Tomo Real Estate search page on a desktop monitor
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

Former Zillow exec expands mortgage site Tomo into home search 

CEO Greg Schwartz says Tomo will stand out by offering “negotiation insights,” which include personal information about home sellers.

February 20, 2024
5 minutes

Key points:

  • Tomo, led by three former Zillow execs, launched in 2021 with a focus on mortgages and online lending.
  • Launching a home search portal is “in our blood,” Schwartz said.
  • Tomo has been testing its product with select agents and plans to add more partners as site traffic grows.

The cloud-based lending platform Tomo announced this week that it is moving into the home search portal space with the relaunch of its website

However, the move isn't just a major expansion in the company's scope and business model — it's also a return to the founders' roots. CEO Greg Schwartz, along with Tomo Co-founder Carey Armstrong and business development head Chris Lowe, previously worked together at Zillow on the home search giant's Premier Agent product.

When Tomo launched in June 2021, the company was solely focused on mortgages and online lending. Just under a year later, as mortgage rates climbed, Tomo laid off nearly a third of its staff. The company, which is now co-headquartered in Seattle and Hartford, Connecticut, appears to have come back stronger, raising $110 million in funding to date and growing its staff to hundreds of employees. 

And now it appears the founding team is taking Tomo in a new but familiar direction — though with some distinct differences. 

Schwartz spoke with Real Estate News about Tomo's latest expansion into the portal space and what it means for the company and consumers. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tomo announced it was launching a home search portal. What prompted this move?

This is a wonderful adjacency for our mortgage business. I don't know that we've ever intended to launch a portal, to tell you the truth, but it's in our blood. Once it gets in you, you don't usually move on. 

But I've been watching OpenAI and ChatGPT closely for a while and have also been really focused on what computer vision could bring to real estate with better analysis of the data and photos. This emergence of AI looks like another platform shift — I think that's not a hugely unique insight — but I think it has the potential to transform how people search for homes. And that's a once or twice in a career opportunity, and it was too hard not to jump into.

Does this shift into home search signal that Tomo is getting away from the mortgage business?

No way is it a pivot from mortgage — mortgage is the heart of this company. It's an expansion. At our last company, and in many companies, you go from a core and you expand. Once your core is in great shape, you move into adjacent lines of business that you think you can succeed in, and this is an expansion into an adjacent line of business that we think could be really successful. 

How do you plan to compete with home search giants like Zillow, and what's the value proposition Tomo offers?

When you see folks competing on ad spend and brands, it's usually that the category has matured to the point where you're getting down to base economics. At that same moment is when AI emerges, and we're going to compete based on product innovation. There's no way we're going to have a bigger ad budget than these incumbent giants anytime soon, but we're going to compete on having the most innovative product that delights homebuyers.

One of the things we launched was negotiation insights, which is a richer set of insights to help folks win a home. All of those are drawn from our personal experiences, and then we did a huge amount of product research. Those insights — knowing who the seller is, what their profession is, what the size of their mortgage was, what the equity situation was — helped shape a view for me. I want every consumer — every homebuyer — to have all the tools an investor has at their fingertips to make these more informed decisions, because it's hard to win.

This is reasonably demanding technology with a reasonably big team working on it, and they've been working day and night on this for some time.

Tomo Real Estate screenshots - Negotiation insights feature
Tomo's "negotiation insights" feature on its new home search portal. (Tomo)

Are there any privacy concerns about sharing this kind of information with regular homebuyers?

It's public records data, and that has always been out there. But it's been out there in the hands of those who know, and not in the hands of those who don't, and that's the whole point. The big and small investors have had this data for years, and no one has provided it in a manner that an individual homebuyer can use, and that's who we advocate for. 

It's really easy for anyone who has a privacy or safety concern [to opt out]. There's an email form right under the data. Email us, and no questions asked, we'll take the name down.

The site currently includes listings from 21 states. Are there plans to expand?

Certainly. We focused on the footprint that we're familiar with for this launch, but we intend to be in every state and every market by the end of the year. About 50% of the listings in America are on the portal that launched today, and we're adding states and MLSs like crazy all over the country. 

Who are the leads going to, and how can agents sign up to work with you?

We've been testing this quietly with some wonderful and well-known teams like Jamie McMartin in Houston, Texas, and Laurie Reader in Boca Raton, Florida, who are two examples of some of our fantastic partners.

It's still early yet but it's building. Agents can go ahead and email us on the website if they want to get in touch with us. Ultimately, we'll build out a network of partner agents once we get the traffic.

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