Bob Shallit

Real estate matchmaker identifies top Sacramento agents based on data

HomeLight, which was launched in San Francisco in 2012 with backing from Google Ventures, plans to produce lists of top real estate agents nationally in coming months but is starting with Sacramento.
HomeLight, which was launched in San Francisco in 2012 with backing from Google Ventures, plans to produce lists of top real estate agents nationally in coming months but is starting with Sacramento. Sacramento Bee file

A fast-growing Bay Area company that matches real estate agents with homebuyers and sellers is out with what could be a Sacramento first: objective lists of the area’s top agents.

HomeLight, which was launched in San Francisco in 2012 with backing from Google Ventures, plans to produce the lists nationally in coming months but is starting with Sacramento.

Why start here? “It’s close to home,” HomeLight co-founder Drew Uher said, and Sacramento is a more typical sort of market than the superheated Bay Area.

The five lists for Sacramento, included in the “press” section at www.homelight.com, each include 40 agents and cover different categories such as those with the highest volume of listings and those getting top price relative to asking price.

The agents aren’t ranked within the lists but represent “the top 1 percent” of local real estate pros, Uher said.

The lists were made from a yearlong review of home sales data using the same algorithm HomeLight employs in the 35 or so U.S. markets where it now offers agent-customer matching services.

For those services, customers go to the company site, plug in information about the property they want to buy or sell – such as neighborhood, home type and price range – and are referred to a high-performing agent whose experience and skills meet their specific needs.

The service is free to customers. Agents are charged a fee – that Uher describes only as “nominal” – when they close a deal initiated by a HomeLight referral.

“What separates us from virtually all other sites is that consumers are able to get (recommendations based on) objective performance data,” Uher said.

Agents eligible for referrals are selected by HomeLight; they “can’t buy their way onto the site,” he said.

Roxanne McCaslin, a real estate agent who is included on all five of the local lists, agreed that HomeLight stands out because “they go off of factual numbers.”

She said she was contacted by the company and was impressed by how much data HomeLight had about her sales history.

“They knew more about me than I knew about myself,” said McCaslin, who is affiliated with NewVision Realty Group.

Uher said he started the company after searching for his first home and finding it difficult to obtain credible information about agents.

“That process is such a huge decision and having the right real estate agent to represent you can make all the difference in the world,” he said.

The company started out with $1.5 million in financing from Google Ventures and others. It raised another $3 million in a second round earlier this year.

Art of the deal

There’s a “weird” story behind the recent decision of a group of lawyers to leave DLA Piper’s Sacramento office and start a local branch of international firm King & Spalding. At least that’s the way Steve Goff, head of the departing group, describes it.

About a year and a half ago, he recalls, he received a call from a headhunter asking about his interest in moving to a new firm. Nothing unusual there. Good lawyers get those regularly.

Goff found himself telling the caller he wasn’t interested in leaving DLA – unless the undisclosed recruiting firm was King & Spalding, which had recently been emphasizing health care, Goff’s specialty, as one of its core practice areas.

Soon after, the recruiter called Goff back and told him that King & Spalding wasn’t actually his client. But, as Goff tells it, the recruiter added: “I called King & Spalding and asked if they were interested (in hiring Goff’s team) and they were.”

That led to 18 months of negotiations and ultimately a deal.

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