eHub Interviews Homethinking

Posted by Emily Chang on Thursday, February 9th, 2006. Filed under: eHub Interviews

Visit Homethinking, originally added to eHub on Dec 08, 05.

imageThanks to Niki Scevak, CEO of HomeThinking for this email interview posted February 9, 2006.

eHub: What is your web application/service about?

HomeThinking: Homethinking helps home owners pick the most exceptional realtors to sell their house with. It does that by monitoring real estate transactions to know which homes realtors have sold, for how much and how long on average it took them to do so. There are also reviews by prior home sellers about the job they did. Sort of an Epinions for real estate agents.

eHub: Why did you start this project?

HomeThinking: The insipiration for the project came from an unlikely place: The book Moneyball from Michael Lewis. Moneyball chronicles the Oakland Athletics baseball team’s use of statistical data to find undervalued players to add to their roster.

In a similar way, Homethinking aims to help home owners find the most exceptional real estate agents to sell their house with by neatly presenting a mass of data about what they have done in the past and what their customers have said about them.

eHub: How much time do you devote to its growth?  Do you have a day job?

HomeThinking: Full time.

eHub: How large is your team and what are your backgrounds?

HomeThinking: We are up to six people now. The management are myself (Niki Scevak) and David Rosenbloom who is the CTO.

Both our bios are at our management page.

eHub: What is your design philosophy?

imageHomeThinking: Simplicity and the scarce use of text, graphics and whatever other media. To not say more than we have to and to present a mass amount of data in a simple and as easy a way as possible.

eHub: What technologies are you currently using?

HomeThinking: We use a lot of open source java projects, like Nutch and Lucene, as well as Hibernate and Spring on the framework side.

eHub: What are the most requested features from your users/community?

HomeThinking: Mapping. At the moment we are crudely linking to maps of transactions but soon we’ll have a much more richer set of mapping functionality on the site.

eHub: Does your user base reside in a primary geographic location or is it distributed?

HomeThinking: We are crawling data on real estate agents in California at the moment, and people are contributing reviews all over the country. But at this point in time our userbase is concentrated in California.

eHub: Where do you see the project heading in the next 6 months?  The next 2 years?

HomeThinking: We hope to expand nationwide within the next six months, with the Tri-State area up next. Over time we hope to apply the same Moneyball/Freakonomics philosophy to other decisions like mortgage, removalists and related decisions that occur in the life stage event of moving homes.

eHub: What is the greatest challenge to your success?

HomeThinking: We have two main sources of information to help base the decision on: the objective metrics, which we crawl, and the customer reviews. The site is useful from the beginning with the metrics but is really only complete when we have a critical mass of reviews: so nuturing the community to achieve that would probably be the greatest challenge.

eHub: What is the one thing you need to get to the next phase of the project?

HomeThinking: Critical mass of advertisers and users.

eHub: Do you have a business model?  If so, what is it?

HomeThinking: Our business model is similar to that of Yahoo and Google, whereby we sell sponsored listings around the organic index of real estate agents. The difference is that relators bid on a pay per call basis. So they only pay if the consumer picks up the phone and calls them.

The phone, in real estate, is a more effective medium of conversion, and realtors have more confidence in connecting with a prospect over a conversation rather than through their web-site.

eHub: If you’re able to disclose this information, how much traffic or usage do you see on an average day?

HomeThinking: We have been live for two weeks but are seeing thousands of people a day so far.

eHub: What is the one thing you’re most proud of about the project?

HomeThinking: To bring a lot of transparency to a market that has traditionally thrived in its absence.

eHub: How would you describe the shift that’s occurring with the web right now to future generations?

HomeThinking: I think the web is enabling people to make smarter decisions – whether that be through shared opinion and perspective or through more quantitative data that can be massaged and transformed like nothing before.

That means that the smartest product or best service has a greater chance of success, and the organic force of word of mouth marketing is gaining greater importance. I don’t think that traditional advertising is becoming less relevant, just that the rise of organic word of mouth marketing is beginning to out-weigh it.

eHub: What site(s) do you visit everyday other than your own?

HomeThinking: Bloglines, Gmail, Wall Street Journal, ESPN.

eHub: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

HomeThinking: 6 hours.

Thanks to Niki Scevak, CEO of HomeThinking for this email interview posted February 9, 2006.

Visit Homethinking
Originally added to eHub on Dec 08, 05