Finding the right place to live can be a tough process. An online search for prospective homebuyers looking to relocate generally starts with price and moves onto location, bedrooms, square footage, acreage, and other physical features. None of these features really have anything to do with finding a neighborhood that best suits them socially, though. Sure, they can post questions in online forums or ask friends about what it’s like to live in certain areas. They can even team up with local real estate agents to help play tour guide through potential neighborhoods. But none of these avenues truly helps them make a match based on their personal values of what they want in a neighborhood.
Charleston startup Relocality is changing all of that and the way people explore potential neighborhoods by helping them find a home located somewhere they’ll best fit in. Currently live in over fifty-five New York City neighborhoods, Relocality will be launching in additional US markets soon including Charleston, which will be among the first cities to beta the new HR specific product.
Relocality, the matchmaker for finding a home, “humanizes the relocation process,” by connecting people to neighborhoods, properties, and services that best match their interests and lifestyle using personalized data from online social networks.
Its goal is to help you find the perfect home in a neighborhood with likeminded people, shops and restaurants you’ll love, and a community you want to be involved in. It addresses questions that agents legally can’t, such as: Will we feel safe in the neighborhood? Are there many children in the neighborhood for my kids to play with? Will my family be able to make meaningful social connections with the people around us?
“Our ultimate goal is to empower the consumer to build the vision of how, where, and with whom they want to live, work, and play. We approach real estate search very differently than what’s being done online today,” says founder Diane Szoke. “Being able to find homes based on your interests, hobbies, and goals, through the filter of your friends and family is a very different experience from the ‘Enter your price range’ criteria so heavily used online, and mirrors how people truly find homes offline.”
Szoke has nine years of experience as a residential real estate agent in Charleston and knows the frustration finding the right neighborhood causes homebuyers. “I’ve spent literally thousands of hours playing tour guide to new movers. Relocality is that virtual knock on the door going beyond the four walls of a home into what it’s like to live there. Whether you’re a buyer or a renter, the one thing new movers have in common is their desire to fit in.”
And the company is gaining great traction since its launch in 2013. Selected as one of the eight startups changing the real estate game, Relocality presented during the Inman Connect Conference in New York City this past January on the coveted New Kids on the Block panel. Check out the presentation. The company is also gaining accolades for its use of technology — Realogy selected it as one of the fifteen emerging real estate technology companies.
HOW IT WORKS
So how does Relocality make finding a home better? The process begins with self-discovery—where you learn about yourself and help Relocality learn about you.
With permission from the user, Relocality takes a deep dive into their social profiles. Once connected, your social data is analyzed for correlations that help Relocality provide tailored recommendations about neighborhoods. During this process it even interacts with you about little personal details, like movies you’ve liked and places you’ve visited. Once it completes the analysis, it ranks your priorities into twelve Dimensions of Place in order of what it thinks you’ll find most important. The three most closely-related neighborhoods to your Dimensions are recommended for you and ready to explore. Neighborhoods are presented as dossiers pre-filled with content about the area and customized to the individual.
Relocality might occasionally get your recommendations wrong. For instance, it might tell you schools are most important to you when in fact nightlife matters to you more. Or it might recommend living downtown when what you really want is a quiet neighborhood. Relocality invites users to refine and improve their recommendations through direct interaction with the matching engine and Pinterest-like management of neighborhood dossiers.
Szoke assures users that Relocality is safe to connect to your social profile, “We do not post on your wall. We keep all of the data and do not share it with third parties. We do not spam anybody. We use it purely to make better recommendations on where they might be happiest living.”
RELOCALITY VS REAL ESTATE AGENTS
So why trust Relocality when a real estate agent can give you similar information? For one thing, not many people are aware that agents are legally restricted from recommending neighborhoods to homebuyers based on demographics such as race, religion, family status, or national origin. “It’s a gray area and fascinating to me that the majority of the public doesn’t understand that we have those restrictions, and I would venture to say that many agents have a hard time remembering those restrictions as well. As a real estate agent, my hands are tied by federal laws that won’t allow me to talk about diversity, people, crime, or school performance. Even if I could, there’s just no way that I could possibly know that information about each and every neighborhood. What happens is that the consumer ends up very frustrated. They are left to fend for themselves, and many times will get out of their car and knock on someone’s door and ask what it’s like to live there.”
Relocality can also be a great tool for brokers and agents who often wind up driving clients they barely know around town in hopes of finding the perfect neighborhood, and still not landing the sale.
Relocality plans to add additional social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter in part to better understand the consumer. It’s also in talks with strategic partners that will help homebuyers through the entire relocation process. “The more quality, timely, and accurate content one can provide, the better the discovery experience. The more seamlessly one can help consumers make the transition from finding the right neighborhood to becoming a part of that community, the better the experience will be for the user. Every Relocality user will have local focus, search intent, and demographic context that we can use to make well-qualified introductions, present highly-targeted content, and provide a stream of personalized deals to new movers.”
Beyond consumers and real estate brokers and agents, Relocality is also working on a hyper-local publishing product, “Local websites succeed when they solve problems. One of the biggest problems hyper-local publishers have is effectively engaging their target audience and navigating the digital marketing landscape. At Relocality, we are building platforms for publishers to engage with their community directly that aligns the interests of both publishers and advertisers.”
Relocality’s neighborhood match is also well suited to companies looking to acquire and retain talent. “Human resource departments know the challenges of relocation in trying to recruit talent, especially knowledge-based workers. Making sure the employee and importantly, the employee’s family, is in a neighborhood that works for all of them, is crucial to retention during a transition in that family’s life.”
Szoke shared her advice for new startups and entrepreneurs in Charleston:
Being an Entrepreneur can be isolating and you may have to go at it alone at times. What should keep you going during low moments (there will be many) is your unshakeable belief that you are solving a problem that you believe should be solved. That passion will carry you far in your conversations with investors, future employees, customers and the press.
Beyond building a great product and getting users, fundraising is the biggest challenge. But once you raise money, the challenge shifts to hiring. If you are lucky enough to find people with a sense of mission than you have a chance at being successful.
“Always be recruiting and promoting talented people” is very good advice.