Buying or selling a home is a time-consuming and emotionally-draining process.
When you’re buying a home, your excitement can sometimes overcome what logically makes sense for your family and your wallet—so you may overspend. If you don’t have a good agent on your side, they’ll push you to get into the home any way they can (trust me, I had this happen).
When you’re selling a home, it’s easy to get anxious if things don’t move quickly. Many agents will push you to lower the price so they can get the sale and be done (trust me, I’ve had this happen as well).
The fact is, finding a top-performing and (even more importantly) trustworthy real estate agent these days is nearly impossible, without doing a ton of legwork and research.
HomeLight is a company that was founded by Drew Uher after he realized how difficult it was for him and his wife to find a good agent themselves. The company’s objective is to help you find a great real estate agent without putting yourself through a ton of hassle.
But does it work?
In this article, I’ll review HomeLight and how their model works. From there, you can determine if it’s a platform you want to use to find your next real estate agent.
What is HomeLight?
HomeLight is a website that helps home buyers find the highest-performing real estate agents in their local area by using a proprietary algorithm. By aggregating over 100 data sources nationwide, HomeLight is able to identify the best real estate agent for a client’s specific needs. For example, you can find agents who:
- Specialize in home buyers
- Have the best negotiation track record
- Have the best transaction close rates
HomeLight has data on 2.5 million real estate agents and over 30 million real estate transactions nationwide.
So why does this matter to you?
Working with a top-performing agent not only saves you hours of time, but also a significant amount of money. In short, working with the best real estate agents significantly impacts your experience in buying their first home.
How does HomeLight work?
HomeLight analyzes millions of home sales to find the best performing real estate agents in your area. Their basic process looks something like this:
1. Tell HomeLight what you’re looking for
HomeLight walks you through a basic questionnaire so you can tell them what your situation is. You’ll first start by identifying whether you’re a buyer or a seller (you can also estimate your home’s value):
Let’s say I was a home buyer. The next screen would let me choose the type of home I’m looking for:
You can choose from:
- Single Family
- Mobile Home
- Vacant Lot
For demonstration purposes, I’ll select Single Family. The next question asks how much I’m looking to spend:
In this case, I can choose from a number of ranges, starting under $100k and going all the way up to over $1.5 million.
Because this is just a demo and I want to have fun, I’m going to go with $1.5 million. After that, it’ll ask me how soon I’m looking to buy my property:
This allows me to choose how quickly I’m looking to buy my home: From right now (ASAP) to more than a year from now (12+ months).
I’ll choose ASAP because I am ready to drop a couple million on a home today.
It’ll quickly ask me if I’m also looking to sell my home, which I’ll select No:
Then I enter my name:
Finally, before you get matches, you’ll need to enter your email address and phone number:
After this, HomeLight will begin to filter through over 2 million real estate agents to find the best fit for you and your specific situation.
2. HomeLight will run the numbers
The next phase takes a few seconds as HomeLight puts together data on real estate agents across the entire country. Their database has:
- Over 29 million transactions
- Two million agents
- Over 200,000 brokerages
From here, HomeLight’s algorithm will find a top-performing real estate agent that specializes in what you need.
3. Review your real estate agent matches
The next step is to review the agent matches that HomeLight found for you. They’ll give you up to three agent matches, based on your unique needs. Here’s a sample of the screen that I got:
HomeLight says that their “results are 100% free, data-driven, and unbiased.” From this screen, you’re able to review the agent’s stats and see how they compare to other agents that may be in your area. There’s a message box to message them directly, and you can see the homes they’ve closed in your area—which is nice proof.
4. Talk to an expert
At this same time, you’ll receive an email from one of HomeLight’s concierge’s who will want to set up a phone call to go over your matches and answer any questions you might have:
The purpose of this is to also help refine your search even further. Speaking with a live concierge in addition to the algorithm will end up producing your best results.
5. Meet your matches
Once you’ve determined who you’re interested in working with, HomeLight will give you the agent’s complete performance profile and help you arrange an in-person interview. This way you can make sure you’re choosing the best possible person to help you buy and/or sell your next home.
6. Decide who to work with
After you’ve done your in-person interviews, it’s time to make a decision on who to go with. Keep in mind, this is a free service so there’s no obligation to choose one of these agents if none of them are a match for you. Assuming one is, however, you can move forward and begin the process of searching for your new home or selling your existing one.
HomeLight is very confident in the agents they recommend for both buying and selling. Here’s what they say about each:
“If you’re selling your home, they typically sell faster and for more money than the average agent in their area. If you’re buying a home, they typically save their clients thousands and show them properties that better meet their needs.”
HomeLight pricing details
HomeLight is free
HomeLight is 100 percent free to use and there is no obligation or commitment. So as a buyer or seller, there’s no cost to use the service (there are still estate fees as with using an agent, though).
Agents cannot pay to be a part of HomeLight
This maintains the integrity of the data, and the recommendations you receive are genuine. HomeLight says that “the only way agents can influence HomeLight’s rankings is to do better work for clients, handle more transactions, and improve their stats. Our recommendations are transparent, performance based, and data driven—that’s how we keep them objective.”
HomeLight does make money
You’re probably also wondering how HomeLight makes money. I mean, this isn’t a charity they’re running, right? Correct—and HomeLight does make money, but they do it in a normal way—referrals.
When you select an agent on HomeLight, they’re essentially referring that agent to you, and that agent will pay a referral fee back to HomeLight. This keeps things clean and legitimate, and HomeLight can continue to provide the service to you for no cost at all.
Why trust HomeLight’s recommendations?
In addition to the inputs you provide, such as your location and price point, HomeLight uses an algorithm to identify the best-suited real estate agents for you. The algorithm analyzes millions of transactions and agents and has two primary components to it:
- Relevance analysis—This component looks at a number of variables to look for agents who have successfully served clients who have been in similar situations to you.
- Real performance—This component is grounded in Bayesian statistical modeling and through that process determines who the best agent is for you. Without getting too nerdy, think of it as a complex math problem that uses conditional probability to determine an accurate outcome. It’s pretty cool.
So what does this mean for you?
It means that you’ll end up getting real matches with real agents that can help you with your specific need. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to sift through these recommendations with a HomeLight concierge so you can make an even more informed decision.
What we like about HomeLight
- It’s fast. Finding an agent is FAST. Gone are the days of calling around to different real estate brokers and hoping for the best.
- The recommended agents are usually a good match. Not every agent will be perfect for you, but the combination of a detailed questionnaire, a statistical algorithm, and a live human conversation will help you find the absolute best fit possible.
- It’s easy and stress-free. Finding a real estate agent is a nightmare, but HomeLight makes it a very easy process.
What we don’t like about HomeLight
- You can’t browse agents without giving out your information. By giving your email and phone number, you can bet you’ll get follow up calls if you don’t respond. If you’re only semi-serious, this can be annoying.
- The options can be limited. HomeLight will give you up to three recommended agents. With all the data they have, it would be nice to have more options on the first pass.
In the past three years, I’ve sold two homes and bought one. I’ve had three different agents for all three transactions.
One was a family friend who didn’t want to lose the sale and gave us bad advice (he wouldn’t advocate for us until we forced his hand). Another was one who we heard was good, but he ended up being terrible and didn’t communicate with us. The last one was my friend from high school, who I rolled the dice on because I was desperate and figured I at least knew him (he actually did work out, thankfully).
My point is, finding an agent is a crap-shoot sometimes, and it’s time-consuming. HomeLight makes that process much, much easier by letting you do a bunch of research and vet agents well in advance of even having your first conversation with them.
I strongly recommend giving HomeLight a try—whether you’re a home buyer or home seller. Especially because there’s no cost to you. If you don’t like any of the agents and HomeLight ends up calling you, simply tell them you’re not interested. But if you’re serious, and you don’t already have a great agent lined up, there’s no risk in you checking them out.