“Swipe left” and “swipe right” are poised to become the new it phrases in real estate as dating app Tinder expands their platform into residential home buying and leasing. The new app will create a seller/landlord user profile for home or apartment listings that buyers/tenants can peruse – a move that threatens to cut real estate agents out of the transaction altogether.
Prospective buyers and tenants scroll through nearby listings and swipe on those they like or dislike. New, patent-pending, artificial intelligence algorithms will learn through swiping data what prospective buyers like, individually and as a group, and prioritize listings that meet the most criteria. For sellers, those algorithms will learn what buyers want and offer suggestions to enhance their chances for a match.
Taking a step back, for those unfamiliar with Tinder, it’s a location-based mobile app that uses left swipes on profile pictures to signal dislike whereas a right swipe signals interest. When two users swipe left on each other, love (or at least a hook-up) is in the air. In Tinder Home, think of “love” and “hook-up” as analogous to “buy” and “lease.” To build a user profile, the app siphons information and pictures from Facebook pages and user-entered information. Instagram and Spotify accounts can also be linked. Like all mobile dating apps, appearance matters – call it human curb appeal (and it can be measured).
In the real estate version, uploaded property pics are woven into a user’s profile so buyers get the full effect of the home and the lifestyle it enables. And being a lifestyle, sellers get to judge a buyer’s ability to “fit” within the seller’s curated lifestyle and reject them. The last thing the online cognoscenti want is their previous home brought down on social media by an unfit next owner.
What’s also important to the social media generation are the “likes” their life receives. Tinder Home allows buyers to crowd share contemplated properties with their friends and family to ensure their future home has enough support and mistakes are avoided. As one beta user said to me, “High school reunions are every five years, Tinder Home lets me seek critical validation from acquaintances I haven’t seen in years.”
Social media also enables a seller’s friends to share a listing with their own friend groups expanding a listing’s reach in a way the MLS can’t. In a 21st century, “six-degrees of separation,” the more shares a Tinder Home listing gets, the more exposure to the right sort of lifestyle buyers it gets.
Like any online app, it’s not without pitfalls. Another beta user said buyers had to beware of “internet measurements” where inches become feet and “hot neighborhood adjacent” could be miles away. There’s also potential to misuse descriptions. On dating apps, “6-pack abs” might be used by someone who sits up to reach the remote control. On Tinder Home, “freshly painted” may mean they have Home Depot paint chips taped to a wall. And then there are the bots that sellers can purchase where fake users talk-up a property in order to gain higher approval ratings that push it to the top of searches. (If so many people like it, it must be good.)
Apps are about making money for their developers. Today’s Tinder charges users for premium features and Tinder Home will be no different with chargeable add-on applications. In the premium feature column, there’s Boost which is similar to the dating Boost where a listing is pushed to the front of the line for 30-minutes to get added exposure. Tinder Plus is another easily transferred add-on function for properties seeking promotion outside the local area – think of second homes particularly.
Unique to Tinder Home will be Tinder Virtual,offering virtual staging packages to recast a home in a different light. Virtual can be paired with Reality that pairs virtually-staged pics with construction companies who can deliver the dream for a set price.
But the real money is in selling user data. Using the mobile device’s camera, Tinder Home tracks facial expressions, eye movement and lingering as pictures are swiped through. These measurements are aggregated together to discern specific style profiles. For example, which room color does “Mary” linger on most? What style of furniture catches “Steve’s” eye most? These design profiles are matched against a user’s current home (scraped from profile picture backgrounds, etc.). That data is then packaged and sold to home renovation and furniture advertisers as part of a “what they have versus what they want” targeted advertising campaign package.
Competitors on the Move
The launch of Tinder Home is said to have influenced upcoming enhancements to other dating apps like Bumble and Grindr. Specifically, plumbing maker Kohler is said to be very interested in utilizing the errant data provided in the ubiquitous bathroom selfie – what’s hot and who’s in need of a renovation. I was told that selfies in public bathrooms were particularly telling. They shout that “my home bathroom is terrible” while the quality of the public bathroom hints at potential renovation budget. Copying other “e-less” apps, Kohler’s new service will be dubbed “Kohlr.”
The Downside: Tastes into taste
The problem with everything being crowdsourced is that individuality is lost. Do you have the “it” colored living room? Is that the toilet hot celebrities are using this year? We already have a real problem with disposable fashion where companies like Forever 21 and H&M produce cheap clothing designed for the landfill and sewn by near-slave labor. It’s estimated that one cotton T-shirt takes 713 gallons of water to produce and yet a generation high on “authenticity” and the Green New Deal readily snaps them up in the name of trendiness.
In real estate and home design, we have HGTV and DIY Network pumping out 24/7 programming aimed at getting homeowners to continually update their homes or face social outcasting. An app like Tinder Home would accelerate this trend.
Do we want to continue the exploitation of third world workers and natural resources in a desperate attempt to appear (not be) forever cool?
While Tinder Home is an April Fools’ prank, the downsides aren’t.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.