williams and their agents understand the need to regularly keep in contact with and remain valuable to clients and other relationships. This is how referrals happen.
To that end, we recently announced a partnership with Keller Williams and have integrated HomeKeepr’s services directly into the existing KW Realty Real Estate Search app. This will make HomeKeepr and its listed businesses more readily discoverable by clients as well as make the already very popular KW app more valuable post-transaction.
As part of the integration, all KW agents will have free access to HomeKeepr and have begun recommending their favorite local businesses to clients.
Looking at the realty landscape at large, how are you seeing mobile and on-demand technology change the way people list and/or shop for a home?
Developing hyperlocal expertise is perhaps more important for real estate agents than it is for any other industry. Today, homeowners have more choices than ever online to find homes for sale. They can search from their mobile device as easily as (and with geolocation software, even easier than) they can from a desktop.
The value of the agent no longer lies in passing that data along. Instead, agents earn their keep by educating you about you things you can’t discover from a website. In addition to guiding clients through the transaction, they help homebuyers understand where to live and why certain areas are better suited based on each client’s unique needs. Agents have to be the hyperlocal experts of cities, towns, communities…even specific streets and buildings. This type of local expertise is something that the online portals can never replicate. Zillow will never be able to replicate the local expertise or develop the professional networks that real estate agents have.
Nicole Spector is a contributor to Street Fight.